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  • Hi, welcome to China Uncensored

  • I'm your host Chris Chappell

  • Before starting "China Uncensored"

  • I worked as a script writer for a show called "Journey to the East".

  • A TV documentary series about traditional Asian culture

  • and the people carrying it on today.

  • Unfortunately, the show was scrapped before making it on air.

  • Not long ago I posted one of the never-aired episodes

  • "The Truth Behind Traditional Chinese Kungfu"

  • The response to that was so incredible

  • that I decided to post more.

  • This one is about traditional Japanese carpentry.

  • Without the use of any nails, thay can build temples that last for hundreds of years.

  • It's a fastinating look at the not-quite-lost art.

  • I hope you enjoy.

  • Traditional Japanese carpenters built furnitures, houses and temples

  • without the aid of screws, nails or bolts.

  • No bolts, no nails. It lasts longer.

  • In Japan there are temple towers, after 1,000 years

  • they are still standing.

  • We have two things in our human history:

  • against the nature; with nature.

  • You have to choose either one.

  • So, we do the more natural side, the real craftsmanship side.

  • The finished pieces reflect the ancient philosophy of Japanese carpentery

  • that is still alive today.

  • Journey to the East

  • JAPANESE CARPENTRY

  • [Zui Hanafusa] My father actually grew up doing woodcut prints.

  • This is something that they did in an old country.

  • They always learn a trade. So some people were farmers. Some people were electricians.

  • But he chose wood working.

  • [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] When I graduated, I had to start setting up my life

  • where to stay, where to work.

  • So I said: "Oh, this is very easy. I want to get homesick

  • I want to know home more

  • If you stay where you are, you don't know too much, because you have blind spots.

  • When you're far away you can see.

  • So, I decided to leave Japan, to go somewhere else.

  • Hisao Hanafusa has been working with Japanese carpentery for over 50 years.

  • With his son, he now runs Miya Shoji,

  • a traditional Japanese carpentery workshop in New York.

  • [Laura Fisher] One day I was walking on 17th Street

  • and I saw the beautiful tables inside. And I went in to look.

  • I met Mr. Hanafusa and I said "One day, I'm going to own one of your tables"

  • and of course being a quick sales man he said "Why not now?"

  • And when I met Ken, my husband, and we decided we would start another life together,

  • we both wanted to change the way we were living.

  • I wanted to simplify, you know. I just wanted to simplify my life.

  • All the pieces in Hanafusa's showroom have been handcrafted using traditional japanese techniques.

  • The pieces of lumber have also been individually selected by Hanafusa and his son.

  • Every morning, Hanafusa's team of carpenters begins by sharpening the blades of their hand-forged planes and chisels

  • 00:05:31,308 --> 00:05:36,178 Caring for these hand-tools, takes almost as much time as using them.

  • But in the right hand, the Japanese hand plane

  • produces a smoother cut then a machine plane.

  • As the blade passes through these Shoji screen beams, it clearly slices off thin ribbons of wood.

  • The process of using and caring for these traditional tools reflects Hanafusa's philosophy

  • of working with nature, not against nature.

  • [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] We have two things in our human history:

  • against the nature; with nature.

  • You have to choose either one.

  • When I was a kid I studied Industrial Revolution.

  • Fantastic stuff, but it killed all the craftsmen.

  • All the personal, individual talent they killed.

  • So, we do more the natural side, the real craftsmanship side.

  • We're still doing it that way.

  • Some people say it's stupid.

  • [Ken Woodlock] I knew of Mr. Hanafusa. So I would go by the place with my children.

  • We'd look in the windows and there were plenty of screens, and the furniture was all there.

  • So we started talking about how we're gonna decorate this apartment after we bought it.

  • He became a given.

  • All we did initially was go to Master Hanafusa's workshop and we chose the piece of lumber we wanted for the table.

  • [Zui Hanafusa] The wood carpentery in the past, the wood within the area would actually dictate what the actual carpenter can make.

  • We actually practice the same thing here.

  • Where wood in the area we collect,

  • would dictate what the actual clients can have.

  • [Joe Kleinberg] Well we're taking down an alm tree and giving it a second life.

  • We're gonna slab these branches and the big trunk and some day it'll become furniture.

  • It's with a disease known as Dutch-Elm disease, which devastates Elm trees.

  • It survived the first batch of dutch elm which came here over 30 years ago.

  • Unfortunately, we've been hit with dutch elm disease once again and the tree didn't survive.

  • This tree is approximately 300 years old. It's a shame to see it go.

  • This is real specialty work. it takes a lot of wherewithal

  • to tackle a tree like this, not to mention the equipment to be able to manufacture it into slabs of wood.

  • Although you know, this tree is dead, it's always living.

  • In the spring and summer, it breaths, it picks up moisture and in the winter it loses moisture

  • so just think of it as something that's always living.

  • "Here's your table". take it to museum, right?

  • Everywhere, beautiful.

  • After the tree has being milled into slabs,

  • it has to go through a drying process for many years

  • before it is ready to be made into furniture.

  • A fresh tree's water content is like a 100%, right?

  • "ready to use it", means that you have to remove the water content.

  • That's why 10, 15, 20 years, you air-dry it.

  • You watch it; ready to use it or not?

  • By the time the wood first hits the cutting bench

  • it is already nearing the end of its journey.

  • At this stage, the carpenter begins to craft the joints

  • that will hold the finished piece together

  • like a three dimensional puzzle. without the need for screws, nails or bolts.

  • The joints must fit together perfectly

  • which is all the more difficult to achieve when using hand saws and chisels

  • instead of precise electric tools.

  • These butterfly joints will prevent the crack in this tabletop from spreading.

  • This rectangular dinning table is an extremely simple and elegant design.

