Eclectic Developments

Hiding behind this European sash window is the plastered door of a Japanese style storehouse.  The weather boarding is done in a Japanese way and may actually be protecting a plastered wall.  The sum total is an eclectic mix.
Mixing Styles
Not long after arriving in Japan and starting my studies in architectural history at Tokyo University of Art and Music, I was taught the word wayosecchu (和洋折衷).  Literally it means a mix of Western and Japanese styles.  It is often used with reference to buildings combining indigenous architectural elements with some stylistic features of Western architecture.  Many of these buildings date from the latter part of the eighteenth century, although the style persisted well into the middle of the twentieth century.

This building in Wajima appears to be a good example of how Western architectural features were handled by Japanese designers or house carpenters.  The style of sash windows could quite easily be from the United States or Europe.  But, if we look more closely, beyond the glass there is a very traditional Japanese style storehouse within.

In the past timber-frame storehouses with heavily plastered walls became one way merchants tried to protect their valuable goods from being consumed by fire, which was endemic—urban conglomerations of wooden buildings were so vulnerable especially during the winter months when humidity levels are low and seasonal winds can fan the flames.

A simple country style storehouse with a mud and straw daub over what could be a bamboo wattle and a structural timber framework.  The walls need protection and the gable end of the roof is unusually deep for that reason.  The plastic lean-to is of course a modern addition.
In the countryside farmers had to make do with mud wall storehouse.  Thick plastered walls were beyond their budget.

It was in the big cities that such storehouses were common and it was there, too, that status could be emphasised by incorporating Western architectural feature.  This was also true of the interiors of such buildings.

This eclectic mix of styles was something of a compromise or a transitional phase of development of Japanese architecture.

Many examples of this eclectic style of building can be seen all over Japan but this example in Wajima is pretty much unique.  A traditional plaster-walled storehouse cocooned within a building boasting features that originated far across the sea.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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