The Crazy Cool Buildings Tucked Away in the Mountains of Japan

The Crazy Cool Buildings Tucked Away in the Mountains of Japan

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Tara Bellucci
Mar 4, 2017

For all their reverence for tradition, the Japanese are undoubtedly design-forward. All it takes is a visit to Harajuku or a glance at the latest tech trend coming out of the island empire. But that's in urban centers and in business—the countryside is a different story, right? Not necessarily. Some of the most unique architecture isn't in Tokyo, but in the mountain town of Karuizawa.

T Magazine recently featured the avant garde structures that dot the wooded village, located just about an hour northwest of Tokyo. The town has been an escape for the wealthy and royal—it's where then-crown prince Akihito met future wife and empress Michiko; John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent months there, and Bill Gates is reportedly building a place in town.

With a population of just under 20,000, it's fascinating that about a dozen of these experimental structures are scattered across an area that's a bit larger than New York City. The oldest of the buildings dates back to the early 1960s, and despite being commissioned by Japan's wealthy, they're all relatively modest in size.

Some standout Karuizawa buildings include: The 730-square-foot concrete and glass Polygon House, built in 2003, and nearly devoid of furniture; TNA architects' Square House, with its reedlike supports meant to resemble bamboo; and the Hiroshi Senju Museum, which includes an inner courtyard encased in glass as a stark contrast to the concrete gallery surrounding it.

"These are houses that are made not to disrupt or overwhelm their surroundings, but to — sometimes literally — reflect them," Hanya Yanagihara writes in T Magazine, making them not quite Modernist in that regard. Yanagihara also posits that "one of the joys of having money is being able to use it to make something beautiful and unusual."

Read the full article and see more photos over at T Magazine.

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