Hi, welcome to China Uncensored I’m your host Chris Chappell Before starting “China Uncensored” I worked as a script writer for a show called “Journey to the East” A TV documentary series about traditional Asian culture and the people carrying it on today Unfortunately, the show was scrapped before making it on air Not long ago I posted one of the never-aired episodes “The Truth Behind Traditional Chinese Kungfu” The response to that was so incredible that I decided to post more This one is about traditional Japanese carpentry Without the use of any nails, thay can build temples that last for hundreds of years It’s a fastinating look at the not-quite-lost art I hope you enjoy Traditional Japanese carpenters built furnitures, houses and temples without the aid of screws, nails or bolts No bolts, no nails. It lasts longer In Japan there are temple towers, after 1,000 years they are still standing We have two things in our human history: against the nature; with nature You have to choose either one So, we do the more natural side, the real craftsmanship side The finished pieces reflect the ancient philosophy of Japanese carpentery that is still alive today Journey to the East JAPANESE CARPENTRY [Zui Hanafusa] My father actually grew up doing woodcut prints This is something that they did in an old country They always learn a trade. So some people were farmers. Some people were electricians But he chose wood working [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] When I graduated, I had to start setting up my life where to stay, where to work So I said: “Oh, this is very easy. I want to get homesick I want to know home more If you stay where you are, you don’t know too much, because you have blind spots When you’re far away you can see So, I decided to leave Japan, to go somewhere else Hisao Hanafusa has been working with Japanese carpentery for over 50 years With his son, he now runs Miya Shoji, a traditional Japanese carpentery workshop in New York [Laura Fisher] One day I was walking on 17th Street and I saw the beautiful tables inside. And I went in to look I met Mr. Hanafusa and I said “One day, I’m going to own one of your tables” and of course being a quick sales man he said “Why not now?” And when I met Ken, my husband, and we decided we would start another life together, we both wanted to change the way we were living I wanted to simplify, you know. I just wanted to simplify my life All the pieces in Hanafusa’s showroom have been handcrafted using traditional japanese techniques The pieces of lumber have also been individually selected by Hanafusa and his son

Every morning, Hanafusa’s team of carpenters begins by sharpening the blades of their hand-forged planes and chisels Caring for these hand-tools, takes almost as much time as using them But in the right hand, the Japanese hand plane produces a smoother cut then a machine plane As the blade passes through these Shoji screen beams, it clearly slices off thin ribbons of wood The process of using and caring for these traditional tools reflects Hanafusa’s philosophy of working with nature, not against nature [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] We have two things in our human history: against the nature; with nature You have to choose either one When I was a kid I studied Industrial Revolution Fantastic stuff, but it killed all the craftsmen All the personal, individual talent they killed So, we do more the natural side, the real craftsmanship side We’re still doing it that way Some people say it’s stupid [Ken Woodlock] I knew of Mr. Hanafusa. So I would go by the place with my children We’d look in the windows and there were plenty of screens, and the furniture was all there So we started talking about how we’re gonna decorate this apartment after we bought it He became a given All we did initially was go to Master Hanafusa’s workshop and we chose the piece of lumber we wanted for the table [Zui Hanafusa] The wood carpentery in the past, the wood within the area would actually dictate what the actual carpenter can make We actually practice the same thing here Where wood in the area we collect, would dictate what the actual clients can have [Joe Kleinberg] Well we’re taking down an alm tree and giving it a second life We’re gonna slab these branches and the big trunk and some day it’ll become furniture It’s with a disease known as Dutch-Elm disease, which devastates Elm trees It survived the first batch of dutch elm which came here over 30 years ago Unfortunately, we’ve been hit with dutch elm disease once again and the tree didn’t survive This tree is approximately 300 years old. It’s a shame to see it go This is real specialty work. it takes a lot of wherewithal to tackle a tree like this, not to mention the equipment to be able to manufacture it into slabs of wood Although you know, this tree is dead, it’s always living

