Window Research Institute


Windowology at Japan House London Header Takumi Ota Photography Co. Ltd. 2019 7

© Takumi Ota Photography Co., Ltd.

The Window Research Institute is a Japanese incorporated foundation dedicated to contributing to the development of architectural culture. In addition to conducting research into areas such as the history, sociology, ethnology, linguistics and art of windows, the Institute works together with other research institutions, museums and private agencies around the world on international, interdisciplinary projects.

The work of the Institute is based on the belief that “windows represent civilisation and culture” and it is the only institute of its kind in the world.

Japan House London has been working with the Institute with the aim of introducing some of this work to the UK.  With the world going through a period of lockdown, the importance of windows has been unexpectedly highlighted, offering an opportunity for Japan House London to ask Onishi Moe of the Window Research Institute, to reveal her thoughts on the relevance of windows during this time and beyond.

Connecting through windows

“People in quarantine across the world have communicated and encouraged each other, even singing or playing instruments, through their windows and from their balconies. In these challenging times, it is very easy for people to feel isolated and long for mental and physical connections. The Window Research Institute believes that one of the significant and valuable attributes that the window possesses is, not only to look outside, but also the ability for it to function interactively. Architect Hiroshi Hara believes that while windows belong to the individual who owns them, they should be seen as having a communality quality, and in an increasingly divided society windows may be a way to regain that communality. We believe that sharing the window as a public entity, rather than closing it as a completely private one, may also work in terms of increasing the feeling of connection.”

Windows and nature

Windows are essentially a boundary between the outside and the inside. The Window Research Institute believes that windows have the unique ability to enable the beautiful and sometimes intense aspects of nature to be enjoyed and experienced safely inside the home. From seeing trees blossom, to birds, sunset and sunrise and flowers, observing nature through a window can provide a temporary escape, and a moment of calm.

The Window Research Institute believes windows can offer people the chance to reconnect with nature in new and different ways. There is also the opportunity to enhance your view yourself with greenery and plants whilst also offering shade for the home.

Windows and symbolism

“As you can imagine the indirect lights from a shoji screen made of paper, in Japanese culture, show that a window may not simply be characterized as something that opens and closes but more by the light that comes from somewhere in between. For example, in the traditional tea industry, there is a "viewing window" (haiken-mado*) for examining the colour of the tea leaves.* It is not a light for drinking tea, it is just for seeing the colours. Here, the natural light from the skylight is reflected on the slant, so that the subtle tones of the tea leaves can be seen under uniform light. This window is always north-facing from where there will be no direct sunlight. Except for the white porcelain vessels filled with tea leaves, tables or walls are all painted in matte black to absorb light. This sensitivity to light through the window of Japanese culture can also be seen in Japanese Literature, such as Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's In Praise of Shadows." 

Window Etymology

“In Japanese, the original literal meaning of window is regarded as ma-do, that is a gate (door) between pillars, while in English, the word “window” has its origins in the Old Norse word vindauga, which means "wind-eye", and in German (fenster) or French (fenêtre), these words refer to a hole in a wall**. In traditional Japanese architecture windows are opened by sliding, which is more flexible compared to those of western countries. For instance, the Japanese garden that simulates the landscape of nature can be integrated with the internal space connected in multiple layers by opening the window.”

Windows, sustainability and architecture

In recent years, passive design which controls the climate of a space has gained attention, with windows gaining prominence in this type of design. The Window Research Institute believes that the future sustainability of our homes can be improved by considering the construction of architecture that open to the outside, with windows that match each function such as ventilation, lighting and views as well as high insulation.


Japan House London has launched the #ViewFromMyWindow campaign to connect the nation and unlock the creative and connective potential in the ubiquitous window. Through this movement we will be connecting communities across London, and the UK, during these challenging times with views we can all admire and enjoy and some which perhaps raise a smile. 

Japan House London is also asking friends in Japan to do the same, revealing similarities as well as differences in our windows and our views from them. 

Share the view from your window using #ViewFromMyWindow and tag @JapanHouseLdn


Find out more about the Window Research Institute:




*Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Lab., Tokyo Institute of Technology, Window Workology, 2019,

**Yasunari Ueda, Window Terminology à la Carte, Vol. 0: Windows from the Perspective of Contrastive Etymology, 2018.