From its brightly tiered pagodas to its sleek glass buildings, it is abundantly clear that the structures of Japan have a distinctly robust architectural style. The assimilation to nature has been a fundamental design element for Japanese architects dating back centuries, an aesthetic which is still implemented to this day. Travelers can visualize Japan's treasured heritage and its cutting-edge future through design and architecture, where some of the world's pre-eminent architects display their talent throughout the country.
The National Art Center, Tokyo in the Roppongi district is the product of one of Japan's most celebrated architects, Kisho Kurokawa. Featuring a striking glass facade, the National Art Center is home to the largest exhibition space in Japan, standing out as an architectural beacon of inspiration amongst Tokyo Midtown. A lively and bustling part of Tokyo, Tokyo Midtown blends contemporary style with the surrounding nature, all while maintaining a diverse selection of shops, restaurants, and hotels, including the towering, beautifully designed Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.
The work of one of Japan's other visionary architects, Tadao Ando, can be seen throughout Japan as well as all around the world. His avante-garde design of the Shibuya subway station in Tokyo resembles that of a spaceship, its curving, overarching structure enveloping commuters in a sleek, intellectual environment. The modern Omotesando area of Tokyo features an extensive amount of Ando's work, including the famous Omotesando Hills shopping mall. From the Suntory Museum in Osaka to the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Missouri, Ando's minimalist yet dramatic design imposes itself in any city he designs for.
To experience a comprehensive history and display of Japan's modern artistic and architectural gems, look no further than the Miho Museum. Sitting atop a hill in the Shiga Prefecture near Kyoto, the museum designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei boasts collections from around the globe. With 80% of 17,000 square foot building carved beneath the earth, the Miho museum is a work of art in itself. Its large glass and steel roof offers an environmentally sustainable aspect to the building, while its interior is comprised of the same limestone Pei used to design the reception hall of the Louvre in France. Historic art, lush landscapes, and architectural primacy are all on display at the Miho museum, a destination not to be missed for design lovers worldwide.
Explore Japanese Design Elements in Shirakawa-go
As one of UNESCO's honored World Heritage sites, the historic villages of Shirakawa-go are treasured pieces of Japan's past. Rooted in the inspiration of nature and art, Japanese designers and architects draw upon the environment as a source of both aesthetics and practicality, most notably in the "Gassho-style" homes built in the region. These houses are built with large wooden beams with a steep thatched roof in the shape of a triangle, made to withstand the harsh winter months. They are positioned to face north and south to minimize wind resistance as well to adjust the sunlight for comfortable, temperate summers. With a focus on entirely natural elements, Gassho-style homes are built entirely without nails or other modern construction materials. The reflection of nature in these structures is profoundly apparent, attracting visitors to Japan's traditional, environmentally conscious ways of life.
Despite the widespread economic upheaval occurring throughout the country, the historic villages in the Gifu and Toyama Prefectures remain vibrant to this day. Residents of the Shirakawa-go cultivate local resources like mulberry trees and silkworms, living off whatever the surrounding nature has to offer. Although the region is secluded in a mountainous region, the villages feature various amenities for tourists including inns in traditional Gassho-style, museums, restaurants that serve fresh fish, and hot springs. Events in the region are as lively as any metropolitan city in Japan, with illustrious cherry blossoms, snowfall ideal for skiing and snowboard, and various festivals scattered throughout the year.
The clean air of Shirakawa-go makes the region a wonderful place to experience the outdoors. Hiking trails, campsites, sports facilities, and lakes provide visitors with a bountiful array of activities to plan, all supported with friendly service and authentic hospitality. The wintertime brings about an especially scenic landscape as beautiful powder snow covers the rolling hills. Observe the region's thriving natural economy largely based in rice harvesting and experience living off the lands' resources the way its residents have lived for centuries. Visit the villages of Shirakawa-go as a means to escape, relax, or have fun; whatever you choose, you are guaranteed a fun and enriching experience.
Shirakawa-go is a short 50 minute bus ride from Takayama and a 1hr 15 minute bus/train ride from Kanazawa.