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Art and Craft in Japan, 2008

Arts and Craft in Japan
Essay for the Bay Area architecture history class.

I think that when Art and Crafts came from England to Japan, it was influenced in two ways.

One is called “Mingei” which was about thinking back traditional Folk Craft in Japan and also colonized places during the WWII, such as Korean Taiwan, and Manchuria China, as well as Native tribes from Ainu in Hokkaido and Okinawa. “It was founded a group by Sotetsu Yanagi (1889-1961) which established Japanese Folk Craft Museum. (Wikipedia, Mingei) “Yanagi went around Japan and rescued the lowly pots and unappreciated crockery used by commoners during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and Meiji Period (1868-1912.)” “Yanagi described the beauty of Mingei with words such as wholesome, honest, natural, innocent, free, simple, and pure.” (Mingei History) (which I think that it is resemble to a concept of the American Art & Craft Movement. These influences were rather about ceramic pottery, wooden furniture and sculpture and other everyday handmade objects than architecture movement.

Another influence was that a practice of Japanese architects, who came back from Europe and America, kind of combined both Art and Craft and Art Nouveau Movement together in one building, as well as reflected by Frank Lloyd Wright style. For example, Eikichi Hasebe (1885-1960) design Old Sumitomo Buildng in Osaka, a former Sumitomo Bank main branch has more as the Corinthian column style, but the columns included nature leaf designs with his influence of European design. (See attachment) He graduated architecture major at former Tokyo University. Sumitomo building was built in 1929 of its North wing and finished the South wing in 1930. Sumitomo zaibatsu (financial group) has been one of the top family business group in Japan, such like Rockefeller family in America. They own metal working industry, banking and many others. They hired own architecture designers to build their own business buildings.

Junichi Tanabe also designed Seienbunko building which has oak leaves designed stained glass and tiles of its exterior. Seienbunko is a library of Eiichi Shibusawa collection of old Chinese books. It was built in 1925 for his eighty years cerebration. He was a Japanese entrepreneur, philoshopher who lived from the end of Edo period. Tanabe he visited France and other European countries as a member of Tokugawa Akitake's Delegation to the Paris World Exposition. After becoming Meiji period, he founded the First National Bank and contributed to establish modern Japanese economic system. In the same area, there is a Western influenced Tea House.

The Tea House was called as a small bungalow house which was built in 1917 for Sjobisawa’s 77’s anniversary (the number 77 is a lucky number is Japan.) Obviously, it has an influenced by California bungalow style with a built in furniture like drawers attached by bay windows and fireplace. Wall materials are concrete and brick tiles or wood attached as a design. (It might be stronger for the winter weather and earthquake in Japan.) Unfortunately, both of the buildings were half destroyed by Tokyo Great Air Raid in 1945 by American B 25 bomber planes. 100,000 people died and 270,000 buildings were burned down. So, they were restored, and registered as national treasure and opened again in 1982 as a Shibusawa Memorial Museum. (see Shibusawa Memorial Museum website and pdf document.)

Since, I read about Sears mail order home, I will also introduce about the Japanese architecture housing company who import North American Style homes and its materials. Often times, Canadian contractors come together with lumbers, and do its assembly. Maple Homes is one of the popular import style house company who was established in 1986. The kinds of designs, which people can order at this company, are, International Style, Timber Frame, Anne of Green Gables, Santa Fe, Arts and Crafts, Colorful Modern, Built in Garage, and Architect Series (which is more as an order made style depending on architect’s originality and customer’s wishes.) As I am looking at the sample design pictures of their customers’ “Arts and  Crafts” house, they have more as England Tudor style, maybe more European Arts and Crafts style with brick wall, roof tiles and massive structure. While their “Timber Frame” house looks more close to the Californian Bungalow styles, the way American exaggerated Japanese temple roof framing. (See Maplehomes website, and attachement) I realized that since many of the Japanese houses have separate toilet and bathroom, they are separated as our custom of living, even in Western style of the housing. As same as Californian Bungalow, furniture is included or built-in their mail order houses.

Sibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation (Japanese site) (English site)
Shibusawa Eiichi - wikipedia (English site)
Sumitomo Group (Japanese site)
Seien Bunko, Let’s enjoy Tokyo (Japanese site)
Maple Homes, Timber Frame (Japanese site)
Maple Homes, Arts & Crafts (Japanese site)


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