Buke-zukuri style (architecture representative of a samurais residence) (武家造)

The buke-zukuri style was for samurai residences in the Kamakura period. With importance placed on practicability, the simple style was considered to be fitting as residences for samurai as opposed to aristocratic culture.

However, the general theory in the architectural history is that since the samurai were originally from the aristocratic class, the style of their residences was a simplified version of Shinden-zukuri style and hence not considered an original style of their own (refer to "An introduction to the architectural history in Japan" by Hakutaro OTA).

Samurai residences in the medieval period

According to the descriptions of the residence of the Kamakura shogun in Azuma Kagami (The Mirror of the East), the residence consisted of a shrine, Kogosho (the residence of the shogun's heir), Tsune no gosho (a room for the Shogun), Nitogosho (the main place consisting of two halls), a tsuridono (fishing pavilion) and Samurai-dokoro, which shows that it inherited the characteristics shinden-zukuri style architecture while adding distinctive samurai aspects and the existence of a tsuridono suggests that there was Chisen garden (Japanese style garden with a central pond and spring).

In this era, the basic architecture of samurai residences was based on Shinden-zukuri style buildings, which were the main living space of nobles during the Heian period, but it seems that since the lifestyle of samurai differed from Court nobles and tenjobito (high-ranking courtiers allowed into the Imperial Palace), the style of residences was changed accordingly. The Samurai-dokoro in the big 146-m-wide residence of Kamakura shogun was the place where gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate) gathered to hold ceremonies or banquets, but it is also considered that shogun and gokenin sometimes sat face to face there as a ritual characteristic to the samurai society.

Additionally, although the details of samurai residences are still not clear to this day, a typical residence consisted of the following up until the Muromachi period: In one building or a building with annexes, various rooms, such as a tosaburai (tosamurai), where samurai gathered, a shinden and taimen-jo (meeting place), where the samurai spent their days, Dei (Idei) as a guest room, Kumonjo (Office of Administration) and a living room, were placed with strong walls and moats surrounding the buildings, and the garden are was also smaller in comparison with Shinden-zukuri style, matching the smaller-sized buildings, and a front garden with a Chumon gate and entranceway was placed instead of the large garden typical of Shinden-zukuri style, and inside courtyard was divided into smaller sections mainly for viewing.

Many picture scrolls were painted towards the end of the Kamakura period, and on them, many houses of local Samurai are depicted (such as Honen Shonin Eden (illustrated biography of a Buddhist saint, Honen) and Moko Shurai Ekotoba (picture scrolls of Mongol invasion attempts against Japan)). They went to the province assigned by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and lived there to control the surrounding area as according to their job assignments. They lived in rural areas, conducted farm management and controlled the farmers. It is unclear how faithfully these paintings depict the actual situation of that time. In the famous "A Scroll of Warrior Obusuma Saburo", the house of Saburo OBUSUMA and his elder brother, Jiro YOSHIMI of Musashi Province are depicted, and the paintings and words on the painting tell us that even the people living in the capital knew that the residence of Jiro YOSHIMI was splendid. The painting depicts a gorgeous atmosphere with a houseboat floating in a pond showing that Jiro, who married a nyobo (lady-in-waiting) from the imperial court and enjoyed entertainment such as poems and music, made a pond and had a tsuridono built within the vast premises and had graceful trees, such as red Japanese plum, cherry and pine trees, planted in the garden. Considering from the layout and look of the buildings, the painting shows that as shinden-zukuri style was followed, but also depicts aspects typical of a samurai residence such as earth on flat board roofs on top of mud walls, metal clasps used for the gate doors and guards placed around the residence for defence. In contrast, the style and size of the house of his younger brother Saburo itself is in the same shinden-zukuri style as his elder brother. However, it can be seen that no samurai are practicing military arts in and out of the residence and no garden with a pond for viewing, but the flat yard is left unattended with lots of weeds growing wildly, and regarding the planting, paulownia trees are only trees planted between the gate and the chumon-ro corridor. Traditional shinden-zukuri style could not fill the needs of the samurai of this era because of typical samurai activity such as fighting, entertaining guests and taimen events (meetings to confirm the relationship between lord and retainer).


In the past, this was taught in compulsory education as 'Buke-zukuri'.
(The reason was probably because it is easier to remember Shoin-zukuri style for the Heian period, Buke-zukuri style for the Kamakura period, Shoin-zukuri style (a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes a tokonoma) for the Muromachi period and Sukiya-zukuri style (built in the style of a tea-ceremony house) for the Edo period. However, the current textbook from Nihon Bunkyou Shuppan Co., Ltd. does not use the term, 'Buke-zukuri style').

Information at sightseeing spots occasionally call a residence with an entrance and shikidai (step in a Japanese entranceway) as 'Buke-zukuri style,' confusing 'Buke-yashiki,' (a samurai residence in the Edo period) with 'Buke-zukuri style,' but this is not the correct usage.

[Original Japanese]