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House in Toguchi, Amami Island, Kagoshima, Japan by Sakai Architects

Project name:
House in Toguchi
Architecture firm:
Sakai Architects
Amami Island, Kagoshima, Japan
Toshihisa Ishii
Principal architect:
Kazunori Sakai
Design team:
Yukari Hatanaka
Interior design:
Built area:
190.65 m²
Site area:
1124.47 m²
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Structural engineer:
RGB Structure, Masayuki takata
Environmental & MEP:
Urata garden Design studio
DAIKO lighting, Kazuhiko Hanai
Tools used:
Tsukasa Constructuion. Co. Ltd
Concrete, Wood, Glass
Residential › House

Sakai Architects: Designed for an emergency medicine physician and beautician couple with three children and a dog, the house with a small hair salon is located in a lush area overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the northern part of Amami Oshima Island. Although the part of the tropical island is not conveniently located, with only some vacation homes and guesthouses around, the couple chose the location for two reasons: One is to raise their children in nature; the other is to offer the client, who is engaged in the demanding job of an ER doctor, a refreshing moment to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and return to a nature-rich environment.

The site, spanning over 1,000 m², gradually slopes down seven meters from the mountain to the sea, and the house is laid out to minimize its interference with the landscape. The northwest section of the plot toward the mountain is occupied by the two-story residence, while the ocean side is covered with a terrace, which acts as a buffer between the inside and outside, and the hair salon is tucked between the two. Visitors access the house’s living room and the salon from the terrace, instead of the front door. The unique circulation reflects the old custom that relatives and close friends used engawa as an entrance.

Inside the residential quarter, the first floor consists of the wet area and storage space on the mountainside and the living, dining, and kitchen on the ocean side. The second floor offers a private space with the master bedroom and children’s room. The upstairs wall facing the double-height dining is partially cut at 1,080 mm high, while the bedrooms are partitioned by a 2,000-mm-high closet, allowing the residents to feel each other’s presence wherever they are in the house.

In addition, the salon is glazed at the top without disturbing a customer’s privacy. The three areas—the residence, beauty salon, and terrace—are loosely connected under a shed roof following the site’s slope. The building’s framework is constructed of reinforced concrete to withstand typhoons. The roof is made of wood to reduce solar heat, and its lightness helped cut down the cost of improving the soft ground of a former farm field. Furthermore, the house is naturally well-ventilated throughout the year thanks to its location on a hill, allowing the family to live comfortably in the shade without using an air conditioner even in mid-summer.

The windows, placed to frame commanding views of the sea and the mountains, are equipped with deep eaves to block harsh sunlight. The west façade is completely closed to protect the inside from the extreme western sun and ensure privacy from the road, but skylights are placed above the entrance and staircase to bring in necessary light. The house is designed as a restful space where the residents feel safe and protected while closely experiencing Amami Oshima’s abundant nature.

By Liliana Alvarez

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