Monday, 19 October 2009

Craftsmanship and time

"As I was going down the stairs,

I met a man who wasn't there.

He wasn't there again today,

I wish that he would go away."

After a hundred or so years of being polished by slippered feet, the stairs of the Okazaki Ryoukan have worn into soft waves around the wood grain. As the morning light caught the edge of the step on my way to the onsen, I felt part of the long line of guests who had unwittingly participated in the creation of this beauty.

Traditional Japanese architecture is a study in light and shade. Shoji screens that allow diffused light to enter a room, light filtering through the "Ran Ma" screens above the walls, light reflected off the tatami floors. These Ran Ma also allow a flow of air between rooms, helping to prevent mold and ventilate the rooms.

There is no glue used in making this screen, the component parts having been cut by hand with impeccable precision. There was a pride in the creation of these works, made by unknown artisans. It was not about fame or wealth, though reputation brought work, and work brought income. It was about the beauty of the every day, and creating beautiful spaces in which to live, and finding value in living every day.

The light changes with the seasons, and the symbols of nature were used as themes in the architecture. These clerestory screens have sprigs of pine needles incorporated in the lattice. It was beautiful waking in the morning to the soft autumn luminescence, and the view of the leaves changing across the mountains beyond the hand made glass of the engawa. I look forward to returning again next year.


  1. Just thought I would let you know that I keep popping by and enjoying your blog, always some interesting thoughts and insights into another culture.


  2. The information in this post has helped me in creating a 3D model from a photograph of the interior of a Japanese house.

  3. Thank you, there is a commercial on the japanese television, the catch phrase for which is "God is in the details". Unfortunately, it's an add for toilet bowls........

    I'm very happy to share some of the details. Let me know if there's other things you would like to see.