Yamamura House (now Yodoko Guest House)
3-10 Yamate-cho
Ashiya, Hyogo
Japan 659-0096

Frank Lloyd Wright 1918-1924

The Yamamura House, situated on a ridge overlooking the affluent city of Ashiya, was designed in 1918 by Frank Lloyd Wright as a retreat for the family of a local sake brewer, Tazaemon Yamamura. Construction began in 1923 and was completed in 1924 under the direction of two of Wright's disciples, Arata Endo and Makoto Minami. In 1974 the Yamamura House was designated an Important National Cultural Asset. It was later opened to the public under its new name, the Yodoko Guest House.

To approach the Yamamura House the visitor ascends a long driveway providing a view of the entire length of the house. The structure itself, which is clad in softly textured Oyaishi stone, is composed of a rigid and symmetrical series of steps which ascend the sloping landscape. Wright was careful to limit each section of the house's design to a maximum height of two floors, thus maintaining his philosophy that architecture should develop out of its natural surroundings.

Continuing up the driveway one arrives at the porch.  Open to both the east and west, its wide rectangular form delights the visitor with a beautifully framed view of the landscape beyond. Inside the porch and adjacent to the main entrance sits a large stone flower bowl, its contents being fed by a stone pillar which leads rainwater down from the rooftop. Here again Wright reiterates his concept of “organic architecture” by imitating the flow of a mountain stream.


Upon entering the house one is presented with a number of features unique to Wright's design style. Mahogany framework and decorative light fixtures accent the wide staircase, which rises in a series of left turns to the second floor. To the right of the landing an intentionally narrow stone corridor leads to a spacious salon.  This transition between two spaces of opposing volumes is intensified further by the raised salon ceiling. Here an abundance of natural light is provided by two symmetrical windows on the east and west walls; wide planes of glass with built-in couches beneath invite the visitor to sit and enjoy views of both the interior and exterior.  Inscribed just below the raised ceiling is a series of small mahogany ventilation doors with matching shelves and cabinets built in below.  Decorative doors on the south wall open out to a spacious balcony with spectacular views of mountains and sea. But the focal point of the salon is clearly the massive Oyaishi stone fireplace, which constitutes the north wall.

The Japanese rooms, guest rooms, and bathrooms are located on the third floor and accessed by a short flight of stairs. The long entry corridor connecting these rooms is enclosed by floor to ceiling windows on the west exterior wall. In the afternoon natural light streams into the corridor, casting delicate shadows of leaf-like patterns across the floor through decorative copper window plates. This same motif is repeated on other windows, doors, and door transoms throughout the house, blurring the distinction between exterior and interior.

While the vast majority of the structure is reinforced concrete, the Japanese rooms feature traditional clay walls on the west side, as well as tatami (straw mat) flooring. Wright's assistants, Arata Endo and Makoto Minami, oversaw the construction of these rooms and were careful to create a balanced dialog between traditional Japanese home design and the architect's western “organic” style.

In contrast to the Japanese designs on the third floor, the fourth floor dining room is very typical of Wright's rigid and symmetrical style. Mahogany wall decorations, brass fixtures, and triangular ventilation windows adorn the walls and ceiling. The vaulted ceiling adds a sense of spaciousness to the feeling of weighted permanence imposed by the Oyaishi stone fireplace. To the south, ornate doors lead to an elongated balcony that provides spectacular views of the decorative roof eaves, trapezoid-shaped chimney, sea, sky and distant cityscape.

Steven Robbins 2005

How to visit

From Ashiyagawa Station on the Hankyu Kobe Line cross the river to the east side and walk north for about 5 minutes.

From JR Ashiya Station walk west to the Ashiya River and then follow the river on the east side towards the mountains for about 10 minutes.

From Hanshin Ashiya Station cross to the east side of  the river and walk towards the mountains for about 20 minutes.

The Yamamura House is open 10am to 4pm Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays.

For more information visit www.yodoko.co.jp/geihinkan/index_e.html, email info@yodoko.co.jp or telephone +81 797 38 1720.

Also located in Hyogo Prefecture not far from the Yamamura House is the former Koshien Hotel, designed in the Frank Lloyd Wright style Arata Endo. Today it stands as the Kami-Koshien Campus of the Mukogawa Women's University.


Books and other web sites

Click the book titles to view and to order direct from


048628364x_m.gif (15705 bytes) Understanding Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture
Donald Hoffmann

A highly readable, generalist account of the influences, development and innovations of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, well illustrated.

1568980418_m.gif (13070 bytes) Wright Sites : A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright Public Places
Arlene Sanderson (editor)

A practical visitors' guide to thirty six publicly accessible Frank Lloyd Wright sites, with a straightforward one or two page description of each, with black and white photographs.

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