The Fresh Side of Old

by Jay van Arsdale (adapted from The Wooden Post, vol. 2, October 2016)

The long road that is traditional Japanese joinery, construction, and tool making received renewed interest in the 1960’s when a few intrepid American individuals journeyed to Japan to work and study. Those few returned home after many years of toil and achievement, bringing with them the tools of the trade and the trade itself (this is not your father’s woodworking). A few traditionally trained Japanese Daiku also started to join us here with their specialized training and insights and camaraderie. After many years those of us who benefitted from what washed ashore with these craftsmen have stepped up to carry on the work of passing it on.

It is this desire to continue the person-to-person transmission of work that led to the birth of Kezurou-kai USA. This investment, interest and enthusiasm generated by this traditional approach has found a new home in the US and beyond, and is inspiring many new participants looking for a solid foundation of skill development and joinery construction techniques. It is our mission at Kezurou-kai USA to offer opportunities to follow this path where it might take an individual in his/her future work.

Our goal is to preserve, maintain and expand the spirit and high achievement possible with proper instruction and the opportunity to work and follow the example of those who go before us that this work represents. Our efforts to promote these still useful and relevant pre-industrial skills and tool techniques are offered to those who seek the advantage of exposure to tradition craftsmen of the highest order. This exposure, verbal and non-verbal, is both highly personal and profound. Making these connections with others, ourselves and the unique tools and techniques of another culture brings to contemporary building a fresh awareness and new standards to achieve in our daily work.

The living traditions of Japanese crafts is a force for sustainable use of materials, man-power and construction techniques. This bridge of friendship and cultural respect is being built by our joining together and making it happen. Maintaining these options requires dedication, perseverance and patience – which is asking a lot of us and our busy lives. Our continued promotion is rooted in our individual personal transformations, experienced by all those who have endured and witnessed its power to respond and conform to our diligence in the contemporary setting.

These learning experiences and moments of inspirational realization are the driving force behind our organizational efforts. We at Kezurou-kai USA encourage and hope you will join us in our exploration of the living past in these moments.

Hakone Gardens— main gate photo by Jay van Arsdale