Minka: Japanese traditional farmhouses — its legacy, lessons and future

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19:00 (Doors open at 18:30)
  • Yoshihiro Takishita (architect and minka restorer)
  • Azby Brown (former director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and member of Safecast)
Azabu Hall, Temple University, Japan Campus
1F Parliament
Kyle Cleveland (ICAS Associate Director)
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The Japanese minka — traditional farmhouses — have been celebrated worldwide as vernacular architectural masterpieces. Once ubiquitous and found in incredible variety throughout the Japanese archipelago, they are rapidly disappearing as lifestyles change and rural towns age and depopulate. A minka preservation movement has arisen, however, and an increasing number of forward-thinking individuals have devoted themselves to restoring and reusing these inspirational buildings. The motivations are not simply aesthetic, as the traditional Japanese farmstead was a model of sustainable design, careful use of scarce resources, and superb integration with natural surroundings, all of which are crucial aspects of any successful approach to the challenges we face in the future. This talk will bring together a leading minka restorer and an expert in traditional Japanese buildings and sustainable practices to discuss the unique characteristics of minka and how learning from them can better prepare us for a beautiful and sustainable future.


Yoshihiro Takishita

architect and minka restorer

Yoshihiro Takishita has been acclaimed in Japan and abroad as a master of the preservation and reconstruction of traditional Japanese farmhouses and other forms of rural architecture. Born in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture in 1945, he graduated with a law degree from Waseda University in 1967. While still a college student, he learned of a centuries-old farmhouse (minka) near his birthplace that was threatened with destruction by the construction of a local reservoir. Impressed by the dignity of the structure, he arranged to have the house moved to a site in Kamakura, where it was rebuilt as a home for his American foster father. In the same building he established The House of Antiques, where he sells furniture, ceramics, screens and other fine Japanese works of art. After enthusiastic clients praised the reconstructed farmhouse in Kamakura and urged him to build more, he began rebuilding and renovating other traditional farmhouses, transforming them into beautiful inns, restaurants, and private residences.

His work has been acclaimed in Architectural Digest and other design magazines, as well as in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other international media.

Azby Brown

former director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and member of Safecast

Azby Brown is a native of New Orleans, and has lived in Japan since 1985. He is a leading authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environmentalism, and the author of many influential books, including The Very Small Home (2005), Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan (2010), and The Genius of Japanese Carpentry (2014), which are recognized as having brought these fields to the awareness of Western designers and the general public. As founder and director of the Future Design Institute at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, he conducted research on neuroscience, the role of the hand in creativity and communication (robotics), and conflict resolution.

Since 2011 he has been a core member of Safecast, a highly successful global volunteer-based organization devoted to developing new technology platforms for crowdsourced environmental monitoring which promote on open-source and open data principles. His current research focus is evaluating the rebuilding process of Japanese coastal towns destroyed by the 2011 tsunami. Azby has lived in Japan since 1985.