On the Murase Room Doors

Japan Society’s Murase Room has two beautiful new doors, imagined, manufactured, and installed by long-time Japan Society members and architectural consultant Koko Architecture + Design, with our deep gratitude and thanks for the generous support of Board Member Satoru Murase.

Mishi Hosono of Koko Architecture + Design writes: “This is a very exciting project for us! The Murase Room doors are constructed from the traditional Japanese method of treating wood called shou sugi ban (also called yakisugi), which has been around for centuries in Japan. The process is used to preserve the wood by charring it. Charring the surface of the board makes the wood fire retardant as well as resistant to rotting, insects, and decay. This special method is not just practical, but also preserves the deep grains and the weathered texture. Then, the brushing accentuates the hidden beauty of the wood, emphasizing its natural figures. For the Murase Room doors, we utilized Japanese cypress (hinoki), which is known as the Holy Tree as it is used to build temples, shrines, noh theaters, baths, and masu (square cups used for drinking sake). Hinoki wood is also used as traditional Japanese stick incense for its light, earthy aroma. As well-built hinoki structures can last for 1,000 years, we wanted the Murase Room doors to be sacred and ever-lasting.

For the hardware, we used the oil rubbed bronze to represent opulence and brilliance as well as strength. The custom door hardware was inspired by the Japanese paper craft of origami, or folding art. The bronze or antique gold color is a sign of ancient connection to divinity and purity. We wanted guests to enter the Murase Room as though they were entering a temple or spiritual place.”

The new Murase Room doors are very much in keeping with architect Junzo Yoshimura’s original intention for Japan Society’s headquarters building, which opened to the public in September 1971 and was landmarked in March 2011. Yoshimura used hinoki wood for the construction of the coffered ceilings in Japan Society’s lobby. At the time of the building’s opening, Yoshimura wrote: “People the world over used to build their ·houses with local and traditional materials. Today, however, contemporary buildings all over the world use the same basic materials—concrete, steel, and glass—yet different characters and nationalities can still be perceived among them. In designing Japan House I have tried to express in contemporary architecture the spirit of Japan.” More information on Junzo Yoshimura and Japan Society’s building can be found here.