Modern Japanese houses inspiring minimalism and avant-garde living

From inventive interiors in central Tokyo to clever constructions in Kyoto, here we tour the best modern residential Japanese houses designed by international and local architects. The Japanese house has gained a reputation for being smart with space – in the face of Japan's tricky planning regulations and tight urban plots – opening up possibilities for all types of lifestyle from minimalist to communal in Japanese architecture.

concrete japanese house called torus house perched on a hill, example of contemporary japanese architecture
(Image credit: Julien Lanoo )

THE FINEST JAPANESE HOUSES

concrete japanese house called torus house perched on a hill

(Image credit: TSUYOSHI FUJINO / SHINKENCHIKU-SHA)

Torus House by Noriaki Hanaoka Architecture

Its challenging, steeply angled plot helped define the identity of this new Japanese house in Chiba prefecture. Torus House, designed by Tomi City, Nagano-based Noriaki Hanaoka Architecture, is perched boldly on its hillside site, gazing towards north-facing views of buildings and nature, and the sea beyond. Made largely out of concrete, the house feels sturdy and solid, yet sits lightly on the slope, wrapped in swathes of glazing and glistening in the summer sun. Dramatic on the inside, as it is on the outside, Torus House is composed internally of one, big flowing space. This open plan arrangement contains living, kitchen, dining and bedroom areas. The openness and the lightness rendered from the glass walls and expansive views, combined with the plot's incline, make the interior feel like it's floating above the landscape. At the same time, the strong concrete pillars, braces and slabs anchor it firmly to the ground. Read more

hero aerial showing the bungalows of KAI Yufuin by Kengo Kuma

(Image credit: Kengo Kuma)

Kai Yufuin by Kengo Kuma

Built around a cascading valley of rice terraces that reflect the horizon’s endless play of colours, the Kai Yufuin hot spring ryokan by Hoshino Resorts, is one of Kengo Kuma & Associates' latest works. Composed of a public building, a bathhouse, guest rooms and separate villa suites, the project is defined by elements of traditional Japanese architecture and the region's farmhouse vernacular that form the basis of the design. Located on the island of Kyushu in the Ōita Prefecture, famous for its hot springs especially in and around the city of Beppu, the Yufuin valley basin has an abundant resource of mineral-rich water. Both these elements unite in this project to form the identity of Kengo Kuma's newest Japanese hospitality offering. Read more

interior of Umbrella House by Kazuo Shinohara

(Image credit: Julien Lanoo)

The Umbrella House by Kazuo Shinohara

Visitors to Vitra’s Weil am Rhein campus this year will find a new arrival among the furniture brand’s park of architectural treasures. Standing temple-like in a greenfield site next to buildings by Jean Prouvé and Buckminster Fuller, the Umbrella House by Japanese architect Kazuo Shinohara has a quiet but compelling presence. The wooden design, built in 1961 in Nerima, a residential neighbourhood of Tokyo, is the smallest and one of the last remaining residences from the first of Shinohara’s four self-titled ‘styles'. Its arrival in Germany is the result of a rescue mission that began when the Japanese architectural firm SANAA contacted Vitra. It had been informed by the Japanese organisation Heritage Houses Trust that the house was at risk of being demolished to make way for a new road. Recognising the building’s significance – Shinohara is considered one of the most important Japanese architects from the latter half of the 20th century, but is still little known internationally – Vitra worked with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to dismantle, ship and rebuild the house on its campus, where it will serve as a venue for small gatherings. Read more

timber clad dramatic pitched roof in japanese house

(Image credit: Masao Nishikawa )

Espace by Satoshi Kurosaki / APOLLO Architects & Associates 

This relatively boutique, two-story, wood-frame house sits nestled in the Shinagawa ward of Tokyo. Designed by Satoshi Kurosaki and his studio, APOLLO Architects & Associates, it combines drama and minimalist architecture. The architecture team emphasised a sense of space, creating clean surfaces and working with an imposing double height living space where a timber-clad ceiling follows the roof's pitch and becomes the room's main architectural centrepiece. This Japanese house is also awash with natural light, which floods in from a courtyard and clerestory windows. Clean, flat, vertical and angled surfaces throughout ensure daylight bounces off to help illuminate every corner of the property. 'By treating the entire building as a reflector, we succeeded in creating a separate universe of diffuse light that makes the rooms feel spacious and echoes the uniquely tranquil character of the residents,' the architects explained. 

sunked living area in Japanese house

(Image credit: Katsuhiro Aoki.)

