Itô Chûta was a prominent architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His works include the main building of the Tsukiji Honganji, and the main gates of the University of Tokyo main campus; he was also involved in the construction of many of the chief Shinto shrines of the Empire, including Heian Shrine, Meiji Shrine, Karafuto Shrine, the Grand Shrine of Taiwan, the Grand Shrine of Korea, and Okinawa Shrine. He also played a central role in devising the country's first cultural properties protection policy, the 1897 Law for the Preservation of Old Shrines and Temples (koshaji hozon hô).
Born in Yonezawa, Itô studied architecture at the Imperial University from 1889 until 1892, under Tatsuno Kingo, receiving lectures as well from Josiah Conder. Historian Toshio Watanabe identifies Itô's graduation dissertation, entitled kenchiku tetsugaku ("Architectural Philosophy") as "the first fully argued modern theory of architecture produced by a Japanese [person]." He later went on to write a doctoral thesis, completed in 1898; this analysis of the ancient temple of Hôryû-ji is described by Watanabe as "the first scholarly work of modern art history in Japan."
Itô became a professor of architecture at the university in 1905.
He joined Kamakura Yoshitarô in 1924 to campaign, ultimately successfully, against plans to tear down Shuri castle, and played a role in its incorporation into the national network of shrines of State Shinto, through transformation of the site into "Okinawa Shrine." Itô traveled himself to Okinawa for the first time in 1924 and spent twenty days traveling around the island observing and learning about traditional Okinawan architecture.
In 1943, he became the first architect to be awarded the Order of Culture (bunka kunshô), a rather prestigious award.
- Toshio Watanabe, "Japanese Imperial Architecture: From Thomas Roger Smith to Ito Chuta," in Ellen Conant (ed.), Challenging Past and Present: The Metamorphosis of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Art, University of Hawaii Press (2006), 239-253.
- Mire Koikari, “Rethinking Okinawa and Okinawan Studies: Three Perspectives. 40 Years since Reversion: Negotiating the Okinawan Difference in Japan Today," The Journal of Asian Studies 76:3 (August 2017): 796.
- "Beni no ugushiku"「紅の御城(うぐしく)へ」, Momoto Special Issue: Shuri, Ryûkyû no miyako o aruku モモト 別冊：首里・琉球の都をあるく (2013/8), 53.
- The Imperial University was so called in 1888-1897, after which it became the Imperial University of Tokyo, and is today simply the University of Tokyo.
- Watanabe, 241.
- Gallery labels, Fujukan Museum, University of the Ryukyus.