Glossary of Architecture and Urbanism

Glossaries are provided for those not familiar with terms relating to architecture, urban planning or Japanese martial arts. Terms will be added to these glossaries as the need arises in subsequent posts. The terms are first divided between those relating to architecture and urbanism as one group and Japanese martial arts as another. The glossary below relates to Architecture and Urbanism.

NB: There are two characteristics of the Japanese language that should be noted with regards to transliteration. The first is that in Japanese there are long vowels such as the long ō and ū. These are indicated by the “dash” over the vowels rather than adding an extra u to represent う as written in hiragana, e.g. “dōjō” instead of “doujou” for the transliteration of 道場/どうじょう. The second is that the Japanese words do not change according to singular or plural. Thus “dōjō” could be either one “dōjō”, several “dōjō” or “dōjō” in general.

architecture – the study, art, discipline and/or characteristics of discreet works of inhabitable construction. Typically this means buildings and other forms of shelter. For the purposes of this blog “architecture” as a term used by the IT industry is not used.

bargeboard – a board fixed to the end of a gable to give the gable visual emphasis as well as to conceal any exposed structural members that may be protruding through the gable.

butai (舞台) – a raised stage

demado (出窓) – bay windows

dōjō (道場) – lit. Place of the Way. This is where the practice of Japanese arts take place. One could define a dojo as an institution, tradition or group of people. While I recognize the possibility of these other definitions, for the purposes of this blog, a dojo is a physical place. The word dōjō is composed of two kanji: dō (道) – which means “way” or “path” and jō (場) – which means “place”. The term originates from Buddhism and refers to the place where Siddartha Gautama attained enlightenment. As Buddhism, in particular Zen Buddhism, became popular among the bushi class of Japan, Buddhist terminology and metaphors entered into budō terminology. Thus, the dōjō is seen as a place for traveling the “path” towards some ideal.

enbujō (演武場) – see keikojō.

fair faced concrete – a type of concrete that has a smooth appearance without the need for an additional finishing element (e.g. plaster or smoothing cement). This is often more expensive than concrete where final appearance is of little consideration because it will be cladded or plastered over. Fair faced concrete may be polished and a sealant maybe applied. They could also be painted though this may be frowned upon by “purists.” It is often used when the concrete structural element is meant to be seen and is heavily favored in contemporary architecture.

Genjibei (源氏塀) – a type of itabei, which has regularly spaced posts and supports a narrow roof, typically used for aristocratic dwellings. Genji was the name of a Japanese noble clan that is also known as the Minamoto clan.

genkan (玄関) – entry foyer. This may be where shoes are removed, in which case there is usually a small step up and a change of flooring material (e.g. from tile to wood) delineating where one must not wear shoes. A dōjō may have its own genkan in addition to the general genkan for the building the dōjō is within.

gōtenjō (格天井) – a type of coffered dropped ceiling

hafu (破風) – the barge boards on a kirizuma (切妻) (gable)

hikaebashira (控柱) – secondary posts that may be situated either in front and/or behind the main posts of a mon.

hikaenoma (控えの間) – this the term for the reserve area off the keikojō/embujō where people can ready themselves, wait for keikō, sit and watch, etc. It is also a term used in sports for the player’s seating area, which in English would be called the “bench” or “bullpen” (in the case of baseball).

hijiki (肘木) – traverse beams, usually sitting on kabuki main beams.

hottatebashira (掘立柱) – the main posts of a mon.

in-situ concrete – also known as site cast concrete, this is concrete poured on site. Form work (shuttering) is erected on site with the concrete poured where the concrete element will ultimately reside. By contrast, pre-cast concrete are concrete elements manufactured at a factory where conditions can be better controlled. Hence there is a higher level of imprecision with in-situ concrete construction. This solution however, offers more customized forms as well as the ability to create larger continuous concrete elements, though consideration must be made for the logistics of pouring sequences.

irimoya (入母屋) – a hip and gable roof in which gables are inset into a hip roof on opposing sides. This form of roof is distinctive of East Asian architecture.

itabei (板塀) – a wooden fence composed of boards or planks.

itanoma (板の間) – an area with wood plank flooring.

itaosae (板押) – wooden battens, typically used to secure shiami’ita or saobuchi tenjō.