House in Hasami by Momoko Kudo/MMA

This small family home in the southern Japanese city of Hasami is the second in what Momoko Kudo calls the ‘Box series’ (the first was completed in 2018). ‘Boxes’ of four different sizes have been placed slightly askew in plan to form the footprint of the house. The client likes to entertain, and the more public areas such as the kitchen, dining and lounge are kept on the expansive ground floor, while bedrooms for the family of four are on a more compact and compartmentalised upper level. The off-centre placement of the ‘boxes’ creates various outdoor spaces, and a large roof (divided into two parts) brings everything together harmoniously. Inside, a slightly sunken lounge area lowers the sightlines towards the surrounding greenery to almost ground level. This, combined with the floor-to-ceiling windows, creates an impression of spaciousness. Outside, small but important details, such as a slight rounding of corners on the otherwise simple vertical cedar boards, matching the rounded foundation and the pressed soil around the house’s perimeter, help to keep the house neat and add a contemporary feel, while using simple, unpretentious materials. The roof’s thin, round, vertical steel support beams add another modern touch, contrasting beautifully with the vernacular cedar siding. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

minimalist blocks in japanese housing complex

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Ideareave Ikegami, by Ryuichi Sasaki Architecture with Takayuki Yagi

Anew mixed-use scheme has just been completed in Tokyo’s Ikegami district – so far, so normal. But this project, Ideareave Ikegami, by Ryuichi Sasaki Architecture in collaboration with architect Takayuki Yagi for client Yasunori Kamata / K-M-T ingeniously blends a music hall and residential units within a single building, ensuring its residents, and the wider neighbourhood, can benefit from direct access to arts and culture from the comfort of their own home. The award-winning, internationally acclaimed architecture studio specialises in cultural experiences, and has commercial, music, leisure and hospitality projects under its belt. In this design, a reinforced concrete structure combines performance space, practice rooms, soundproofed residential rental units, as well as a luxurious penthouse at the very top. The architects drew on the area’s vibrant character and cultural identity to develop their design solution.

Interior of Aoyama House by Hitotomori Architects

(Image credit: Hiroki Kawata)

Aoyama House by Hitotomori Architects

The open plan of this home in Aoyama gives a bright and spacious feel to a compact 92 sq m flat. The exposed concrete ceiling adds height, while a small alcove for reading creates cosiness. Materials are simple (plywood, mortar, pile carpet) but complement each other well in terms of colour and texture. Lighting design features work by New Light Pottery. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen. Photography: Hiroki Kawata

dining and living space at House in Hayama

(Image credit: Daisuke Shima)

Hayama House by Case-Real

When escaping the urban sprawl of Tokyo becomes a priority, many Tokyoites look to the seaside town of Hayama. Facing the Sagami bay and within a fairly easy commute of the big city, but with a much slower pace, it’s easy to see this beachfront little town’s attraction. It is also the setting for this new Hayama house, commissioned by a family who approached Japanese architecture studio Case-Real for the design. While the client, a family of four, had been living in the area for some time, they jumped at the opportunity to buy the neighbouring plot to their current home in order to expand their footprint. With most residential plots in Japan being modest in size, the norm is to build in two or three storeys to allow for the necessary square footage. Having secured a second plot, however, the client could afford to ask Case-Real’s Koichi Futatsumata to design a single-story home to fulfil their needs – a move seen as something of a luxury in Japan. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

red hues in japanese house

(Image credit: Kenji Goto )

Kidera Row Houses by Naoko Fujioka + Fujioka Architectural Laboratory

The latest residential project of this Fujioka family practice is a beautiful renovation of a Nagaya row house containing two residencies and one small shop. The studio’s signature careful attention to detail and materials enhances the cultural significance of these traditional homes, while suggesting a new direction for Nara’s many old houses, which are waiting to be given the Fujioka treatment. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

neutral colours in Japanese apartment

(Image credit: Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen)

Kinuta Terrace by Keiji Ashizawa and Norm Architects 

Designed by a dynamic duo - Tokyo’s Keiji Ashizawa and Norm Architects from Denmark - Kinuta Terrace is an all-encompassing renovation of 36 maisonette homes originally built in 1991. All the furniture for each house unit is custom designed and made by Karimoku. The work has been the beginning of a whole new line of furniture from the Japanese maker, branded as Karimoku Case Study. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

exterior of japanese house with asymmetrical windows and pitched roof

(Image credit: Kenji Muto)

Uedayama House by Écrit Architects 

Established six years ago by Nobuyoshi Hayashi, Hiroshi Kaito and Eri Yabushita, Écrit Architects already has an impressive portfolio of completed projects, with a strong focus on single-family houses. Yabushita was the lead architect on Uedayama House and has designed a simple, yet generous home for a young couple and their two kids in Nagoya. The narrow, but tall upper floor dining and kitchen area in particular stands out with its exposed beams and feature triangle windows at both ends. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

