The Japanese certainly have a penchant for out-of-this-world tree-top architecture, and this incredible Takasugi-an tea house is no exception. Designed by architect Terunobu Fujimori, the tree-bound tea house stands precariously perched upon the trunks of two timbers erected on a plot of family land in Chino, Nagano Prefecture.
In Japan, tea masters have traditionally maintained total control over their construction of their tea houses. Their main concern for these “enclosures” was simplicity, and in order to keep things simple, tea masters preferred not to involve architects or craftsman to help them with the construction.
Building upon this tradition, Fujimori’s tea house is quite small and compact, and can accommodate four and a half tatami mats (29 sq ft). The architect describes the small building as though “it were an extension of one’s body, like a piece of clothing.” However Fujimori’s main concern is not necessarily the art of tea making, but pushing the limits and constraints of a traditional tea house.
Two chestnut trees were felled on a nearby mountain and brought to the site, where they were used as the supports for the structure – Takasugi-an literally means “a teahouse [built] too high.” Guests must climb a freestanding ladder, which leans against one of the trees, in order to reach the little house. Midway up the ladder, guests must remove their shoes and leave them on the platform.
The interior of the tea house is constructed from simple materials such as plaster and bamboo. Once inside, you can almost forget that you are in a tree house high above the ground due to the serene and calm interior. Three windows frame the views of the surrounding valley and the town in which Fujimori grew up. Visible through the large picture window is Fujimori’s first project, the Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum. To Fujimori, the tea house is “the ultimate personal architecture,” and that can be seen in his handmade creation set in a landscape he knows well.
Photos by Edmund Sumner