  • The base consist of two wide legs attached to a long trestle by two mortise and tenon joints

  • ...And the legs hold the top in place with four dowels. Although it's extremely heavy,

  • the table is held together with only 4 pieces of lumber and 6 joints.

  • New construction is usually with nails, bolts, screws.

  • But we still actually use joinery which will be wood-in-wood expanding and contracting with each other.

  • so this is actually something that'd last forever.

  • No bolts, no nails. It lasts longer.

  • Also strong for earthquake, hurricane.

  • Even in Japan there are temple towers, after 1,000 years

  • they are still standing.

  • The techniques for building Buddist temples

  • originally came from China's Tang dynasty era in the 6th and 7th Century AD.

  • This period is considered China's golden age

  • where art and religion flourished.

  • The mastery of joinery can be seen in the interlaced wooden brackets

  • that support the temple's wide roof with the minimum number of columns

  • and give the visitors an unobstructed view of the Buddha statue.

  • Like the Buddhist temples, traditional Japanese homes and furniture

  • are also held together with wooden joints.

  • And reflect the aesthetic values of simplicity, modesty and appreciation of nature.

  • [Faith Lieberman] Designing in a Japanese fashion or wanting to live that life entails a certain quest for simplicity.

  • It's easier to be eclectic

  • and it can be wonderful and beautiful to be eclectic but it's not part of anything permanent.

  • The Japanese design is what it is.

  • I mean it goes way back and it doens't change.

  • And I think that you want to be as true as you can be to that vision and that philosophy.

  • When you close the screen, you don't see the other side.

  • So, it's just paper, but paper makes it a different space.

  • I call it a "Mysterious Space".

  • What we don't know is very mysterious, I think.

  • Just like in life: we don't know tomorrow.

  • Ten years later, will you exist?

  • You don't know. Maybe we won't exist.

  • This is also, you can also take it off. No hardware.

  • Gravity sliding. Wooden frame

  • shallow groove, deeper groove.

  • No hardware. Chopsticks, knife and fork. That's different.

  • Bottom of the screen is made from bottom of the tree.

  • Trees grow like this, trees don't grow upside down.

  • So, these are all made in the same way that the tree grows. So that's why they don't warp.

  • If you position them upside down, or mix them they'll all warp.

  • it's basically a "with nature", no "against nature" process

  • [Laura Fisher] The Shoji screens, they offer a really wonderful diffused light

  • It offers us serenity. it's like our sanctuary

  • when we come here, and I think that's in part because of the Shoji screens

  • [Stephen Globus] I was looking for a space that was more visually peaceful

  • and actually a space that would get me away from my Western New York busy life

  • into a more contemplative meditative space.

  • My current apartment was almost the opposite.

  • I've been collecting American ephemera stuff for about 30 years, so it's all over my apartment

  • And if you go into the Japanese apartment, there is absolutely nothing that is visible or discrete.

  • I find this space very peaceful and relaxing

  • and I often go there to meditate.

  • You close the Shoji screens and all of New York is now disappearing

  • You can be any where in the world.

  • It's almost like a little spaceship. Like a little time travelling

  • Many Japanese who have seen this space said wow, that's so cool, "su-goi" (awesome)

  • Once all the joints have been carved and fitted together, the pieces are hand-planed to a flat smooth finish

  • And coated with many layers of traditional tung oil made from the seeds of the tung tree

  • The finished table is then assembled

  • In this folding table the legs fold out via dowels

  • and are held in place by small wooden pegs

  • The top is joined to the frame with four sliding dovetail joints

  • The genius of the table lies in the flexible wooden beam

  • that holds the legs securely open or closed,

  • with the help of joints on the base and legs

  • [Mr. Hisao Hanafusa] Su-goi. (Awesome)

  • Everything is done in a very traditional way that lends itself to pride in what you do, pride in the job.

  • And that pride is reflected in the quality of the things that we have in our home

  • that make our lives wonderful and beautiful, easy to live in

  • So it arrived one day.

  • When Hanafusa's men show up at your apartment they will stop at our door

  • they will remove their shoes, they would bow, they honor the space itself

  • by being so traditionally Japanese

  • [Laura Fisher] They have a reverence for their materials,

  • for the space, for what they're doing and we can feel that.

  • Using the table after they have put so much care into making it.

  • You can feel it. it comes through.

  • [Faith Lieberman] I cannot say why I chose the Japanese.

  • That's why I think it's something in me that came from some remote place.

  • I can only think that if there were an after life, then perhaps I was Japanese in some other culture

  • because it really comes from something very innate

  • Hanafusa is really a philosopher and I think what we have in common is that he's an artist and I'm an artist.

  • So I think he's a purist.

  • I think when you're an artist you strive for some kind of truth and consistency.

  • The concept of beauty in traditional Japanese design is different from that in the West.

  • subtle imperfections and signs of age or weathering are prized.

  • They inspire the viewer to contemplate the passage of time and the imperfect nature of life.

  • A truly beautiful object should inspire a feeling

  • of serene loneliness and quiet self reflection.

  • In Japanese, this aesthetic is called "wabi sabi".

  • Wabi Sabi is talking about beauty, talking about life.

  • There are many different kinds of beauty: antique beauty

  • rustic beauty, fresh beauty, young beauty.

  • It's very abstract and wide. It doesn't say just "this".

  • When I go to Japan, people say

  • "You came back during a bad season, there's rain. You can't go anywhere."

  • No, I designed it that way, so I could see the rainy days.

  • If you live there you don't notice;

  • you don't have to go anywhere on a rainy day

  • tomorrow may be a clear day.

  • But, wet temple, wet garden, and no people because of rain...

  • I think that's more beautiful.

Hi, welcome to China Uncensored

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