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Thread: How They Built Houses in Japan

  1. #1
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    How They Built Houses in Japan

    Stolen from a post on the (weeks-old) [Wood Whisperer Town Square] forum:

    Interesting background story ... and a pretty cool video, too!

  2. #2
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    Yep, very cool, I'd love to see the whole movie.

    While watching it, I was thinking "late 70s or early 80s" as nowadays, you have to find the temple builders to get carpenters that have those skills, sadly, most of the real carpenters over here are dying off, and the young guys use disposable saws and such, plus, most of the buildings are prefab steel and such.
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
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    My parents were missionaries in Japan in the 1950's and 1960's (Karuizawa and Niigata). Some time when I was younger (the 1950's), there was a earthquake in Kyoto. The only building in the city that collapsed was a stick-built church erected by Americans. Don't know what happened after, but suspect they let local carpenters build the next one. Bob

  4. #4
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    There are many differnet levels of building here. You get a lot of pre-fab stuff but you also get some top quality building as well. The lower cost/pre-fab buildings fill an important economic gap - people want lower costs so the builders have to use cheaper quality materials. There are also companies that do shady work and demand top dollars but there are also many builders that do good quality, honest work. In my neighbourhood I have recently seen a group of houses go up. When I first saw them I commented to my wife that they were garbage quality. And then a while later I saw another single house go up and for that one I told my wife that it was a top quality house. Interestingly for the latter house the builders had a open house when it was finished. It was built by and for the contruction company owner. It was nice. Also framing in Japan is generally excellent using mortice and tenon on all the main supports. You see this even on cheaper houses. For my house we hired a construction company to build after we saw what kind of work they do. I was impressed and so we hired them to do the job. The building itself was monitored by the architects that designed it so we got a nice place. I also watched a lot as I was downstairs building furniture at the time. I would often go into the house and talk with the builders. I remember checking out one carpenters chisel set - they were razor sharp and sharpened by hand on a wetstone at the beginning of the day each day. There are still people doing temples but the trade is probably not as vibrant as it once was.

  5. #5
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    The video was filmed at the Boston Children's Museum in 1979. Apparently it plays in a loop as part of the Kyoto house exhibit.

    I saw the D+R blog post too and called the museum last week to find out whether the video is available. Someone at the museum is looking into it for me and if I find out it's available I'll post the details here.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for doing that Matt, I'd sure like to see that video.
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  7. #7
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    Ditto for me. It would be great if we could get our hands on it!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Reid View Post
    There are many differnet levels of building here. You get a lot of pre-fab stuff but you also get some top quality building as well.
    I can attest to that. Last year, my wife and I visited over a handful of show houses while we were in Japan. The range of quality, and cost!, was considerable. There was one show house complex (I believe it was near Kanazawa) that had twenty or so companies showing their comes. It ranged from pre-fab, to hand built log cabins, and a variety of styles: Canadian (looked awful to be honest... I've never seen them like that here!), traditional Japanese, Contempory,...).

    I don't know if anyone recalls, but I asked a long time back what the difference between the old and new tsubu measurement. This came about as the show home reps would always seem to mention it.

    -Gari

  9. #9
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    Gari, the "New" and the "Old" tsubo sizes really depend on who you talk too, I asked around and got several answers, I do not know if the Government in all their wisdom just gave up, or if the sizes are a moving target.

    Next time I talk to our Architect, I'll try to remember to ask him.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

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