Japanese Meiji Period Architecture (1868-1912)

Meiji was a period in which Japan opened her doors to the outside world and laid foundation for Modern Japan by absorbing and assimilating Western culture. Architecture was no exception. In addition to the tradition and accumulation of excellent wooden architecture from the Yedo period (1615-1867), Japanese architecture adopted the styles techniques and materials of Western style stone and brick architecture. And with the progress of the industrial revolution it paved the way to modern architecture of steel, concrete and glass.


Kureha-za Theater (Osaka, 1892)

Kureha-za, a local popular theater, was built in the 1870s in the present Ikeda City, Osaka Prefecture. It is a two-storied wooden building. The façade is characteristic of the traditional Kabuki theater, with its broad eaves and the drummer’s balcony on the gabled wall. Inside is the turning stage, which was revolved by men in the stone-walled basement. ...more

Tomatsu House (Nagoya, c. 1901)

Tomatsu House was a merchant house located in central Nagoya. Oil was sold there until the latter half of the Meiji period (1868-1912). Then it served as a bank until the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989). This merchant house has been enlarged and renovated several times, with the current structure completed in 1901. A tearoom was installed on the second floor, offering a glimpse into the interests of the city’s merchants. ...more

Uji-Yamada Post Office (Mie, 1909)

The modern postal service in Japan started in 1870 and the first post office was opened in Tokyo in the following year. ...more

Mei Prefectural Office (Mie, 1879)

Mie Prefectural Office was designed and built by the master-carpenter Gihachi Shimizu (1841-1914). The construction was begun in 1878 and completed in 1879.  It was one of the typical Western-style government offices of the early Meiji period. ...more

Summer House of Lafcadio Hearn (Shizuoka, c. 1870)

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was born in Greece, educated in Ireland, and went to the United States where he studied literature. He came to Japan in 1890 and immediately resolved to settle down in this country for life. He taught English in Matsue and Kumamoto, and then moved to Kobe where he was naturalized in Japan in 1896. He moved to Tokyo in the same year to give lectures at the Imperial University of Tokyo. ...more

“Zagyo-so”, Villa of Prince Kimmochi Saionji (Shizuoka, 1920)

Prince Kimmochi Saionji (1849-1940), the most venerated aristocrat and a Nestor of the political world during the Taisho and early Showa period, was a man of plain taste. When he was seventy-one years old, he built this villa on the beautiful seacoast of Okitsu, Shimizu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, in order to retreat from the world of politics. He named the villa ‘Zagyo-so (Village for Resting and Fishing),’ intending to be a hermit. The villa, however, was frequently visited by a number of men of politics who asked advice from him. ...more

Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo Residence (Tokyo, c. 1880)

This building was owned by Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo (1843-1902), younger brother of the Great Saigo. It was the reception hall of his residence, which was situated on a hillock of Kami-Meguro, Tokyo. It has a fine two-storied veranda at one end, which is decorated with delicately jigsawed rafter-end covers and balusters. The reception hall originally faced an extensive garden and it was told that Emperor Meiji once watched Japanese wrestling matches (sumo) from the upper veranda. Some say it was designed by J. ...more

Barber Shop "Kinotoko" (Tokyo, c.1910)

This is a barber shop once situated in Hongo, Bunkyoku, Tokyo and one of the typical shop-and-house town buildings of the late Meiji and early Taisho period. It is a simple two-storied wooden building, mostly traditional, but glazing of the shop front was a new feature in those days. ...more

Japanese Bathhouse “Azuma-yu” (Aichi, 1900s)

The public bathhouse, along with the barber’s shop, was an essential part of the town life in Japan of the Meiji period. The bathhouse “Azuma-yu” was probably built in the 1900s, and though smaller in size (only 18 feet wide), is typical. It stood on Chita Peninsula near the harbor of Kamesaki, Handa City, Aichi Prefecture. It is a plain two-storied wooden building and the wall is of Japanese battened siding. ...more

Dr. Shimizu’s Office (Nagano, c. 1900)

Dr. Shimizu’s Office was built in a mountain village in the Kiso district of Nagano Prefecture. It is a two-storied wooden building stuccoed all over, the first floor of which was for the consultation room and dispensary and the second floor entirely for domestic use. Although arched entrance doorway and windows are evidently Western, no one denies that only Japan could produce such a building as this. ...more

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