We all admire the beauty of Japan’s traditional architecture styles. They required the kind dedicated craftsmanship that takes generations to cultivate, but also a lot of wood.
Japan was already facing a shortage in seedlings and land to cultivate them properly by the end of the 15th century. This led to an innovative solution: daisugi. It is the growth of additional trees from existing trees.
“Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical,” writes Spoon and Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. “Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.”These teahouses still exist in Kyoto, which is known for its cultural heritage and where daisugi was first created. According to Jessica Stewart, My Modern Met’s Jessica Stewart, “It is believed that Kyoto’s most renowned tea master, Senno-rikyu demanded perfection in Kitayama cedar during 16th century.”
At the time “a form of very straight and stylized sukiya-zukuri architecture was high fashion, but there simply weren’t nearly enough raw materials to build these homes for every noble or samurai who wanted one,” says a thread by Twitter account Wrath of Gnon, which includes these and other photos of daisugi in action.
“Hence this clever solution of using bonsai techniques on trees.” Aesthetics aside — as far aside as they ever get in Japan, at any rate — “the lumber produced in this method is 140% as flexible as standard cedar and 200% as dense/strong,” making it “absolutely perfect for rafters and roof timber.” And not only is daisugi‘s product straight, slender, and typhoon-resistant, it’s marveled at around the world 600 years later. Of how many forestry techniques can we say the same?