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
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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