Columbia University Department of East Asian Languages and Culture
Professor Henry Smith 412 Kent
Spring 1988 Office Hours:  Th  12:00-1:30 
  EAAS V3613 Buildings and Cities in Japanese History 

TIME:  Tu/Th 10:35-11:50 Spring 1998

PLACE:  Kress Room, Starr East Asian Library

TA: Kerry Ross

Course Description

This course has two purposes. The first is to give you a basic acquaintance with Japanese practices of architecture and city-building from their beginnings until the 17th century, by which time they had pretty much assumed the stable forms that in the modern period would come to be known as "traditional." This aim will be accomplished in the first eight weeks of the course, up until the spring break. The format of this part of the course will be of the usual sort, with assigned readings that we will discuss each session, plus two quizzes and a midterm exam.

The second purpose of the course is to work as a group to create a Web site on "traditional" Japanese architecture as it evolved in the 16th and 17th centuries. This will occupy us for the remaining six weeks of the course. I have no idea yet exactly how we will do this, and assume that the project will evolve as we work at it; it will be a group effort.


There are no formal prerequisites for the course, but I would hope that each of you come with either some background in Japan and its history, or some background in architecture or urban history.


For the period before spring break, there will be quizzes and a midterm exam to test your mastery of the facts of Japanese architectural and urban history. For the creation of the Web site after the spring break, you will be expected to be an active participant in the design of the site, and in the research and writing of the material for it.


The basic background textbook for the course is Paul Varley, Japanese Culture: A Short History, which is available for purchase at Labyrinth Bookstore. Kazuo Nishi and Kazuo Hozumi, What is Japanese Architecture?, has also been ordered, but appears to be temporarily out of stock at the publisher. Xerox copies of the assignments from this work will be provided until it arrives.

All assigned readings are available on reserve in the East Asian Library in Kent Hall. In addition to the reading assignments, there will be slide-tape presentations that you can view on your own in the East Asian Library.


#1. Tu, Jan. 20. The Geographical Determinants of Japanese Building

No assignment. 

#2. Th, Jan. 22. The Earliest Japanese Buildings

READING: Varley, Japanese Culture, ch. 1.

Nishi, What Is Japanese Architecture?, pp. 54-55

MAP QUIZ: Be prepared to draw a map of Japan and identify the following: the four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu); the cities of Nara, Heian (Kyoto), Kamakura, Edo (Tokyo), Osaka, and Nagasaki; and Mt. Fuji.

#3. Tu, Jan. 27. The Primal Act of Building in Japan

READING: Günter Nitschke, From Shinto to Ando: Studies in Architectural

Anthropology in Japan (Academy Editions, 1993), pp. 95-103. Starr reserve NA1555 .N587 1993

#4. Th, Jan. 29. The Pattern of Ritual Renewal

SLIDE-TAPE MODULE: "The Grand Shrine of Ise: Shinto Takes Shape" (Also available in text version from Smith home page.)

READING: Varley, ch. 2.

Tsunoda, Sources of Japanese Tradition, 23-32 (pb, I / 21-30).

Nishi, pp. 40-41.

#5. Tu, Feb. 3. Buddhist Architecture on Japanese Soil

SLIDE-TAPE MODULE: "Prince Shtoku's Temple: The Riddles of Horyuji"

READING: Nishi, pp. 12-15.

Nishioka Tsunekazu, "The Lessons of Horyuji," Japan Echo, 13/1 (Spring 1986), pp. 8-15. [FOLDER]

#6. Th, Feb. 5. Todaiji and the Shosoin

READING: Nishi, pp. 16-17, 20-21.

Tsunoda, Sources of Japanese Tradition, I / 91-105.

#7. Tu, Feb. 10. The Capitals of Nara and Heian

READING: Varley, ch. 3

Nishi, pp. 56-59

John W. Hall, "Kyoto as Historical Background," in John W. Hall and Jeffrey P. Mass, eds., Medieval Japan: Essays in Institutional History (Yale Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 3-38.

QUIZ: ID questions on Varley, chs. 1-3.

#8. Th, Feb. 12. Living Space in the World of Genji

READING: Varley, ch. 4

Nishi, pp. 64-67

Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince, ch. II ("The Setting"), esp. pp. 44-50.

#9. Tu, Feb. 17. Medieval Ideas of Dwelling and Landscape

READING: Varley, ch. 5

"An Account of My Hut" [Hojoki], in Donald Keene, comp., Anthology of Japanese Literature, pp. 197-212.

Mitchell Bring and Josse Wayembergh, Japanese Gardens (McGraw-Hill, 1981), pp. 151-171.

ASSIGNMENT: Draw as detailed a plan as possible of Kamo no Chomei's ten-foot square hut as described in the Hojoki, labelling it with your thoughts on the significance of the various elements.

#10. Th, Feb. 19. The Japanese Garden

READING: Mitchell Bring and Josse Wayembergh, Japanese Gardens (McGraw-Hill, 1981), pp. 55-77, 172-189.

#11. Tu, Feb. 24. Samurai Culture

READING: Varley, ch. 6

QUIZ: ID questions on Varley, chs. 3-6.

#12. Th, Feb. 26. The Shoin "Style"

READING: Nishi, pp. 70-77

Ito Teiji, "The Development of Shoin-Style Architecture," in John Hall and Toyoda Takeshi, eds., Japan in the Muromachi Age (Univ. of California Press, 1977), pp. 227-39. [FOLDER]

#13. Tu, March 3. The Teahouse and Sukiya Design

READING: Nishi, pp. 78-81, 105-119

EXERCISE: Construct a paper model of the Taian Teahouse (for which materials will be handed out), then study the model carefully to see how the teahouse actually works.

#14. Th, March 5. The Age of the Castle

READING: Michael Cooper, ed., They Came to Japan--An Anthology of European Reports on Japan, 1543-1640, pp. 131-141, 260-268.

John W. Hall, "The Castle Town and Japan's Modern Urbanization," in John W. Hall and Marius Jansen, eds., Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan (Princeton UP, 1968), pp. 169-188. Starr reserve DS871 .H29

Nishi, pp. 94-101.

#15. Tu, March 10. To be announced: probably Review Session

#16. Th, March 12. MIDTERM EXAM

MIDTERM: The midterm will cover all the material assigned in the course so far, and will include identification questions on basic terms of Japanese history and architecture, plus slide identifications from the slide modules.

The remainder of the course after the Spring Break was devoted to the construction of a WWW site on classical Japanese architecture by the members of the course: click here to see how it worked.