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Learning the craftsmanship of thatched roof, basket weaving, and bentwood at Hida training camp at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

About

On July 11, 2019, 11 students led by Associate Professor Nicholas Bruscia (aka Nick)—as part of the Summer Program in Architecture at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York—joined our training camp in Hida.

The students stayed at FabCafe Hida for 7 days, learning from local furniture manufacturers, carpenters, thatchers, and basket weaving artists.

This program was jointly planned and operated by FabCafe Tokyo and Hidakuma. Daiki Kanaoka of FabCafe Tokyo participated as the project manager and director, and Junichiro Horikawa, an architectural programmer and designer, participated as a technical support member.

The program was designed to accommodate Nick’s request—who has been planning a training camp in Hida since last year—to learn traditional Japanese architecture and techniques, from such as the Jomon period.

The training camp featured a variety of workshops where you can learn the techniques of thatching and basket weaving directly from seasoned craftsmen, tours of the Hida Folk Archaeological Museum, where you can see the relics from the Paleolithic period and the Jomon period, as well as a visit to ancient tombs and traditional wooden architecture.

In addition, with Ibata Interior’s special cooperation—a furniture maker from Hida Furukawa, with a unique bentwood technology—we received compressed bentwood materials that we used to produce a knitted structure.

At Hidakuma, we interviewed students about what they felt and discovered during their stay in Hida. In this blog, we will introduce the voices of the students with photos from the training camp.

Click here for the training camp from last year (2018):
“Experience Japan’s proud traditional techniques at the site. Woodworking camp in Hida where the latest meets tradition”

Program

Day1

A walk through Hida Furukawa Street guided by a former carpenter, Naoi-san
Tour of Shinshuji Temple’s Rinten Kyozo-do (Rotating Scripture Repository)

Day2

[Bus tour]
・ Take a stroll to see the Itakura construction method
・ Tour the Hida Folk Archaeological Museum to learn about Jomon culture
・ Visit the Kotogeguchi Kofun in Hida Kokufu, the largest stone chamber in Gifu Prefecture
・ Early Muromachi architecture, Atayuta Shrine main shrine visit
[Workshop]
Demonstration of carpenter Tanaka-san's kumiki (knitted wood) techniques

Day3

Take a closer look at bent wood techniques. Ibata Interior Factory Tour

Day4

A basket-knitting workshop by Mayumi Tsukuda, an artist who is active worldwide with her knitting skills and creativity

Day5

Practical course by thatching craftsman Takuma Fujiwara

Day6

Producing a knitted structure using compressed bent wood from Ibata Interior

Day7

2nd day of production (last day of training camp)
Gathering / result presentation with locals

Member’s Voice

During our stay, us at Hidakuma interviewed students about what they felt during the training camp in Hida. We interviewed the following members.

Nick Rit
Good at woodworking in general. He is a lecturer in a woodworking workshop at a university. He does CNC tutorials, and his family also works in architecture.

Jennifer Persico
She is capable of creating beautiful models with great attention to detail.

Austin Wyles
His family is a woodworking family and they also make boats. He is good at woodworking, making models, and fixing things.

Chris Sweeney
Good at communicating ideas both on a computer and on a model.

Mira Shami
Skilled at creating models and pictures in both 3D and digital.

Marissa Hayden
She is good at sketching and drawing physical objects, and has great expressiveness and presentation.

Q. Which of the following places and experiences in Hida was the most memorable to you?

Chris:
I enjoyed staying at FabCafe Hida. It was wonderful that everyone could move around naturally and feel a sense of unity in the workshop.

Mira:
I really enjoyed thatching. Being able to create something from the beginning to the end—rather than learning only some of the fun parts—made it feel like we achieved something. I especially liked how we could learn directly from the craftsmen.

Nick:
Thatching was the best. When I came to Hida and saw the thatched roofs, I wondered how they were made. I even searched on YouTube but there was no information on how to make it. I’m glad I was able to experience it first hand.

Students learning how to handle straw from a thatcher, Fujiwara.

Nick:
I was able to learn about the village of Tanekura.

Jenna:
The mountains along the way of Tanekura were so beautiful that I felt soothed by them.

At the beautiful Satoyama / Tanekura, I learned about the residents’ unique lifestyle and architecture.

Melissa:
Tanaka-san’s demonstration was amazingly advanced. It was incredibly captivating.

Austin:
I liked Tanaka-san’s demonstration and walking around Furukawa. It was fun to have locals show us around the city, since they knew a lot more about the area than what you can find on tour guides. I like woodworking, and I was really impressed to see what I saw only in videos and books right in front of me.

At the demonstration of making a knitted woodwork, we could see Tanaka-san’s speedy processing of wood right in front of us.

While walking around Furukawa, we learned about the architectural features and history from a former carpenter, Naoi-san.