House in Sasuke by Koichi Futatsumata & Yuki Onita (Case-Real) 

(Image credit: Daisuke Shima)

House in Sasuke by Koichi Futatsumata & Yuki Onita (Case-Real) 

This minimalist house by Case-Real is divided vertically, with a design office and piano room on the ground floor, and living quarters for a family of four on the upper level. Interiors are kept simple and white, but ample natural light and the shade of the large mulberry tree in the front garden create warmth through shadow play, in particular in the upper living spaces. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen. Photography: Daisuke Shima

Sakaragicho Residence by Key Operation Inc

(Image credit: Noriyuki Yano)

Sakaragicho Residence by Key Operation Inc

This boutique Yokohama apartment building may be multi-family housing, but it offers the attention to detail and serene design of a single family project. An outer skin and geometric external grid rhythm creates a unified facade that brings neatly together the upper level residential floors with the ground floor commercial units. The result is a calming, minimalist appearance in what is in fact a fairly large scale urban building. Photography: Noriyuki Yano

The Scoop Landscape House opens up to Tokyo’s views

(Image credit: Yasuhiro Takagi)

Scoop Landscape House by Not Architects Studio

The perpetually engaging housing laboratory that is suburban Japan continues to delight. The Scoop Landscape House is a new project by Not Architects Studio, a side project set up by Tetsushi Tominaga and Lisa Ono, together with Aoi Nahata. Ono’s concept design for this 101 sq m Japanese house was to create a space that ‘scooped up’ the best views and fragments of cityscape surrounding the modest lot in Ota City, a residential district just south of Tokyo’s city centre. 

The site conditions were typical of the area, with a compact plot hemmed in by other similarly scaled houses. ‘Usually, when I walk around my neighbourhood, I see a very repetitive cityscape,’ says Ono, ‘However, when I squint, there are moments that touch my heart, such as trees planted in gardens, the weeds growing on the roadside, sunlight filtering through leaves or the sky seen from between buildings.’ The Scoop Landscape House has been shaped to make the most of these fleeting moments. Additional writing: Jonathan Bell. Photography: Yasuhiro Takagi

O House by Hideyuki Nakayama completed in 2009. Photography: Mitsutaka Kitamura

(Image credit: Mitsutaka Kitamura)

O House by Hideyuki Nakayama

This project, a design classic completed in 2009, is located in the beautiful, ancient city of Kyoto. Narrow and artfully placed across a gently curving footprint, the home sits within a constrained plot and exemplifies the urban challenges often found in Japanese cities - as well as the local architects' ingenious solutions to them. Photography: Mitsutaka Kitamura

Japanese architect Go Fujita designs a concrete live/work space for himself

(Image credit: Nacasa & Partners)

F Residence by Go Fujita / Gosize

Situated in a quiet residential area in the city of Nishinomiya, Hyogo prefecture, a supreme natural setting that is proudly counted among Japan’s top one hundred sites for viewing cherry blossoms, F Residence is the work of local practice Gosize. This project, in fact, bears a special significance to the firm, being the home and office of the studio’s owner Go Fujita, who founded Gosize in 1999. A complex brief that combines life and work areas did not deter Fujita from employing his signature approach to architecture; the studio excels in creating contemporary interiors that draw on the country’s traditions. ‘Seeking to reflect a distinctive Japanese aesthetic that favours natural materials and finds beauty in simplicity, the design emphasizes plainness and blank spaces in the interior,’ explain the architects. Photography: Nacasa & Partners

Hiroshi Sambuichi’s minimal house in Japan practises sustainability and restraint

(Image credit: Shinkenchu-sha)

Stone House by Hiroshi Sambuichi 

Even a cursory glance at Hiroshi Sambuichi’s oeuvre shows it’s clear that the Japanese architecture master doesn’t do conventional. First, there was his Air House, an almost transparent sliver of glass and wood built on a spectacular castle moat in Hagi. Then there was Sloping North House, a family home perched on a vertiginous rise in Yamaguchi. There’s also the dental clinic, near Hiroshima, which he decked out like an upturned wooden boat with vegetation on the roof. And we have Stone House, a family home built in the mountains on a bed of crushed river stones. Sambuichi has already been garlanded with awards for buildings that manage to be both good-looking and good to the environment. Although he takes the eco issue very seriously, there’s nothing earnest about his designs. He thinks very carefully about the materials he uses (and often reuses) and dreams up ingenious ways for his buildings to operate with as little heating and air conditioning as possible. Additional writing: Fiona Wilson. Photography: Shinkenchu-sha

exterior and interior of Daita, Tokyo by Ryuichi Sasaki / Sasaki Architecture

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Daita, Tokyo by Ryuichi Sasaki / Sasaki Architecture

