Japan

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Craft Design

Dive Into the Incredibly Satisfying Art of Japanese Wood Joinery

December 14, 2020

Grace Ebert

Since the 12th Century, Japanese artisans have been employing a construction technique that uses just one simple material: wood. Rather than utilize glue, nails, and other fasteners, the traditional art of Japanese wood joinery notches slabs of timber so that the grooves lock together and form a sturdy structure. Yamanashi-based carpenter Dylan Iwakuni demonstrates this process in the endlessly satisfying video above, which depicts multiple styles of the angular joints and how they’re slotted together with the tap of a mallet.

As Iwakuni notes at the end, new joineries often are used in traditional architecture to replace a damaged portion, maintaining the integrity of the original edifice. “Structures built from natural materials and the knowledge and skills passed down generations,” he says. “Through the fine skills and knowledge, Japanese Wooden Architecture has been standing for (thousands of) years.”

If you’re interested in trying your hand at the centuries-old artform, Iwakuni recommends reading The Complete Japanese Joinery and Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use. He also offers a collection of tutorials and videos on his Instagram and YouTube. You might enjoy watching the creation of this kokeshi doll and the fine art of Japanese marquetry, which uses razor-thin slices of mosaics, as well. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Design History

Fire Sprinklers Erupt from Ingeniously Camouflaged Huts to Protect a Historic Japanese Village

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert


Situated in a mountainous region of the Gifu Prefecture is a small village of Gassho-style homes, uniquely Japanese structures with thatched roofs that are built to withstand heavy snowfall. Dating back to the 11th century, the historic community of Shirakawa-go was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. While the designation draws tourists each year who are keen on studying the architecture and local history as they pass through the village, an unusual attraction draws inordinate crowds to the region.

Simply called the Water Hose Festival, the biannual event involves testing the site’s ability to respond to fire. The flammable and historic nature of the structures spurred caretakers to install massive sprinklers and hoses to prevent extensive damage. Each year in December and May, they test the lines and douse the homes, according to the video above that shows a similar process occurring at a site in Miyama. The systems are concealed inside structures that mimic the original architecture, and the new buildings open from the center allowing water to erupt into the air, a spectacular and almost comical process. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go

 

 

 

 



Design

A Japanese Forestry Technique Prunes Upper Branches to Create a Tree Platform for More Sustainable Harvests

October 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image via Wrath of Gnon

Literally translating to platform cedar, daisugi is a 14th- or 15th-century technique that offers an efficient, sustainable, and visually stunning approach to forestry. The method originated in Kyoto and involves pruning the branches of Kitayama cedar so that the remaining shoots grow straight upward from a platform. Rather than harvesting the entire tree for lumber, loggers can fell just the upper portions, leaving the base and root structure intact.

Although daisugi mostly is used in gardens or bonsai today, it originally was developed to combat a seedling shortage when the demand for taruki, a type of impeccably straight and knot-free lumber, was high. Because the upper shoots of Kitayama cedar can be felled every 20 years, which is far sooner than with other methods, the technique grew in popularity.

To see daisugi up close, watch this video chronicling pruning, felling, and transplanting processes. (via Kottke)

 

Image via Komori Zouen

A scroll depicting daisugi by Housen Higashihara, courtesy of the auction house

 

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Photography

Snapshots by Shin Noguchi Frame Candid and Enigmatic Moments Observed on the Streets of Japan

October 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Shin Nugochi, shared with permission

Photographer Shin Noguchi (previously), who lives in Kamakura and works throughout Tokyo, has a knack for capturing snapshots of the unusual, baffling, and quirky activities of passersby. A single image often is imbued with layers of serendipity, with one framing both a woman in an elaborate gown and a dazed baby, while another features a screaming child and a man splayed on a public staircase in the background.

Taken around Japan, the photographs appear as objective shots, glimpsing candid moments that are enigmatic and sometimes humorous. “Street photography always projects the “truth”. The “truth” that I talk about isn’t necessarily that I can see, but they also exist in society, in street, in people’s life. and I always try to capture this reality beyond my own values and viewpoint/perspective,” he says in a statement.

One-hundred-thirty of Noguchi’s photographs are compiled in a forthcoming monograph, In Color In Japan, which is currently available for pre-order. The book was printed in two editions, a black and a white, and the former contains an extra, unique image that’s never been shown before and won’t be reproduced in another format. Follow Noguchi on Instagram to see his latest shots from the streets of Japan.

 

 

 



Art Craft History

Textile Artists File Their Nails in Tiny Grooves for Traditional Japanese Weaving Technique

August 25, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image courtesy of Kiyohara Seiji

Along with a comb and shuttle, textile artists crafting “tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori,” the intricate and durable brocades that are part of Japanese traditions, employ the jagged tips of their fingernails. Common in the Shiga prefecture, the ancient technique utilizes the weaver’s grooved nails to guide the threads down the loom, ensuring they’re placed tightly together. The “tsuzure ori,” or tapestry weave, has roots in the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573), while this specific method has been in Japan for at least 1,000 years, according to Kiyohara Seiji, a representative of Kiyohara Textile Co., Ltd.

To see how the comb-shaped nails work and the ornate textiles they’re used to produce, watch the video below. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 

 



Design Science

Japanese Aquariums Track Penguins' Dramatic, Salacious Love Lives Through Complex Flowcharts

July 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

From Sumida Aquarium. All images © Kyoto Aquarium and Sumida Aquarium

Like most romances, penguins’ relationships aren’t black and white. The aquatic birds’ are known for their scandalous affairs, messy heartbreaks, and frequent kidnappings of each others’ chicks. To keep track of their complicated relationship statuses, caretakers at the Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium and Kyoto Aquarium have created a complex network documenting 2020’s romances.

The two flowcharts are replete with color-coded lines and symbols: Red hearts denote couples. Purple lines with question marks signify more complicated relationships with the potential of romance. A blue, broken heart indicates an ended affair. Yellow lines mean friendship, while green marks an enemy. Each penguin’s name is written underneath its photo.

In an interview with CNN Travel, Shoko Okuda, a spokeswoman for the aquariums, said the caretakers have included the dramatic birds’ flirtatious tactics, too, which includes wing flapping and shaking their necks left to right. Heartbroken birds—one female in Kyoto (shown below) ended six relationships last year alone—often refuse to eat their rice as they cope with the loss. The caretakers included have formed strong bonds with the penguins, sometimes even coming between same-species connections.

And remember, these are just the charts for 2020. Be sure to check back in with the Kyoto and Sumida caretakers to see what unfolds for 2021’s edition. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

From Sumida Aquarium

From Sumida Aquarium

From Kyoto Aquarium

From Kyoto Aquarium