itaranma (板欄間) – wooden transom infills

jōdan’noma (上段の間) – this is a slightly raised seating area (for seiza/kneeling style) at the shomen or jōseki end, usually with a tatami floor. A tokonoma may or may not be found within this.

jōseki (上席) – consisting of the kanji for “top” and “seat” (as in a place for sitting), this is the “most comfortable seat in the house” and is a term used in general Japanese etiquette. For example, the dinner table, train and taxi will have jōseki. In a taxi it is the seat right behind the driver (first to get in and last to get out) and in a train it is the window seat facing the direction of travel (second place goes to the other window seat if there are facing seats). In a dōjō this term gets used to refer to the short wall adjacent to the kamiza that is furthest from the door, however I believe this it is more of a term of etiquette than a fixed architectural term.

kabe (壁) – the Japanese term for a wall

kabuki (冠木) – large heavy main beams, usually spanning between the main posts. Note the kanji is different from the traditional Japanese theater called kabuki (歌舞伎).

kakejiku (掛け軸) – a hanging scroll, typically adorning a tokanoma, with an ink painting or work of calligraphy

kamidana (神棚) – a small Shinto shrine often found in Japanese homes, dōjō and traditional work places. These are usually attached high up on the wall. Kamidana are specific to the Shinto belief system. Bowing to the kamidana is given with the pronouncement “shinzen-ni rei”, lit. bow to the place of the gods. Since kamidana are specific to Shintō, they are often absent from dōjō outside of Japan.

kamiza (上座) – consisting of the kanji for “top” and “to sit” (as in an action), this is the senior side of the dōjō opposite the main entrance. Along this side is where the sensei (one or several) will sit. It is almost always the long side, e.g. if the main entrance is on the short side wall, the kamiza is still along the long wall furthest from the entrance.

karahafu (唐破風) – the bargeboard on an undulating gable

keikojō (稽古場) – this is the part of the dōjō where training/demonstration takes place. It is common practice by the Japanese to call this area the dōjō but this blog uses the term keikojō to distinguish this area from the rest of the dōjō. This may also be called the embujō (演武場).

kidomon (木戸門) – a wooden gate

ki-no-hei (木の塀) – a wooden fence

kirizuma (切妻) – the Japanese term for a gable

kiso (基礎) – a footing or base

kisokutsuishi (基礎沓石) – a stone base used to underpin traditional Japanese wood construction.

kōhaku (紅白) – a curtain of alternating red and white vertical stripes with a red horizontal stripe along the top. These are hung around the perimeter of an auspicious event such a festival, performance, demonstration, etc. They are often seen during public budō demonstrations.

kura (蔵) – a traditional Japanese storage structure. These are designed to protect their contents from intrusion and fire and thus employ masonry construction techniques. Kura walls are typically thick and finished with shikkui.

kurazukuri (蔵造り) – lit. warehouse form. Kurazukuri means that kura construction techniques are primarily used in the building though the building may not necessarily be a storage structure. Examples are the kurazukuri machiya of Kawagoe, Saitama.

machiya (町家) – lit. town house. Machiya are traditional Japanese city houses. These are in close proximity to other buildings with either very little gaps between adjacent boundary walls or with neighboring buildings sharing party-walls. Most examples are of mokuzō (wood construction) type though other types of construction may be found such as the kurazukuri machiya of Kawagoe, Saitama.

minka (民家) – a traditional Japanese house. The term covers a wide range of construction types but usually refers to typologies in use in Japan before the Meiji Period.

mokuzō (木造) – timber construction. The term does not indicate a particular style (e.g. traditional Japanese).

mon (門) – a gate

nafuda (名札) – a name plate. In a dōjō a nafuda refers to the typically wooden name blocks hung on a wall board, or nafudakake (名札掛け). Kenshi247 has an article describing this in more detail here. Sometimes this indicates who is present and sometimes it provides a list of (sometimes well known) members past and present. A nafuda can also refer to the cloth name plates wore on the uwagi (jacket worn during training), particularly in iaidō. Technically, the cloth name plates worn in kendo are also nafuda though they are usually referred to as zekken, a word borrowed from German.

pre-cast concrete – are concrete elements manufactured at a factory where conditions can be better controlled. These are often used where there is a high degree of repetitive elements or there is economy in using “off the shelf” elements. As an example, a lot of car parks use pre-cast T or double T concrete beams. Customized forms could be created though at a higher cost than standard elements. There must also be consideration for limits to the size of elements due to the logistics of the factory and transportation.