Set in the western part of the mega-city of Tokyo, among tall, old trees and low mansions, Daita is a design-led housing development of 16 apartments. Its author, Sasaki Architecture, worked with a clean, monolithic concrete main body, creating highlights by inserting L-shaped colored stainless steel openings across the facade. This design move was inspired by the surrounding foliage, creating a dialogue between architecture and its setting, as the contemporary design plays with contrasts between soft and hard, natural and man-made. Inside, minimalist white-painted and exposed concrete and geometric openings punched into walls and roofs create a serene, minimalist environment. In multi-family housing schemes, architects need to ‘create a unique ‘one world view’ for the whole project,’ says Ryuichi Sasaki. It is also important to create ‘multiple spatial cues for the dweller, so they can choose multiple ways of living within this one design,’ he adds. Photography: Takumi Ota

A timber house in a Japanese forest brings a couple closer to their family

(Image credit: Takumi Ota)

Okayama House by Tsubasa Iwahashi

Japanese architect Tsubasa Iwahashi has added a new timber house to an existing house in a forest in Okayama, Japan. The ‘hut’ as he calls it, is a comfortable house for two filled with daylight and connected to the surrounding nature with open-air spaces and wide windows. Iwahashi designed the hut for a couple who wanted to live closer to their family. There’s sufficient independence to the new living space because of the surrounding forest, but also a beautiful connectivity between the two structures. Additional writing: Harriet Thorpe. Photography: Photography: Takumi Ota

Japanese housing project cuts slender figure in Tokyo streets

(Image credit: Masatoshi Mori)

FLAT369 by No555

It’s not uncommon for modern Japanese housing to be squeezed into tight plots and dense urban situations. It is a testament to an architect’s skill when functionality and generosity of space shine through, despite challenging conditions. This is also the case with Flat369, a multi-family residential project created by Kanagawa-based, Japanese architecture studio No.555 and set in the heart of Tokyo’s Setagaya district. The brief for the scheme, called for the creation of a six-unit apartment building in an extremely narrow lot, previously used as parking space. No.555’s founder, Yokohama-trained architect Takuya Tsuchida, has been leading his agile, boutique office since 2005, focusing on a range of elegant residential, commercial and cultural projects. Regardless of the typology, the studio’s approach favours clean, geometric volumes, natural materials and neutral colour tones, resulting in subtle architectural compositions that feel calming, nodding to minimalist architecture – a path Tsuchida also took with Flat369. Photography: Masatoshi Mori 

Angular house refreshes Japanese commuter town

(Image credit: Toshihisa Isii)

T Residence by Matsuyama Architect and Associates

Set in the sleepy, commuter belt of Fukuoka city, T Residence is an intriguing, angular house, the brainchild of locally based Japanese architecture studio Matsuyama Architect and Associates. Created for a client who has lived in the area since their childhood, the home replaces an older residence on the site, in an effort to modernise the domestic space on offer and create a house that is fit for purpose and the lives of its new inhabitants – a couple and their children. ’The townscape was established based on the grid street plan by a 1960s administrative land-zoning project to provide plots for new houses. Since then, it has been constantly regenerated by the replacing of existing buildings with new houses in recent years,’ say the architects. Even though the design team created something bold and contemporary, at the same time, the architects wanted to be respectful of the overall character of the area, which is largely populated by relatively modest, two-storey structures. As a result, the new design kept a fairly clean, opaque frontage in a volume divided into horizontal blocks, which were stacked up either slightly set back or brought forward towards the street, creating a sculptural overall impression. This external envelope is made out of weatherboard-shaped formwork concrete, which mixes with glazed sections on the upper levels that allow only hints of the life inside. Photography: Toshihisa Isii

This modern farmhouse in Japan is a low-tech masterpiece

(Image credit: Shuhei Miyahata)

Farm House of Wind and Fire by Takeshi Ikeuchi’s Studio Colife3

Japanese architect Takeshi Ikeuchi’s modern farmhouse project for a young couple in Matsuyama, Japan, makes the most of the nearby environment and architectural traditions of the area. Having spent nine years working at Hiroshi Sambuichi’s studio has clearly had a profound impact on Ikeuchi’s approach to architecture. In true Sambuichi fashion, the site and surrounding architecture were painstakingly researched in order to help determine the overall placement of the building – named the Farm House of Wind and Fire. Openings in the building’s west and east façades allow the gentle summer breeze to flow freely to cool the interior naturally, while louvres keep out the hot sun. This way, even in winter, the cold northern wind is effectively blocked, while still allowing for natural ventilation. Photography: Shuhei Miyahata. Additional writing: Jens H Jensen

