Japanese Carpenters Unearth 100-Year-Old Wood Joineries While Taking Apart a Traditional House

Accord­ing to myth, the first Japan­ese poet, Susano‑o, the storm god, named the activ­i­ty of build­ing as equal to the works of nature. Trav­el blog Kan­sai Odyssey writes, “Susano‑o felt rather inspired” while at Suga Shrine in Shi­mane Pre­fec­ture, “and recit­ed the first poem in Japan­ese lit­er­a­ture.” Rough­ly trans­lat­ed, it reads: “In Izu­mo, where the clouds form, / I see a fence of clouds. / To pro­tect my wife, I too, built a fence. / These clouds are as my fence.”

An embrace of the nat­ur­al world inter­min­gles in Japan­ese cul­ture with a craft tra­di­tion renowned the world over, not least in the build­ing arts. “Since the 12th Cen­tu­ry,” Grace Ebert writes at Colos­sal, “Japan­ese arti­sans have been employ­ing a con­struc­tion tech­nique that uses just one sim­ple mate­r­i­al: wood. Rather than uti­lize glue, nails, and oth­er fas­ten­ers, the tra­di­tion of Japan­ese wood join­ery notch­es slabs of tim­ber so that the grooves lock togeth­er and form a stur­dy struc­ture.”

Although most­ly prac­ticed in the repair and preser­va­tion of his­toric build­ings these days, Japan­ese join­ery still inspires mod­ern wood­work­ers, engi­neers, and archi­tects for its incred­i­ble pre­ci­sion and endurance. Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese build­ings are “struc­tures built from nat­ur­al mate­ri­als and the knowl­edge and skills passed down gen­er­a­tions,” writes Yamanashi-based car­pen­ter Dylan Iwaku­ni. “Through the fine skills and knowl­edge, Japan­ese Wood­en Archi­tec­ture has been stand­ing for (thou­sands of) years.”

In the video at the top, you can see Iwaku­ni and his team’s excite­ment as they dis­cov­er tra­di­tion­al join­ery while dis­as­sem­bling a 100-year-old Japan­ese house. The video shows each joint in close-up, adding a title that names its par­tic­u­lar type. “As it became a tra­di­tion in Japan,” wrote Col­in Mar­shall in a pre­vi­ous post on Iwakuni’s craft, “this car­pen­try devel­oped a canon of join­ing meth­ods.” All of the joints, from the very sim­ple to the mind-bog­gling­ly puz­zle-like, were of course cut by hand. No pow­er tools in medieval Japan.

Just above, see Iwaku­ni intro­duce the art of join­ery, and see sev­er­al more of his demon­stra­tions here. Those inter­est­ed in going fur­ther should see our pre­vi­ous posts at the links below. Find even more hands-on resources at the Japan Wood­craft Asso­ci­a­tion.

via Twist­ed Sifter

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery: A Kyoto Wood­work­er Shows How Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Cre­at­ed Wood Struc­tures With­out Nails or Glue

Free Soft­ware Lets You Cre­ate Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Joints & Fur­ni­ture: Down­load Tsug­ite

See How Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Can Build a Whole Build­ing Using No Nails or Screws

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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