ranma (欄間) – a transom; horizontal dividing member over a doorway

reinforced concrete – is concrete with steel reinforcement, usually in the form of embedded reinforcement bars or re-bars. Concrete has very good compression (squeezing) strength but very poor tensile (stretching) strength. Since steel has a very high tensile strength and has the same thermal expansion rate as concrete, the two are often paired in structural work.

saobuchi tenjō (竿縁天井) – board and baton ceiling

sashimono (指し物) – traditional Japanese joinery in which clever interlocking geometries rather than nails, screws, glue and other devices are used to keep joints in place.

shikkui (漆喰) – a type of lime plaster typically used to infill the timber work in traditional Japanese wood construction for the purposes of creating a subdivision such as a wall. Rough courses are applied on a mesh, typically bamboo lattice, with successive finer courses until the final exterior course is very smooth. Shikkui has the property of absorbing moisture from humid air and subsequently releasing that moisture into arid air. It thus can contribute to moderating Japan’s seasonal humidity levels.

shimoseki (下関) – consisting of the kanji for “bottom” and “seat”, this is the “least comfortable seat in the house”. In a taxi this is the seat next to the driver (one has to remember that despite perhaps being more comfortable, this seat would pay the driver so in Japanese corporate culture this is more junior than the middle back seat). In a train this is the aisle seat facing away from the direction of travel. In a dōjō this term gets used to refer to the short wall adjacent to the kamiza that is closest to the entrance, however I believe this it is more of a term of etiquette than a fixed architectural term.

shimoza (下座) – consisting of the kanji for “bottom” and “to sit”, this is the junior side of the dōjō opposite the kamiza.

shitami’ita (下見板) – overlapping wood planks similar to clapboards, specifically in that the boards are arranged horizontally with each board overlapping over the one below to resist water penetration.

shōji (障子) – movable partitions in traditional Japanese wooden houses. Though typically this is thought of as the type of partition using translucent washi, any type of movable partition that is built as part of the timber construction is considered. Free standing screens however are not considered.

shōmen (正面) – This is the “front” of the dōjō and usually coincides with the kamiza. In some cases, this may be the wall opposite the entrance if the entrance is along a short side.

site cast concrete – see in-situ concrete.

sprung floor – a floor which has a suspension system to absorb impact, e.g. from footfall. This is typically found in sports gymnasiums, dance studios and dōjō. The system is built into the permanent floor system and could employ actual springs or layers of shock absorbent material. Removable mats, as often seen for judō or aikidō dōjō do not count. Tatami also does not count.

tatami (畳) – flooring mat made of rice straw. These are typically used in washitsu, traditional Japanese style rooms. Tatami have standard dimensions though these may vary from region to region and era to era. Japanese residential property area are still marketed in terms of the equivalent number of tatami mats or (畳 – alternative reading of the same kanji).

tenjō (天井) – the Japanese term for a ceiling

tokonoma (床の間) – in a washitsu this is a display alcove inset into the wall. Scrolls, flowers in a vase, swords, etc. are often displayed in these. Stepping into a tokonoma is forbidden.

transom – a horizontal element over a door, window or structural bay

typology – category of architecture by use and form, e.g. single-family-house, office building, shopping mall, airport and of course dōjō.

udegimon (腕木門) – a type of traditional Japanese gate that relies on braces, called udegi (腕木), for lateral stability. The mon at Itsukushima Jinja near Hiroshima, which sits out in the water during high tide, illustrates this type of lateral bracing.

urban planning – the study, art and discipline of planning urban environments (e.g. towns, cities, villages, etc.).

urbanism – the study, art and/or characteristics of socially collective patterns or artifacts of settlement, better known as towns, cities, villages, etc.

washi (和紙) – traditional Japanese paper

washitsu (和室) – a Japanese style room. Typically the floor is composed of tatami mats and there is a set of traditional style sliding doors, though not necessarily of the paper screen kind.

zōkingake (ぞうきんがけ) – a traditional style of cleaning wooden floors in Japan in which the person cleaning pushes a wet towel in front of them using their hands and pushing with their feet. The person would be bent over at the hips making an inverted V shape. This method requires some practice to get the right balance to do this. Cleaning in this way is considered part of training or shugyō (修行).