Dan's Blog

The Shogun's Temple Builders
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Take a look at this picture.  Notice that the evergreen trees have been "roped-up" in anticipation of winter snow.  The ropes keep branches from splitting under the weight of snow.  This photo was taken December 1st; two weeks later a storm delivered almost 6 feet of snow to the region. 

The Takayama-Hida area of Gifu prefecture in the Japanese Alps is renowned for its wood products and woodworking.  Since this mountainous region could not pay taxes due in rice, grains and textiles the residents were required pay with their labor.  Hida area workers became renowned for their woodworking skills.  During the Edo period (1603-1867) the region came under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Carpenters from this region were recruited to build the great temple complexes at Nara and Niko.  Link to www.hidatakayama.or.jp/english/ for more information about the region.

When we visited shops the owners were closing up at 4pm even though the shop signs said they were open till 5.  Tourist season starts in May and extends through the fall foliage change; I guess the locals were wondering why we came in early December. This was the time to prepare for winter.  Many mountainous areas are virtually inaccessible during snow season.  

Snow loads (the dead weight of snow on roofs and framing) and lateral/shear loads (earthquakes) are the principal causes of structural failure in houses in the area.


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