Interview with Jon Stollenmeyer & Kohei Yamamoto

Two travelers coming from Japan to share with us their experiences working on traditional buildings with traditional tools and materials. But that is not all they are involved with. There is a growing movement in Japan to push for recognition of the traditional building arts as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (of Humanity). That effort is outlined in the following interview conducted by Yann Giguère. Read More …

Dentoh-Isan Preservation of Traditional Building Methods in Japan

When the nation of Japan viewed the devastation and clean-up efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, many people came to recognize the necessity to reduce non-recyclable content in construction. Nearly 100% of new construction materials could NOT be recycled. Whereas the traditional buildings, with tatami, wood and tile, could be quickly cleaned-up without environmental costs, the plastic and chemical remains of the modern construction needed to be carefully filtered and sequestered to protect the environment from becoming polluted with complex chemical residues which mix together producing unknown future effects. The cost of the clean-up after disasters like Earthquakes has become part of the conversation in Japan centering around how to bring about healthy sustainable environments. Read More …

Mastering a Craft

When I started thinking about writing an article for this newsletter, I had so many ideas to explore, but the topic that seemed to have to most potential to make a difference for the community was the frame of mind that we bring to our work.

I have been working with wood and metal since I took my first shop classes in junior high school. I was always fascinated by the process of turning a raw piece of material into a desired object. I have had the pleasure of learning from some excellent teachers and co-workers, and have applied that learning for about 40 years Read More …

Background on the Hakone Garden Teahouse, Shogetsu-an

Because of the authentic buildings, the Gardens hold an important historic place in Japanese American cultural exchange. In 1980, the City of Saratoga (which owns the Hakone Estate) invested in renovating the Garden guesthouse and converted the rooms into two rooms suitable for teaching tea ceremony. Beginning in 1981 the rooms began to be used as teaching locations for San Francisco Bay Area tea schools. Three days a week classes are convened in one or more of the four tea rooms now located at Hakone. Read More …

Shogetsu-an Tea House and Garden Project Update

In February 2018, eleven volunteers from our organization helped the Hakone Foundation build the first formal public tea garden in the San Francisco Bay area. For the past twelve years tea organizations have used the re-located Japanese tea house in the garden for yearly gatherings, so the history of its creation and relocation is well known to those who study tea ceremony. Hakone is a public garden and each year more than 15,000 people visit the traditional stroll garden built 100 years ago as a private estate–now run by the non-profit Hakone Foundation, set up to preserve the garden and spread the Japanese traditional culture in Saratoga. Read More …

Brackets in the Bell Tower Gate at San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

In this article I’ll describe how I came to build a model of a roof bracket from the Bell Tower Gate at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco and how the model is being used to highlight the wonders of East Asian joinery for the Garden’s many visitors.

At the entrance to San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden stands the Bell Tower Gate. Thousands of visitors pass through every day, under a heavy tile roof supported by traditional brackets. Rebuilt in the 1980s, the Gate’s predecessor had been in place from the Garden’s very beginnings as George Turner Marsh’s Japanese Village in the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. Read More …

It’s Not About the Shavings / It’s All About the Shavings

The Kezurou-kai organization is awesome! How great is it to be able to get together and share our interest in traditional Japanese woodworking? I have found my tribe and I want to see that tribe grow!

I tell anyone I can about the group, and how incredible Japan’s hand tool tradition is. I tell them about the blacksmithing, the sharpening stones and the translucent shavings. Most of the woodworkers I talk with show an interest and some, I can tell, have that same spark inside, that love of the blade; another member of the tribe. Read More …

Hakone Gardens

In January 2023, the central entry gate at Hakone Gardens was refurbished with the help of a grant from Santa Clara County. The gate is registered as a historic building and is listed on the National Register of historic buildings.
The original 1937 gate was designed and constructed by Shinzaburo Nishiura, with his brother Gentaro carving the ornate ornamental elements which make this gate an important cultural property. Read More …

Maple Bridge at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

The San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden had extended its grounds and now occupies much of the gulch below the original garden which was built in 1915. The extensive expansion allowed several structures to be built including 3 bridges in different styles curved, viewing deck and a zig-zag. Minka-Woodworks Inc. was chosen to furnish the bridges over the course of 5 years. The Maple bridge was the first one to be manufactured and installed. Read More …

An Interview with Dale Brotherton

OWNER AND OPERATOR OF TAKUMI COMPANY (Seattle, WA), DALE BROTHERTON, began working in this field in 1978. He spent 61⁄2 years in traditional full time apprenticeship with a well known teahouse carpenter in the San Francisco Bay Area. This apprenticeship was dedicated to concentrated practice with tra- ditional hand tools and learning refined joinery methods. Dale then spent 2 years as a “journeyman” in traditional residential construction in Nagano-Ken, Japan expanding his skills, studying traditional building design and structural layout. With nearly 9 years of intense study accomplished, Dale returned to the USA founding TAKUMI COMPANY. Since then he has remained committed to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship completing over 100 projects for private customers, institutions and municipalities. Read More …