The tale of the Face House



So happy to find it down this street.

I was part of an eye tracking study earlier this year to see what people focus on in the built environment, and why neuroscience isn’t consulted more in architecture, as it is in advertising and graphic design. And also if architects look at buildings differently than other people. The research isn’t published yet, but obviously people respond to faces. It is part of our animal instinct to scan the environment for them. Simarly people will notice more about what other people are doing in the environment, over looking at buildings. Additional studies have found that people focus and are attracted to edge conditions rather than being at the center of big open spaces due to survival instincts. This all makes sense. But then seeing a talk with all these funny face buildings also seemed a little silly. And Daisuke wasn’t going for it. It reminded me once of a philosophy professor I heard about who focused their studies entirely on episodes of the Simpsons.

So I wasn’t dying to see the Face House. I didn’t travel around the world to see the Face House. I really just put it on the map for kicks, if we had time. We just had a little extra time in Kyoto and decided just to walk around and try and find it. It was a little difficult to find since I had only seen photos of it and never found an address. I knew it was in a crowded residential block of Kyoto, and that tourists don’t really visit this area.


Up the nose view.

Somehow through tons of searching online I found a general address to look into, and then checked Google Earth views to verify it. Luckily it was very easy to see.

face house google earth

I was captivated by the image on Google Earth, seeing how well the Face House stood out from its surroundings on an aerial view.

face geart3

Even zoomed out further, the building is still able to be spotted.


Another thing that caught my interest was the strange axonometric drawing which I first thought was just one person strangely dangling their legs over the edge of the building, but now it looks more like someone is leaning and waving over the building or being pushed over by another person.


The face house has aged gracefully.

The building is known as the Face House or Kao no ie by Kazumasa Yamashita in 1974. Since then, it has aged well and brought joy to the neighborhood. The architect designed the building for a graphic designer who still lives on the second floor after all these years.


It was the only building where I accidentally moved the icon on my map, so I screwed up the location and had no backup to check. So it involved wandering around a non-touristy part of Kyoto. (got to see interesting sites that we wouldn’t have seen normally) like a beautiful temple with an elegant grey heron standing in the fountain. It was probably the most real, least touristy day of our trip, a little stressful since we weren’t sure if we’d even find it.

Here are the things we saw along the way:

And here’s a look at some of my favorite face houses (and some cat houses):


A scary face police station we found in Shibuya.

And some face products:

Now I can definitively say the address is:

740-1 Tatedaionjichō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-0012

The original article on the face house is here: Kyoto Face House: Face House humanized a dreary street in downtown Kyoto

Currently, a very nice woman has opened part of the bottom level as a studio that sells cool stuff: creative studio & shop ooo. She took a long time explaining the building to us and gave us information on all the artists there. Her father replicated famous paintings out of slices of toast. The studio’s name comes from the expression on the building’s face.


Toast art of Degas and Van Gogh


Cool postcards, sand art cards, and a bonsai cookie cutter from Studio ooo.

Ann Sussman articles:

Cat Kindergarten

Cat-kindergarten-1-Karlsruhe, Germany

Cat train station

The cat that saved a Japanese train station: Meet Tama, Japan’s cutest stationmaster, and her adorable cat-shaped station home:

Kishi_Station Japan

And finally, an image from a cat cafe we went to in Osaka. It had a nice design, but not the nicest place, so I won’t mention the name:





About Meghan Dufresne

Meghan R. Dufresne, LEED AP is an architectural designer and writer based in Boston. Interests include sustainability, gardens, art, sound, touch, experience, and merging buildings with the surrounding landscape.
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