In the spring and summer, it breaths, it picks up moisture and in the winter it loses moisture so just think of it as something that’s always living “Here’s your table”. take it to museum, right? Everywhere, beautiful After the tree has being milled into slabs, it has to go through a drying process for many years before it is ready to be made into furniture A fresh tree’s water content is like a 100%, right? “ready to use it”, means that you have to remove the water content That’s why 10, 15, 20 years, you air-dry it You watch it; ready to use it or not? By the time the wood first hits the cutting bench it is already nearing the end of its journey At this stage, the carpenter begins to craft the joints that will hold the finished piece together like a three dimensional puzzle. without the need for screws, nails or bolts The joints must fit together perfectly which is all the more difficult to achieve when using hand saws and chisels instead of precise electric tools These butterfly joints will prevent the crack in this tabletop from spreading This rectangular dinning table is an extremely simple and elegant design The base consist of two wide legs attached to a long trestle by two mortise and tenon joints And the legs hold the top in place with four dowels Although it’s extremely heavy, the table is held together with only 4 pieces of lumber and 6 joints New construction is usually with nails, bolts, screws But we still actually use joinery which will be wood-in-wood expanding and contracting with each other so this is actually something that’d last forever No bolts, no nails. It lasts longer Also strong for earthquake, hurricane Even in Japan there are temple towers, after 1,000 years they are still standing The techniques for building Buddist temples originally came from China’s Tang dynasty era in the 6th and 7th Century AD This period is considered China’s golden age where art and religion flourished The mastery of joinery can be seen in the interlaced wooden brackets that support the temple’s wide roof with the minimum number of columns and give the visitors an unobstructed view of the Buddha statue Like the Buddhist temples, traditional Japanese homes and furniture are also held together with wooden joints And reflect the aesthetic values of simplicity, modesty and appreciation of nature

[Faith Lieberman] Designing in a Japanese fashion or wanting to live that life entails a certain quest for simplicity It’s easier to be eclectic and it can be wonderful and beautiful to be eclectic but it’s not part of anything permanent The Japanese design is what it is I mean it goes way back and it doens’t change And I think that you want to be as true as you can be to that vision and that philosophy When you close the screen, you don’t see the other side So, it’s just paper, but paper makes it a different space I call it a “Mysterious Space” What we don’t know is very mysterious, I think Just like in life: we don’t know tomorrow Ten years later, will you exist? You don’t know. Maybe we won’t exist This is also, you can also take it off. No hardware Gravity sliding. Wooden frame shallow groove, deeper groove No hardware. Chopsticks, knife and fork. That’s different Bottom of the screen is made from bottom of the tree Trees grow like this, trees don’t grow upside down So, these are all made in the same way that the tree grows. So that’s why they don’t warp If you position them upside down, or mix them they’ll all warp it’s basically a “with nature”, no “against nature” process [Laura Fisher] The Shoji screens, they offer a really wonderful diffused light It offers us serenity. it’s like our sanctuary when we come here, and I think that’s in part because of the Shoji screens [Stephen Globus] I was looking for a space that was more visually peaceful and actually a space that would get me away from my Western New York busy life into a more contemplative meditative space My current apartment was almost the opposite I’ve been collecting American ephemera stuff for about 30 years, so it’s all over my apartment And if you go into the Japanese apartment, there is absolutely nothing that is visible or discrete I find this space very peaceful and relaxing and I often go there to meditate You close the Shoji screens and all of New York is now disappearing You can be any where in the world It’s almost like a little spaceship. Like a little time travelling Many Japanese who have seen this space said wow, that’s so cool, “su-goi” (awesome) Once all the joints have been carved and fitted together, the pieces are hand-planed to a flat smooth finish And coated with many layers of traditional tung oil made from the seeds of the tung tree The finished table is then assembled In this folding table the legs fold out via dowels and are held in place by small wooden pegs

The top is joined to the frame with four sliding dovetail joints The genius of the table lies in the flexible wooden beam that holds the legs securely open or closed, with the help of joints on the base and legs [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] Su-goi. (Awesome) Everything is done in a very traditional way that lends itself to pride in what you do, pride in the job And that pride is reflected in the quality of the things that we have in our home that make our lives wonderful and beautiful, easy to live in So it arrived one day When Hanafusa’s men show up at your apartment they will stop at our door they will remove their shoes, they would bow, they honor the space itself by being so traditionally Japanese [Laura Fisher] They have a reverence for their materials, for the space, for what they’re doing and we can feel that Using the table after they have put so much care into making it You can feel it. it comes through [Faith Lieberman] I cannot say why I chose the Japanese That’s why I think it’s something in me that came from some remote place I can only think that if there were an after life, then perhaps I was Japanese in some other culture because it really comes from something very innate Hanafusa is really a philosopher and I think what we have in common is that he’s an artist and I’m an artist So I think he’s a purist I think when you’re an artist you strive for some kind of truth and consistency The concept of beauty in traditional Japanese design is different from that in the West subtle imperfections and signs of age or weathering are prized They inspire the viewer to contemplate the passage of time and the imperfect nature of life A truly beautiful object should inspire a feeling of serene loneliness and quiet self reflection In Japanese, this aesthetic is called “wabi sabi” Wabi Sabi is talking about beauty, talking about life There are many different kinds of beauty: antique beauty rustic beauty, fresh beauty, young beauty It’s very abstract and wide. It doesn’t say just “this” When I go to Japan, people say “You came back during a bad season, there’s rain. You can’t go anywhere.” No, I designed it that way, so I could see the rainy days If you live there you don’t notice; you don’t have to go anywhere on a rainy day tomorrow may be a clear day But, wet temple, wet garden, and no people because of rain I think that’s more beautiful

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