“So-an,” the 1000-year-old Zen tiny house

The tiny house was already a “choice” for some 1,000 years ago. In medieval Japan, people called their version of the tiny house 草庵 (so-an), “thatched hut” away from home. Practitioners of Buddhism, artists and/or wanderers created the “tiny house movement” and created so-an as a base for freer, ideal life.

Tea ceremony and chashitsu: the ultimate example of Zen design

Horyuji: How do you make wooden buildings that last 2,000 years?

Japanese architecture: is it really natural and sustainable?

Many people think that Japanese architecture is uniquely sustainable and in harmony with nature, and has a new potential to become an alternative to modern-era architecture. Is it true? The key is “aesthetics.” Unique perspectives on naturalism by Kengo Kuma, Toyo Ito, Sou Fujimoto, Tadao Ando.

Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e through the lens of Frank Lloyd Wright

Chapter 3-4: Tai’an – Rikyu’s microcosmic teahouse

“Tai-an” is the ultimate small tea hut, designed by the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. According to architect Kengo Kuma: “You won’t understand what Tai-an is all about until you actually crawl into this small hut and experience the very moment when the building, which is almost as small as your body, starts dissolving and enveloping your body softly and lightly, as if it were your clothes.”

Chapter 4: Abundance by absence

Chapter 2-3: Haiku – the beauty of worlds’ shortest poem

The Many Face of Engawa

Engawa, the narrow wooden strips attached around the periphery of a house has been an indispensable part of the traditional Japanese house, functioning as a sun porch, a workshop, a venue for socializing and a buffer to shield the house from harsh weather. Learn more about its various faces and versatile applications.

Tofukuji kare-sansui by Mirei Shigemori

Japanese artist Mirei Shigemori (1896 – 1975) infused fresh energy into the traditional Japanese Zen rock garden (kare-sansui). Tofuku-ji Hojo garden in Kyoto is one of the most acclaimed works of his that still survives to this day. Find how traditional and modern, classic and avant-garde blend in his work while maintaining the serenity of Zen.

Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu)

Katura Rikyu (Imperial Villa), built during the 17th century in Kyoto by an aristocrat family, is often dubbed as the culmination of traditional Japanese architecture. Its simplicity is very “modern.” You will be amazed how the fine, subtle lines define architecture so cleanly and potently, and how it dissolves into nature seamlessly but elegantly.

Demystifying the mysteries of Japanese aesthetics

What’s the common secret behind traditional Zen arts/culture, wabi-sabi, MUJI, Japanese architecture, sushi and Totoro? It’s the unique approach toward nature.

Kengo Kuma: Our cities need to “ferment”

Kengo Kuma leads the world of architecture by focusing on offering new ways to connect our delicate body to nature. What is his view on attractive cities?

Tradition of shoe repair: it’s about renewing relationships

We are obsessed with shoes. A pair that perfectly fits our feet is hard to find. When we repair such pairs, we are renewing our relationships with them.

Kintsugi: Repair beyond repair

Kintsugi” is a traditional Japanese technique to repair broken ceramics, but it’s something that will change your definition of “repair.” Using glue and gold or silver powder, Kintsugi “heals” injured ceramics and give them new life, embracing the wound. It is fascinating.

Circular economy 300 years ago

Circular economy already existed 300 years ago in Edo (Tokyo). It was filled with lively, resilient people and opportunities for design. Get inspired by their energy and creativity.

Minimalist Ukiyo-e & paints by Hokusai

The history of Japanese aesthetics (1) – Mono no aware that “utsurou”

Roll back the clock 1,000 years to the Heian Era to find the origin of the elusive and ambiguous Japanese aesthetics where the aristocrats explored the culture of “mono no aware.” It is amazing to find how much the aesthetic style had changed, but the fundamentals remain the same to this day.

Kenya Hara and the aesthetics of “emptiness”

Kenya Hara is a Japanese graphic designer who helped cement the philosophy of Japanese brand MUJI by leveraging the concept of “emptiness.” Even though these concepts might appear similar, “emptiness” in Japanese aesthetics is different from Western “simplicity,” observes Hara. Ultimately it has to do with how we perceive our relationship with nature.

Kare-sansui (Japanese Zen rock garden): ultimate beauty of absence

Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement): Define ultimate essentials by subtraction

Is it color? Or is it absence of color? White: color of Zero

Is white a color? Or is it absence of color? Discover through Harunobu Suzuki’s Ukiyo-e.

Japanese minimalist design and the influence of traditional Zen art

If you want to introduce Zen-taste minimalist design, what are the tips? There are several critical Zen aesthetics such as “subtraction”, “condensation” and “absence” that strongly influenced modern minimalist design. Find them through MUJI and other iconic product design.

Shou sugi ban, primitive-modern architectural material

Haramaki, Heattech or MUJI?: waste heat recovery of the people, for the people