Karuizawa Home Turns Forest into Five Courtyards

all photos by Daici Ano

The lush hamlet of Karuizawa is known for its otherworldly architecture. Roughly a 2-hour drive from Tokyo, it’s where urban wealth goes to play. Owning a home or vacation home in Karuizawa is the ultimate status symbol. Besides leaning towards the avant-garde (note that these homes are the exception, rather than the norm, in Japan) one trait that many of these homes have in common is that they are designed to take advantage of their mountainous surroundings by inviting the outdoors, in.

One of the latest additions – a home for an art collector – is no different, but it’s exceptionally well executed.

click photos to enlarge

This home was designed by Megumi Matsubara & Hiroi Ariyama of the Tokyo-based studio Assistant. It was completed last summer and its title – “It Is A Garden” – says a lot about what the architects set out to do. Almost as if the home was designed entirely around the forest where it sits, it is defined by 5 large voids that are cut into the single-story home to make way for trees and vegetation.

The voids, in effect, become the most important element of the home: courtyards, viewable from every room in the house, that blend the boundaries between interior and exterior garden.

One of the best views of this home is from above, where one can fully appreciate the stunning angular forms of the geometric roof. It’s a shame the owner can’t see it, unless they go and watch this great drone footage that the architects created.

Every room in the house looks onto at least one of the courtyards

simple and neutral materials – wood, glass and concrete – are used extensively throughout the house

the angular, geometric roof



  1. Jenny Koreshi

    April 4, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Karuizawa has much snow in the winter. How will this affect the open concept of the house? The snow will pile up in the courtyards. How about pictures of this house in the winter. Thank you.

  2. I love that now I can click the picture and the post will appear. So intuitively simple!

    • Mi – yes one of our readers suggested that change and we made it. Glad you noticed and that you like it 🙂

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