Japanese culture influences a house design in the scenic seaside town of Kamakura

(Image credit: Koichi Torimura)

T3 by Hitoshi Saruta of CUBO Design Architect

The beautiful Japanese seaside town of Kamakura is known for its rich history and scenic location, offering views from the Shonan coastline to the iconic peak of Mount Fuji. A hilltop spot here can ensure some great, privileged vistas and an ideal perch from which to admire the Japanese culture and countryside; as the international owners of a new house, entitled T3, discovered, when they decided to build their Kamakura home. The clients approached local architect Hitoshi Saruta of CUBO Design Architect for the commission. Saruta, who has a series of sensitively composed residential projects in the area under his belt, jumped at the opportunity to create something modern that would also accommodate his clients’ keen interest ‘in the aesthetic of Japanese gardens, as well as Japanese culture and architecture’. Photography: Koichi Torimura

Timeless is a Tokyo house whose ambition belies its size

(Image credit: Masao Nishakawa)

Timeless by Apollo Architects

Maintaining privacy while providing natural light-filled, spacious rooms is often a challenge for Tokyo residents. Architects have to consider houses built right up to neighbouring plots, and roads just outside the windows, often without the protective border of a pavement. In Japanese architecture studio Apollo Architects’ most recent residence, Timeless, such challenges have been neatly solved by the use of two internal courtyards that allow plenty of natural light into the spacious, 300 sq m home. The commission for this Tokyo house came from a couple who had been living on the plot previously but, after their three children had grown up and flown the nest, were keen to rebuild to fit their current lifestyle. From the outside, it would be easy to dismiss this Japanese house as a giant box trying to fill out the footprint to the max. There is only a sliver of a window, placed too high for passing pedestrians to peek in and extending across both sides of the house that face outwards to the streets. This window, a single door, and a garage are the only elements that hint at the life inside the building. Photography: Masao Nishakawa. Additional writing: Jens H. Jensen 

This suburban Tokyo home takes its cues from Richard Neutra

(Image credit: Shigeo Ogawa)

House in Sashiogi by Waro Kishi’s K Associates 

Surrounded by open fields and sparsely built suburbs, House in Sashiogi sits in the outskirts of Tokyo, the work of Waro Kishi and his Japanese architecture studio K Associates. Generously sized, on a 300 sq m plot – a comfortable site for the typical family residence in the region – this suburban Tokyo home takes its cues directly from its environment and the low, calm nature of its context. ’The immediate thought that came into my mind, when I visited the site for the first time, was that an open-plan, one-story house would be good for this environment,’ Kishi says. At the same time, it is sprinkled with flair and experimentation that nods to early modernist architecture. Balancing the need for views with future-proofing the home – ‘Of course, the surrounding environment will go through urbanisation and rapid changes,’ says Kishi – the architecture team crafted a building that is partly open plan and transparent, and partly enclosed in a more opaque external peripheral wall made of metal sheets. This way, the flowing, bright and open living spaces inside can connect to the outdoors, offering a more flexible internal arrangement, while some parts of the house, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, can remain carefully hidden from prying eyes. Photography: Shigeo Ogawa

exterior of Bay Window Tower House designed by Takaaki Fuji + Yuko Fuji Architecture

(Image credit: Masao Nishikawa)

Bay Window Tower House by Takaaki Fuji + Yuko Fuji Architecture

This new build home in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, is a project conceived for a couple and their two children. The architects, Takaaki Fuji + Yuko Fuji Architecture, made the most out of the tiny corner plot by building up and sculpting a dramatic shape featuring abstract bay windows over three levels. The structure, which combines a home and an office on the ground level for one of the clients, also involved sophisticated research of the surrounding microclimate. This was 'in order to reduce reliance on mechanical devices such as air conditioning as much as possible,' the architecture team explains. Photography: Masao Nishikawa

street facade of Extraordinary Ordinary House designed by Yukio Asari / Love Architecture

(Image credit: Masao Nishikawa)

Extraordinary Ordinary House by Yukio Asari / Love Architecture

This home came with an unusual brief. It belongs to a client who has two houses in the same central Tokyo neighbourhood, occupying both of them and alternating. This building was the second of the two to be built, so the client's brief was simply for this house to do what the other one doesn't; an unconventional request, which architect Yukio Asari took on with enthusiasm. As a result, 'the project fits neither the typical definition of a regular house - that is, a place to spend everyday life - nor that of a vacation home, a place to escape everyday life.  Rather, it sits somewhere between the two, intended to expand ordinary life and cast it in a fresh light,' the architecture team explains. Ribbed concrete on the outside contrasts the polished concrete and wood inside, creating a dramatic effect. Photography: Masao Nishikawa

interior bathoom of T3 by Hitoshi Saruta/ CUBO design architect

(Image credit: Koichi Torimura)

