Friday, April 9, 2010

Run, don't walk

I just came across this book and snapped it up immediately. The publisher, the German company Birkhäuser, is the same one who put out the fine book by Klaus Zwerger, Wood and Wood Joints. Building Traditions of Europe and Japan a few years back. As with that book, Japan - Culture of Wood: Buildings, Objects, Techniques is well written, beautifully photographed, and examines its subject matter in some depth. It's not an academic tome, but it's not dumbed-down either.

If you are interested in the equation 'Japan + Wood', and/or if you are interested in traditional woodworking of any kind, then you really must obtain a copy of this book or at very least get your local library to bring in a copy. I can't say enough good things about it. To be clear, this is not a technical book on woodworking techniques, and it is not some superficial coffee table book filled with glossy pictures and banal content. It's kind of in-between the two, with interesting content and lovely pictures. From comb, doll and box making, to temple and bridge construction, bark shingling, teahouses, wa-dansu, dai-ya san, and so on, this book is replete with in depth looks at the craftspeople, their material and their methods. It's simply awesome!

I've linked to it in my 'Worth a Read' column at the lower right of the page, which takes you to the pertinent page on the Amazon site. This hardcover book retails at $90 but can be bought for around $60. Not exactly cheap, but worth every penny. You may be able to locate a less expensive copy somewhere else, or perhaps a decent used copy could be sourced. Or try your local library. I might be able to obtain a few (4~6) copies at $40 (+ shipping costs), so if you are interested, contact me asap. Hurry, run out and get this book - you won't regret it!


  1. Thanks for the book review Chris. Just ordered mine on Amazon , used like new, for $14. More available.
    C on da BIG

  2. Me too - just put dibs in on a used copy at Chapters.
    Thanks Chris,


  3. I just came across a big bibliography on Japanese architecture. Some I have, many I wish I had, and much more I had never heard of. Good thorough list of all the quintessential works.

    C on da BIG

  4. Through google I found this title through the specialty retailer Paragon Book Gallery, whose asian arts catalog may be of interest. Right now they have the book on sale for $25, incredible! I can't wait to dive in and see all the artisans at work in their shops.
    -Mike S

  5. Hi Mike,

    I like Paragon Book Gallery and subscribe to their catalog. That is a good price, so good score!



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