The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Building in Japan

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Title: The Building in Japan

Author: Teijiro Takagi

Release date: December 14, 2021 [eBook #66942]

Language: English

Original publication: Japan: Takagi Photographic Studio and Art Gallery, 1913

Credits: Ronald Grenier (This book was produced from images made available by the Internet Archive/Getty Research Institute.)


The Building In Japan

Published (Collotyped and hand coloured.)



Photographic Studio and Art Gallery.

No. 42, Nishimachi,


The pictures here depicted, show the whole process of building a middle class house, from the selection and sawing of timbers until they are formed into a complete house. The head carpenter conferring with the owner, plans the form and design of the house.

The head carpenter first makes a calculation of the quantity of timber necessary to complete the building and so much timber is carried to the spot where the house will be built. Here the head carpenter has to use his talent seriously for choosing the timbers, appropriate for poles, upper and lower beams, railings and halls, etc., so that the best pieces of wood are used for the principal rooms and in the places that attract attention. Thus, he is ordering the sawyers to saw the timbers in the way he thinks the best.

Here the men are sharpening the saws for the sawyers, which is a peculiar occupation belonging to themselves.

Next, the carpenter shaves the wood that have been cut by the sawyers.

After the boards are so planed for the different poles, upper and lower beams, railings etc., they are again to be carefully shaved with carpenter’s skill before they are put in their proper position.

The carpenter has to keep his tools very sharp for doing this skillful work so that he has to sharpen them frequently while he is working.

Each carpenter brings his “bento” or “luncheon case” filled with boiled rice and some other trifles, when he comes to the work place, in the morning. Here they open the case at tiffin time and enjoy themselves.

The stone masons take their parts for the foundation work of the house.

The incessant work of ten of the carpenters for two months has so progressed that every pole and railing is properly planed and skillfully shaped, measured and holed so that each piece fits the other so as to complete the building or framing of the house. Here they are making the preparation for the building or framing work.

The building or framing work should be completed in a whole day. This is the most important day for the carpenters; for, has there been even the slightest error in measuring or making holes, the building work will become impossible.

The building or framing being almost constructed, they now have to carry the heaviest head pillars up above by using the pulley.

After hard labour taken by the carpenters and coolies, employed specially for the day of building, under an earnest management of the head carpenter, the building or framing work is completed at sunset. The celebration poles are made each bearing three fans indicating type of rising sun, fastened together and decorated with green leaves, five coloured hemp threads and white paper cut in the way indicating sacredness. And the carpenters carry them, making a procession together with the coolies singing songs celebrating the success. Then they stop first at the gate of the owner of the new building and leave there, one of the decorations, and the family gives them a feast and “sake” for the celebration.

When a temple or a very high class house is built, a solemn ceremony takes place by Shinto priests. Also, in this ceremony, the chief carpenters who are attired in Shinto priest’s costume, ceremonially use the measure and spooled marking ink over the main pole of the building.

Now the tile men commence roofing and coolies make walls with bamboo which shall be plastered afterward, by the plasterer.

The roofing is nearly completed. The coolies and plasterer are busy outside and the carpenters are busy with inside works.

Plastering the wall, over the bamboo. They have to undergo this process three times.

Both inside and outside works are nearly finished and the mat-men are to take their parts trimming the mats so to fit each room. They have to manage more than 60 “Tatami” or mats for this house.

The house is done but the whole household are kept busy for sometime, pasting papers over the “Shoji” (doors of rooms), and many other little jobs are waiting to be finished before the family may comfortably enjoy the new house.

This is one of the best rooms, intentionally made for receiving guests. Artistic and expensive woods are used for the poles and floor of the “Tokonoma,” or, place of honour. Chosen woods are used for the ceiling. Also, much pains is taken for choosing “Shoji” paper doors for the rooms and “Fusuma” (paper doors between rooms,) to make the room an artistic and refined one.

The house is completed. It is a fine representation of a characteristic Japanese house.

The garden.

Japanese title page at end of book






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