T3 by Hitoshi Saruta/ CUBO design architect

A French/Japanese couple approached architect Hiroshi Saruta and his team with the commission of a home, nestled quietly atop a hill in the historic Japanese city of Kamakura. The design, while contemporary, draws on the traditional Japanese gardens and Japanese tea ceremony. It includes a main house and a distinct area for guests as the clients love to entertain. The result is calming and finely tuned, mixing modernity and heritage. 'We hope this hybrid of modern and traditional Japanese design will integrate seamlessly with the surrounding nature and facilitate deep and meaningful exchanges with visitors,' says the architect. Photography: Koichi Torimura

Weather House by Not Architects Studio

(Image credit: TBC)

Weather House by Not Architects Studio

Japanese architecture trio’s latest residential project, the Weather House, occupies a prominent corner site in a Tokyo residential suburb. Keeping away from the trend of minimalist architecture in Japanese houses, here, the team opted for exposed concrete floor slabs and stairs that are recessed into the plot. The building line is delineated by slender steel I-beams with a chain-link wire mesh infill that will eventually become overgrown with climbing plants and vines, blending with the nearby urban park. The Tokyo-based studio is Not Architects. It was set up by Tetsushi Tominaga, Lisa Ono and Aoi Nahata; Ono and Nahata joined Tominaga to form Not, while the last also runs his own studio, Tetsushi Tominaga Architect & Associates.

Steel frame house by Reiichi Ikeda Design

(Image credit: Yoshido Masuda)

Steel frame house by Reiichi Ikeda Design

A Japanese steel frame house in Tamatsukuri, Osaka, has received a minimalist facelift, courtesy of Reiichi Ikeda Design. The single family Japanese house’s redesign not only affords it a striking new façade – sharp and modern in light grey hues – but also revamps the space inside, transforming the interior design into an ode to simplicity and minimalist architecture. Located in a vibrant part of town, on a wide street, the existing structure had a number of advantages and disadvantages to it. Among the advantages was the ample natural light this plot gets, an element the architects made the most of by installing a large, double-glazed picture window that exploits the warm light from the north. Among the disadvantages was the building quality – the house did not have adequate insulation to ensure the residents get a stable temperature inside, which led to excessive heating and sustainability issues. The team tackled this by adding insulation and blocking some poorly placed windows (whose role was replaced by the aforementioned new large opening). Photography: Yoshido Masuda

Terada House by Naoki Terada 

(Image credit: Ben Richards)

Terada House by Naoki Terada 

Even before entering Japanese architect Naoki Terada’s private home in Tokyo’s primarily residential Suginami ward, you get the feeling that this Japanese house (and its owner) is something special. Staring at you next to the entrance is the oversized eye of an exact copy of the HAL 9000 interface from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Terada’s HAL has been reprogrammed to function only as a benign video door phone, but the love of what the future looked like back in the late 1960s is evident throughout this Japanese home. Photography: Ben Richards

House in Kyoto, by 07BEACH

(Image credit: TBC)

House in Kyoto by 07BEAC

This timber-clad family home was designed for a couple and their three young children in northern Kyoto. The clients opted for an open-plan design informed by their passion for its simplicity, as well as the need to keep an eye on their children at all times. 07BEACH placed a young tree at the centre of the double-height living room, which will sentimentally grow alongside the children over the years. Meanwhile, on the first floor, a tatami mat room and the children's bedroom both feature large overhead windows that compliment the tactile surfaces with natural light.

Stone House, by Hiroshi Sambuichi

(Image credit: Shinkenchu-sha)

Stone House by Hiroshi Sambuichi

Located at the junction of three prefectures (Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Shimane), Stone House treads lightly on the earth with his architecture. Architect Hiroshi Sambuichi takes pride in designing with natural and re-used materials. Stone House is a minimal masterpiece that had to be able to withstand the cold months, when the area is buffeted by harsh winds and blanketed in snow, but it also had to serve as a cool retreat during the hot summer months. Sambuichi took the fairly radical decision of burying the house in a bed of stones, which come from a nearby river. In winter, these stones protect the house from icy blasts, while in summer, they keep the temperature and humidity down. Photography: Shinkenchu-sha

Rock House by Yo Shimada

(Image credit: TBC)

Rokko house by Yo Shimada

Tato Architects designed the elevated Rokko House on a hillside in the town of Kobe in southern Japan. Found in a mountainous area, the two-storey house has a steel frame with glazed walls. At ground floor, transparent walls contain the kitchen, dining room. The first floor is used for entertaining, creating music or working, while upstairs again on the second floor, there is a bedroom and storage space. Japanese architect Yo Shimada set up his office, Tato, in 1997 and his work involves a plethora of residential design, including this house in Rokko.

