Photographic journey gives rise to architectural book

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yutaka Saito holds up his photo book, “The Essence of Japanese Architecture.”

By Mutsumi Morita / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterTOTO Publishing has released a two-volume photo collection about major representative structures in Japan from the Asuka period (592-710) to the Meiji era (1868-1912). The images are the fruit of an architect’s time spent traveling around the nation on his own over a period of more than 20 years.

“Nihon Kenchiku no Katachi” (The Essence of Japanese Architecture) — two large volumes with about 400 pages each — features an array of pictures taken by architect Yutaka Saito. The 69-year-old also wrote the text, which is accompanied by English translations.

The photo book covers about 50 major architectural structures in Japan, such as Horyuji temple and the Shoso-in repository, both in Nara; Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture; and the Yoshijima Heritage House, a Meiji-era merchant house in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture.

Saito has authored many architecture books, for which he also took photographs, while working as an architect. Titles include a 1992 work focusing on legendary Mexican architect Luis Barragan.

Saito started taking the pictures for his latest publication around 1995, beginning with Taian, a tea room built by the father of the tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu (1522-91) in Kyoto Prefecture. The architect’s final shot for the book, Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, took place late last year.

Saito spent considerable time talking with the owners and administrators of these structures, visiting many times and carefully taking pictures. For example, he visited Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto more than 10 times, taking seasonal photos of the temple with cherry blossoms, autumn leaves and snow. As a selection of the best of the best, his photo collection helps readers see that each of the structures shows a different face depending on the season and time of day.

Saito read more than 500 books for research. His book discusses pillars, roof shapes and other aspects of the buildings. As an architect, Saito also points out the highlights of the structures to help readers appreciate any attractive features they might have otherwise missed.

“Why do we find these architectural structures so beautiful, even though we live in the modern age?” Saito said. “I believe this photo collection provides an answer to that question while also meeting the needs of foreign readers keen to understand Japan.”Speech

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