Tadahiro Butsugan, a director of Tokyo and Osaka based design studio ABOUT, has renovated Mekari-Jinja Shrine’s reception building that offers charms and amulets in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.
Founded in approximately 200 AD, the Mekari Shrine, one of around 80,000 shrines in the country, has watched over the adjacent kanmon straits for 1,800 years. All shrines contain an office that serves as a special place where gifts and amulets are exchanged. The architects responded to the brief by considering how to return the site to its ancient roots by uncovering the true essence of a shrine’s award office.
Mekari Shrine is a Shinto shrine associated with the Goddess of the Moon. Being a shrine on the yin side of the yin and yang, and based on the client’s request, the designer chose a darker design rather than a brighter atmosphere. “The exterior walls are installed with polished black plaster, resistant to the sea breeze. The dark colour and thickness of the walls created a massive atmosphere. Also, inspired by the cave, a new eave was installed in front of the existing tiled roof to create depth and to screen the interior and exterior views. The new wide entrance makes it a comfortable space to feel the outside air, and also designed to allow people to pass easily, even during busy times.
“The walls were finished with white plaster, as an image of light against shadow. We also installed a small area with tatami mats to bring visitors and the priests closer together.”
"When considering the renovation of the award office, rather than exchanging gifts under an ordinary roof, such as one you would find in any building in Japan, we felt that we had to change the physical space in order to create a spiritual space worthy of the auspicious act of gift-giving,’ says the architect."