13 January 2004

Meiji Village Museum

I've been concentrating a lot on people of ambiguous national or cultural affiliations, but architecture is another rich area to explore. A nice example is the architecture of the Meiji Village Museum in Japan.
Beautifully located on a hillside facing Lake Iruka, it occupies an area of 1,000,000m2, where currently over sixty Meiji buildings have been brought and rebuilt. Meiji was a period in which Japan opened her doors to the outside world and laid the foundation for Modern Japan by absorbing and assimilating Western culture and technology. Along with the Asuka-Nara period (553-793 A.D.) it is a very important era in the history of Japanese culture. Architecture was no exception. In addition to following the accumulation of excellent traditional wooden architecture from the Yedo period (1615-1867), builders adopted styles, techniques and materials of Western style stone and brick achitecture.
I can't give direct links to the images, but let me recommend a few of the most striking buildings to view. Just click on "Architectures list" and then work your way down the list. Here are a dozen favorites among the 60+ bastard buildings:
  • Saint John's Church in Kyoto (built 1907): Its brick exterior is a beautiful blend of Romanesque and Gothic design, the interior features distinctively Japanese designs appropriate to Kyoto's climate, such as the bamboo blind in the ceiling.

  • Reception Hall of Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo House in Tokyo (built 1877): This was built to entertain guests. The interior is decorated with imported French furnishings.

  • Dr. Shimizu's Office in Nagano (built 1897): Although this is a house built in a godown style with a Kiso white cedar shingle roof, Western designs are also imitated.

  • No. 25, Nagasaki Foreign Settlement (built 1889): The external walls are double boarded for soundproofing and dampproofing.

  • A Foreigner's House, Kobe Foreign Settlement (built 1887): This building more accurately captures the atmosphere of a westerner's residence in the cosmopolitan port of Kobe during a period of rapid development.

  • Japanese Immigrant's House, Registro, Brazil (built 1919): Although it is built from locally grown wood, Japanese carpenters took part in the construction and Japanese methods were used.

  • Japanese Immigrant's Assembly Hall, Hilo, Hawaii (built 1889): It was originally a church constructed for the Japanese by Japanese minister Jiro Okabe. [Are those cherry blossoms?]

  • Uji-yamada Post Office in Mie Prefecture (built 1909): This one-story wooden building with copper roofing has a conical domed roof at its center, and its facing is in a half-timber style.

  • St. Paul's Church in Nagasaki (built 1879): In contrast to the farmhouse-style exterior, the interior is Gothic, with a crossing ribbed vault ceiling, called "umbrella ceiling."

  • Central Guard Station and Ward, Kanazawa Prison (built 1907): Five wards are arranged radially around the octagonal central guard office. [Shades of Bentham's Panopticon!]

  • Kikunoyo Brewery, Aichi Prefecture (built 1868): This building is a Japanese-style tile-roofed storehouse, and it consists of a two-storied section with a mud-coated outer wall, and an open eaves section.

  • Main Entrance Hall and Lobby, Imperial Hotel, Tokyo (built 1923): The main finish is Greenish tuff (volcanic rock) carved in geometric patterns, and yellow brick, while ferro-concrete is used to provide structural strength. [The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel survived the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.]
UPDATE: Here's another online version of the Museum with more information but muddier images.

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