Japan from the inside out

That’s a Buddhist temple?

Posted by ampontan on Friday, April 27, 2007


JAPAN HAS A LIFETIME of surprises in store for anyone who lives here–including Japanese, as they will be the first to admit. Just when you begin to think you get a handle on things, you discover yet another passageway that you previously overlooked.

That was my feeling when I ran across this building while doing some research for a translation. It is the Shishikaku guest house at the Hozan-ji Buddhist temple in Ikoma, Nara Prefecture, built as part of the temple complex in the 1880s. This Japanese website blithely explains that priests in those days were in the habit of erecting buildings in the popular architectural styles of the day. Take a look at the site for some more photographs.

And yes, that is stained glass in the front door!

There are several similar Western-style buildings from that period preserved in Japan. Many were built for foreign guests or temporary residents, but one of the most famous is that built by Thomas Glover in Nagasaki, which is now a tourist attraction called Glover Garden. The Net has plenty of photos of the buildings, such as the one here. The house is itself is fine indeed, but what most sites don’t show is the view Glover had of Nagasaki. It’s on top of a hill in the city with a view of the entire town and harbor below. Here’s one view, but it doesn’t quite convey the sense it would provide to the resident of being King of the Hill. I’ve been there, and one of my first thoughts was how often Glover must have stood up there marveling, “It’s good to be king!” Or daimyo, perhaps–the view is comparable to the one the feudal lord had at the Karatsu Castle in Saga Prefecture, though that is a more rural area on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

Don’t overlook those links to Hozan-ji or the Karatsu Castle above–the’ve got some excellent photos.

4 Responses to “That’s a Buddhist temple?”

  1. […] is why I love stuff like this post over at Ampontan. Linked to his post is this site chock full of early modern architectural […]

  2. Francis said

    Kanazawa has the Oyama Jinja with a similarly odd juxtaposition of traditional (the shrine itself) and western (the entrance gate). I just uploaded some of my pictures to my flickr account –

  3. ampontan said

    That’s an excellent photo, Francis!

  4. David said

    “Japan has a lifetime of surprises in store for anyone who lives here–including Japanese.”

    Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more, and that is why I always discover something interesting when I travel to Japan. If it’s not a building, it’s a cultural trait, some little-known historical information, or a fascinating person, on and on and on…


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