Japan has an interesting variety of buildings that exhibit different architectural forms from humble farm houses to grand imperial palaces. Architectural styles have evolved from pre-historic to modern times. Early native designs were exposed to strong influences from the Asian mainland, imported styles were subsequently adapted to suit local tastes, and recent history saw the introduction of Western architecture into Japan.
Buildings were traditionally built in wood - in part because of the abundance of timber and due to the material's relatively good resistance to earthquakes. Unfortunately, many buildings were lost through the years to natural disasters, the humid climate, fires and wars. Efforts have been made to preserve some monumental buildings including temples, shrines, palaces and castles, of which many are very old and require periodic renovations. Furthermore, efforts are ongoing across the country to reconstruct some lost buildings of importance.
Many structures exhibiting past architectural styles are nowadays popular tourist sites. They are spread across the country, some surviving in entire preserved districts or towns, while others were moved to open air museums. The following is an introduction to the general architectural building types in Japan:Yomeimon of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko
The Jomon Period lasted from around 13000 BC to 300 BC. The inhabitants of Japan at that time were mainly gatherers, fishers and hunters. Dwellings were built directly over an earth floor with a wood foundation and a thatched straw roof. Inside the house, the floor may have been hollowed in, which is why Jomon Period houses are often called "pit dwellings". The Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site in Aomori is one of the best places to see an entire village of Jomon Period houses. Some local history museums also exhibit Jomon dwellings.
Following the Jomon Period, the Yayoi Period lasted from around 300 BC to 300 AD. The period is characterized by the start of widespread rice farming, resulting in the appearance of permanent settlements with bigger populations. Communities became organized in villages as a whole, with areas demarcated for granaries, storehouses and living quarters. Houses, especially the granaries, were built on stilts to keep away mice. Structures such as village fences and watch towers appeared. The Yoshinogari Historical Park in Saga Prefecture is an excellent place to see a Yayoi Period settlement.Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site in Aomori
In ancient times, Shinto ceremonies were held outdoors at temporarily demarcated sites without buildings. Later, temporary structures were used which eventually got replaced by permanent shrine buildings housing the deity. Early shrine buildings predate the introduction of Buddhism and reflect native Japanese architecture styles.