Book Review: Architecture of the World: Japan

Architecture of the World: Japan by Tomoya Masuda with series editor Henri Stierlin
Taschen, 1994
Paperback, 191 pages

Over four chapters, Masuda attempts to illuminate the general history of Japan, its architectural history, the structures and techniques of its buildings, and Japan's urbanism, from the Jomon Period (B.C.) to the late 19th century. Impressive black-and-white photographs by Yukio Futagawa fall between the chapters, relating to the text both before and after. Unfortunately this simple format does not yield simple results, as the text falls shy of the images in creating excitement about traditional Japanese architecture. Most of the problem resides in language. Those with even a little knowledge of Japanese will have an easier time following Masuda's descriptive text, and thereby gain a greater understanding of the country's architecture and urbanism. Although definitions are given, sentence after sentence is as follows:
This line of intersection of the two planes was called the Nagesumi of the Kayaoi at the Kuchiwaki.
This example illustrates how Japanese words are used to define Japanese concepts, making me feel "Lost in the Translation". Luckily the photographs (and additional illustrations) make up roughly half the book, providing the reader with a rich visual history of Japan's architecture and urbanism.