Q. During your stay in Hida, was there anything that you could use in this work?

Austin:
The basket knitting tutorial by May-san was amazing. The way she knitted the strands with her hands was incredible.

Nick:
May-san’s workshop. In the whole project (same with Austin’s reason), it was interesting to digitally represent the complex knits we all tried. I want to continue to combine digital and traditional technologies.

May-san’s basket weaving workshop. There was also a lecture on basket weaving works made by Tsukuda-san.

The students prototyped several knitted structures on paper.

We saw the process of making bentwood at the Ibata Interior factory.

Chris:
I’ve always modeled on paper, so it was nice to be able to feel a different, more wood-like material in Mei-san’s workshop. I was in fact surprised that she was making such a delicate piece of art only with that material. At first, I didn’t think that this project could go very far, and simply I couldn’t believe that I’d actually made it so far, being taught so many things along the way. By coming to Hida, I think something in me took a big leap.

Melissa:
Seeing Ibata Interior’s compressed bentwood material in real life was the driving force in the production process. Mei-san’s workshop was equally good.

Unfortunately it was raining on the last day.

Even in the rain, students were seriously focused on their work.

We continued to work until the very beginning of the results presentation, which began in the evening of the last day of our training camp.

Q. Of all the places you visited and experiences you had in Hida, which was the most memorable?

Austin:
I went to Tokyo and traveled to Kyoto and Hiroshima, visiting one city per day, on a travel walk, but there were too many people. Since Hida isn’t like that, it felt more like a warm, welcoming home to me.

Nick:
I traveled around a lot, but I’ve never been in the same place for a long time because I was always on the move. The mountains in Hida are beautiful and I was glad I could take my time and enjoy the nature here.

Scenery of Tanekura.

Melissa:
The mountain scenery is very beautiful, and there were many things to see despite being in the countryside. I liked the balance between nature and things to do.

Chris:
When I was in Tokyo, everything moved so fast; I didn’t even have the opportunity to learn what the people I met were doing, so I felt slightly alienated. When I got here, though, I noticed that we were greeting each other every day. We also know what others are doing. I think our frequent interactions with each other made staying in Hida special to me. It was also exciting to see our project merging into one place as it reached the climax with various people cooperating with each other.

Staff from Ibata Interior and Nick.

If you create something together, you can quickly get to know each other.

Jenna:
Nowhere else was I able to get so close in touch with the community. Whenever I went out, I exchanged greetings with somebody, and it felt great that I actually got to meet various people and felt involved in the community through this program.

Mira:
Hida is something completely different. It became a special place to me. At FabCafe Hida, everyone sleeps in a tatami room and greets each other. I felt really close to the community. After I came to Hida, I felt like I found a new family overseas. Yuko-san at FabCafe and the Mother who cooked the rice seemed to really care about us, and I felt relieved.

 

Dinner by Mother’s House at FabCafe Hida is one of many things you can look forward to.

Dinner on the last day. We all ate in the FabCafe courtyard where we created our work.

 

The charm of Hida Furukawa is that it retains its rich traditions and cultures, while letting you feel close to nature and its communities. We think that the learning and healing that the students experienced during this long-term stay are truly unique to Hida.

Many local people gathered for the result presentation.

At the presentation, he said he particularly remembered the words he heard from Tanaka-san, the carpenter who gave a demonstration of kumiki.

“Most of the good things have already been made by people a long time ago,” answered Tanaka-san, when asked whether he ever created his own joint (shiguchi). “However the rightful attitude of a craftsman,” he added, “is to keep making small improvements and continuing to challenge ourselves.” From this statement, Nick said, “It made me wonder if we could finally leave something behind for our future generations after continuing to challenge ourselves for several years. I was most inspired by the attitude towards the traditions that have been passed down.”

We are very happy to be able to share Nick’s impression with the craftsmen in Hida and those who live here. Also, if the students, Nick, and local people were able to share their interests and knowledge by collaborating with various people from Hida at the training camp—possibly leading to new discoveries and stimuli—we couldn’t be happier. Just as Nick and the students are taking on the challenge in new things, we at Hidakuma want to learn more about the traditional techniques and culture in Hida, and to meet and connect with other craftsmen in a place called FabCafe Hida.

Special thanks!!

We extend our thanks to the architects at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Associate Professor Nick Brucia, and Kanaoka-san, Yoshioka-san and Horikawa-san of FabCafe Tokyo, for visiting us. Please come visit us again in Hida.

And thank you very much to all the locals who gave us help during this training camp.

Why not join us at our training camp to learn about Hida’s woodworking techniques and culture?

Hidakuma offers training camps and stay programs for architects, designers, educational institutions, companies, etc. who want to learn architecture, design, forestry, town development, etc. Please feel free to consult us. Contact us from here.

Details on Camp Program in Hida
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