Japanese Woodworking

Japanese woodworking has been around for hundreds of years. The first great revolution of Japanese joinery was during the Yayoi period (200 B.C – A.D. 250). This period was marked by the introduction of iron tools. Two popular joinery pieces were tenons and mortises. The next major period of Japanese woodworking was the Tumulus period, which lasted from 250 A.D. to 552 A.D. During this period, many powerful emperors who helped Japan become one unified country died. During th Asuka period (552-646 A.D.), Buddhism was introduced to Japan. Complex bracketing, now common in Japanese roof structures, entered Japanese culture. 

There were many guilds which practiced woodworking. The Osaka-Kyoto-Based guild was a family guild that came to power in 794. They had many secret techniques in carpentry used for building shrines and temples. There were many other structures this guild built. Some joinery used in Japan can be dated all the way back to the Jomon period around 3,000 B.C. Japanese joinery became very popular.

Joinery Collage

In Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Kyoto-Edo guild battle occurred due to their belief in Kodama, the spirits of trees. They believed that if they kept the forest in good shape, Kodama would help grow great quality wood. These practices are still used in the 21st Century. There are around 400 Japanese joints still commonly used in woodworking today. You won’t find anyone who has the skillset to make all of the joinery to build Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, or residences. This is because of the vast skills and different approaches to joinery pieces in the structures.

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