Pettanco House by Yuji Tanabe Architects

(Image credit: Yuji Tanabe)

Pettanco House by Yuji Tanabe Architects

With the client’s budget constraints in mind, architect Yuji Tanabe and his team envisioned Pettanco House as a modern, open space with low ceilings and simple, minimalist detailing. Located in the mountainous region of Matsumoto, the area often referred to as the Japanese Alps, the house’s many wooden elements feature locally grown species, such as the Japanese Larch used for the structural frame. The two-storey construction was calculated using the Japanese module of ken – this is a commonly used unit in Japanese architecture (1 Ken corresponds to 1.82m). The multi-functional space covers many needs. It is a practical and spacious family home, with two bedrooms and a bathroom on the ground level at the rear of the property. It is also a workshop, with studio space located above, on the first floor. Photography: Yuji Tanabe

Window House, Muji pre-fab

(Image credit: Muji / Ryohin Keikaku)

Window House by Muji

Located in the seaside city of Kamakura, about 30 miles southwest of Tokyo, the design for the Window House was adapted from architect Kengo Kuma’s 2008 edition of a Muji house. The Window House has a footprint of 80 sq m and is spread over two levels with the flexibility to reconfigure the design as per plot requirements. Featuring an open-plan layout and minimal white interiors, the form is inspired, says Muji, by a traditional English country house. The outer walls are wrapped with openings on all sides. Eliminating the noticeable frame, the windows are detailed in line with Muji’s no-clutter design sensibility, strategically placed to invite light and ventilation, and to frame exterior garden views. Photography: Muji / Ryohin Keikaku

M House, Ryuji Najamura

(Image credit: Ryuji Nakamura & Associates)

Concrete M House by Ryuji Najamura

A pupil of renowned Japanese architect Jun Aoki, Nakamura set up his independent practice in 2004 and went on to create delicate temporary installations and imaginative retail interiors in Japan, to great acclaim. Sandwiched in-between two roads, M House is a balance between disciplines. Nakamura took a modest approach, feeling it was the architect’s duty to design a mere ‘neutral background for the interior and the plants yet to come’. The structure is a bare reinforced concrete framework clad in white-painted brick tiles that help the exterior withstand the salty ocean air. Together they make the house look as if ‘awaiting a renovation’, according to the architect, who mentions the white-washed panel placed halfway up the concrete interior wall as an example of the kind of ‘unfinished atmosphere’ that ‘helps residents relax’. Photography: Ryuji Nakamura & Associates

Okinawa house, John Pawson

(Image credit: Nacasa & Partners)

Okinawa House by John Pawson Architects

Developed by Taishi Kanemura, an architect from Pawson’s London office, the execution of the interior programme and external shape of this house was led by the site’s catenary curve. ‘The design traces the diagonal footprint of the plot, combining single and double-height spaces within a form that is closed and tapered to the rear, but to the front flares and opens like an eye over the headland, with the ground floor level raised to optimise sightlines to the ocean,’ explains the architect. The Okinawa house is a bright and open family home that showcases Pawson’s signature simple, uncluttered and natural style. Its clean and tranquil atmosphere and far-reaching ocean views provide a calming and meditative residential escape away from the buzz of the metropole. Photography: Nacasa & Partners

House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects

Located in a quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo, this 914 sq ft NA house is a transparent construction of white steel frame, a light and bright contrast to the concrete blocks in the dense residential areas of the city. Inspired by the concept of living in a tree, the house’s interior is created with 21 individual floor plates that all sit at different levels following the desire of the clients to live like nomads in their own homes. Photography: Iwan Baan

Nerima house by Elding Oscarson

(Image credit: Kenichi Suzuki)

Nerima house by Elding Oscarson

Nerima house is located on a fairly compact 100 sq m, 35-year-old garden plot in the leafy outskirts of the Japanese capital. The home’s entrance floor lies semi-submerged below ground level, offering an extra element of privacy for the owners, as well as enhancing the visual connection to the surrounding foliage. The majority of the 99 sq m house, which spans two levels, is designed in an open plan, as the architects wanted to avoid dividing the property into many smaller spaces, in order to secure a more generous and airy feel inside. One of the timber-clad structure’s most defining features is its glass strip window, which sits on the top floor and goes around the building. This 360-degree panoramic window adds to the interior’s sense of space and floods the floor with light. The large opening is supported by a series of understated, thin white solid steel columns, which don’t detract from the horizontal band’s strong visual effect. Photography: Kenichi Suzuki

