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Short trip to Japan

We’re here in Japan for just a short trip to attend our niece’s wedding. We’re presently staying with Daughter in Tokyo.

We had nothing planned today, so wife Mariko and I decided to have a look around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a massive national garden in Shinjuku. It covers nearly 60ha (144 acres) and is magnificently manicured. Full details can be found on the official Shinjuku Gyoen website

The garden itself is absolutely beautiful. It’s very peaceful and serene, and includes not just a traditional Japanese garden, but French and English gardens as well.

There’s a lot of concrete in Tokyo, but it’s certainly not a concrete jungle. Shinjuku Gyoen is just one of many gardens, parks and open spaces available to people in Tokyo, and during the week there are large numbers of elderly couples, housewives, and young mothers with their children taking advantage of these open green spaces to escape their less-than-spacious apartments.

Shinjuku Gyoen 1
One of the many manicured open spaces.

Shinjuku Gyoen 2
The Taiwan Pavilion. It was built with the support of Japanese in Taiwan in 1928 to mark the wedding of the Showa Emperor.

Shinjuku Gyoen 4
There was an interesting decorative pattern around the Pavilion just below the roof line. It’s very Chinese, and made with metal, but I think it can be quite attractive done in kumiko, with a few minor adjustments. There is a similar kumiko pattern that’s often used as an outer border, but this one could be an interesting challenge, especially making sure there’s sufficient tension in all the mitre joints.

Shinjuku Gyoen 3
Just a small part of the French Garden.

A very good day today.

Gee, I love this city.


Book patterns — futae kaku-tsunagi

This one of the patterns I describe in detail in the book. It’s called the futae kaku-tsunagi. With all the miter joins, the pattern, and how it’s made, is linked to the kawari-gumi pattern in the previous blog entry, although more complex and fiddly. It’s a good stepping stone to the more difficult futae- and mie-kōzu patterns.

The size of this piece is about 330 x 330 mm, the kumiko are 4 mm thick (
mitsuke), and the pitch for the 5 horizontal and 5 vertical base kumiko (jigumi) is 75 mm. The timber is Huon pine.

futae kaku tsunagi

Shoji 3

This is the third and final type of shoji I explain in the book. It’s back to the mizugoshi structure. The upper section is known as a kawari-gumi pattern. Kawari in this sense means variation, and refers to the variation from the standard pattern. The term is also used when patterns branch in from either side of the shoji, as in this case. The skills gained in making this pattern form the foundation needed to make the much more difficult and complex kōzu patterns, especially the futae- and mie-kōzu patterns.

The base pattern is the
izutsu-tsunagi. Izutsu means “well curb”, the cube structure surrounding a well, and tsunagi simply means “join” or “joint”. As with most of these patterns, there are a few name variations, but this is the one that is normally used.


I also explain in detail how to make a few extra patterns, including different ways of making the

The timber I used in this shoji is Huon pine. Here in Australia timber has always been a struggle for me. In Japan,
bei-hiba (Alaska yellow cedar) is one of the more commonly used timbers for shoji. It’s a beautifully straight- and tight-grained timber that leaves a highly polished look and feel when finished with a hand-plane. Unfortunately I can’t get hold of it here in Australia. I’ve tried other timbers, and while they finish well with the hand-plane, I’ve never really been particularly happy with them.

Huon pine is the closest I can find to the
bei-hiba. It has a similar colour and aroma, and the hand-planed surface glistens, but it is a highly protected species (and rightfully so), and the timber can vary in quality and is not always readily available. So to everyone who can get hold of good quality yellow cedar, I’m extremely envious.