Shoichi Uchiyama made a name for himself internationally for his use of miniatures as a form of cultural activism, by highlighting the rapidly disappearing beauty of Japan’s traditional village architecture. He was on the forefront of a movement to save the remaining buildings endemic to Japan’s Edo Period, which lasted from the 1600s through the late 1860s. A farmhouse such as the one depicted here could have been maintained for well-over two centuries, providing a home for multiple generations of a single family. These ancestral homes began to fall into disrepair as Japan’s society modernized and younger generations moved to larger cities.
Uchiyama created everything in his Japanese Family Farmhouse by hand. He even made each small pebble out of clay, before hand-painting them individually. His building materials include rice straw, cedar bark, and various kinds of wood. Uchiyama does not follow a strict scale and takes artistic license with proportion in his work. For example, the thatched roof of this farmhouse is much larger in scale to the rest of the building than it should appear, drawing attention to the roof’s importance. Thatched roofs like this one were capable of keeping out rain and snow and helped to regulate the home’s temperature. The shape of this roof depicts the Gassho-zukuri style, which refers to the ridgeline resembling a monk’s hands clasped in prayer. Entering this farmhouse, you would be immediately drawn to these high ceilings and the way the wind and light are welcomed into the home.
In the late 1990s, thanks to the advocacy of those like Uchiyama, Japan began a campaign to disassemble and relocate some of these few remaining traditional buildings to open-air museums, where visitors can now see them restored to their former glory.
Uchiyama loved seeing these old buildings as a child and watching them vanish inspired his activism. Which building from the past that was lost in the name of progress would you most like to revisit?