Sou Fujimoto's House N in Oita

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

House N by Sou Fujimoto

Designed between 2006 and 2008, House N is designed for two people and a dog. Its design features three nested compartments that define the inhabitants' activities. The innermost shell is a private interior space, the middle space contains a sheltered zone within the outer space which features a covered garden creating a subtle transition between indoor and out. Photography: Iwan Baan

Nishinoyama House, Kyoto, Japan, by Kazuyo Sejima

(Image credit: TBC)

Nishinoyama House by Kazuyo Sejima

Built between 2010 and 2014, this housing complex, Nishinoyama House, designed by SANAA’s Kazuyo Sejima is located in a suburban area of Kyoto. The scheme contains ten properties that are connected by a unifying structure and multiple gardens and passageways. Varying in scale and shape, the rooms of the residences open out onto courtyards and have numerous sources of light and ventilation. The design of the scheme was created to encourage communal living.

Leek House by Terunobu Fujimori

(Image credit: Akihisa Masuda)

Leek House by Terunobu Fujimori

Japanese architect Terunobi Fujimori, known for his work with natural materials, often incorporates green roofs into his architectural designs. Here at Leek House, a wooden grid with circular openings is placed to allow leeks to grow through towards the sun, an ideal environment for growth. Photography: Akihisa Masuda

D House by Ron Arad

(Image credit: Anatole Papafilippou)

D House by Ron Arad

Designed by Ron Arad and created with the help of local firm Issho who were the project’s collaborating architects, and located on a densely built street of two- and three-storey detached homes, the new-build D House spans 180 sq m and three above ground levels. The building’s relatively narrow profile is maximised by an expressive front façade made of a stack of patinated (on site) steel ribbons, which were fabricated locally, in a workshop just outside Tokyo. This adds dynamism to the house’s main concrete frame and creates a strong sense of movement and a play with light and shadow in the house. Photography: Anatole Papafilippou

Grigio house, Tokyo

(Image credit: Masao Nishikawa)

Grigio house by Apollo Architects & Associates

An ode to concrete, Grigio House in Tokyo is designed by Japanese practice Apollo Architects & Associates, headed by Satoshi Kurosaki. One cut-out volume makes way for the ground floor entrance and garage (which provides shelter for two cars). Carefully placed windows punctuate the facades, while terraces and a central courtyard at the one side of the building allow for plenty of light into the interior. It may appear closed off but the architect has cleverly carved out parts to make it light and open inside. Photography: Masao Nishikawa

House With Plant by Junya Ishigami

(Image credit: TBC)

House With Plants by Junya Ishigami

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami, an alumnus of Kazuyo Sejima & Associates who set up his own firm in 2004, built the House with Plant between 2010 and 2012. Bridging the space between landscape and architecture, this house has a garden space in the double-height interior and glazing that reveals the planting inside the house, to the outside. The cuboid shape of the house that combines open and closed panels is abstract and minimal.

Pony Garden by Atelier Bow-Wow

(Image credit: TBC)

Pony Garden by Atelier Bow-Wow

Built in 2008, this house is located in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan. Its timber structure compiled compartments, spaces and mezzanines in its interior, and also provides space in its plan for sheltering a pony. Pony Garden overlooks a wide space for the pony to roam, and allows it to venture right up to the sheltered terrace. Photography courtesy of Atelier Bow-Wow

Rainy Sunny house in Tokyo by Mount Fuji Architects

(Image credit: Ryota Atarashi)

Rainy Sunny house by Mount Fuji Architects

Located in a suburban neighbourhood of Tokyo, west of the Kanto plain, Rainy Sunny house was designed in consideration of its humid climate. Due to the humidity, the architect designed to use bare reinforced concrete for the walls with creasing, a technique that would keep the alkali in and stain off. The mould was larch plywood that would transfer its grain onto the surface of the concrete to create a textured effect. Photography: Ryota Atarashi

Moriyama House by Office of Ryue Nishizawa

(Image credit: Takeshi Homma )

Moriyama House by Office of Ryue Nishizawa

Designed by Ryue Nishizawa, Moriyama house is a flexible-format minimalist steel prefab house designed to merge private and community living, designed for Yasuo Moriyama. Found in the suburbs of Tokyo, the house is a multi-building residence with ten separate buildings ranging from one to three storeys – each room as a separate building. Steel plating allows the walls to be as thin as possible as a way to maximise on interior space. Photography: Takeshi Homma 

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).