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Tue, Mar. 19, 2019 Okinawa: Architecture of History and Tradition
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Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, has developed a distinct architecture all its own, reflecting its subtropical setting and often harsh climate, as well as historical influences from mainland Japan and other countries, such as China and the United States.On this edition of Journeys in Japan, American architect James Lambiasi visits some of Okinawa's most notable buildings. He meets the local people and discovers the complex history that underlies its enduring culture.

Nago City Hall
Nago City Hall
This striking building, completed in 1981, is one of the most notable public buildings in Okinawa Prefecture. It incorporates many of the key aspects of contemporary Okinawan architecture.
1-1-1 Minato, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)980-53-1212
Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle
For more than 400 years, Shuri castle was the political, cultural and diplomatic center for the dynasty that ruled the Ryukyu kingdom, including Okinawa. It was destroyed during World War II but later rebuilt, following the war. It has been turned into a state-run park centered around the Main Hall.
Shuri Castle Park
1-2 Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)98-886-2020
The Nakamura Family Residence
The Nakamura Family Residence
This traditional house, thought to date back to the 18th century, belonged to an affluent farmer. It preserves numerous features of a typical Okinawan residence from that era.
106 Ogusuku, Kitanakagusuku-son, Nakagami District, Okinawa Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)98-935-3500 (in Japanese only)
Sakaemachi Bottle Neck
Sakaemachi Bottle Neck
The narrow alleys of the old Sakaemachi Market retain the atmosphere of Okinawa's post-war reconstruction period. Sakaemachi Bottle Neck, the oldest izakaya tavern in the arcade, serves traditional dishes of Okinawan cuisine.
Sakaemachi Market, 385 Asato, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)98-884-6640 (in Japanese only)
Taketomi Island
Taketomi Island
This small island in the Yaeyama Archipelago has preserved its traditional townscape of typical Okinawan houses, thanks to its citizens' charter.
430 Taketomi, Taketomi-cho, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture
Tel: +81-(0)980-85-2558 (in Japanese only)
From Tokyo, flights to Naha take under three hours. To reach Taketomi Island, it takes about an hour by plane from Naha to Ishigaki Island, followed by a 15-minute ferry ride.
Travel Log

Traveler: James Lambiasi > More Info



Length of residence in Japan: 26 years

Reason:It is a great privilege to work as an architect in Japan, as I have been able to learn from the highly sophisticated design sense here, as well discover the deep appreciation for craft that goes into construction.

Traveler's Archives:

> Nikko: Contemplating its Architectural Jewels

> Traces of History: Exploring Around Hiroshima

Architecture both creates, and is created by, its surrounding environment. It can be influenced by factors such as the culture of its people, its geography or its climate. Through my journey in the beautiful islands of Okinawa, I was able to learn about its very complicated history and fascinating architecture. I was able to see firsthand how architecture develops and changes in accordance with its tropical island environment, remotely located yet influenced by surrounding countries.

Shuri Castle is an example of Ryukyu architecture demonstrating both Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. This architecture fits the tropical climate, while simultaneously preserving a record of the tumultuous history between Japan and China.

The Nakamura Family Residence, an 18th century home of a wealthy farmer, reflects the Chinese cultural traditions of Feng Shui, with a strategically placed stone entry to deflect unwanted spirits. Also protecting the house is the traditional shisa lion/dog that sits prominently on the red tile roof. This roof, strong enough to withstand the regular typhoons, shows how years of tradition and adaptation to the climate create a unique design through local methods and materials.

These historic places, as well as many contemporary buildings, all show the power of architecture to preserve and convey important stories about the history of a people, which can be passed on to generations to come. I will treasure the experiences I gained through seeing the architecture of Okinawa, and through feeling such warm hospitality from the people of Okinawa.

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