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Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber

Daisugi, the 600-Year-Old Japanese Technique of Growing Trees Out of Other Trees, Creating Perfectly Straight Lumber

in Architecture, History, Nature | October 23rd, 2020 Leave a Comment

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Image by Wrath of Gnon

We’ve all admired the elegance of Japan’s traditional styles of architecture. Their development required the kind of dedicated craftsmanship that takes generations to cultivate — but also, more practically speaking, no small amount of wood. By the 15th century, Japan already faced a shortage of seedlings, as well as land on which to properly cultivate the trees in the first place. Necessity being the mother of invention, this led to the creation of an ingenious solution: daisugi, the growing of additional trees, in effect, out of existing trees — creating, in other words, a kind of giant bonsai.

“Written as 台杉 and literally meaning platform cedar, the technique resulted in a tree that resembled an open palm with multiple trees growing out if it, perfectly vertical,” writes Spoon and Tamago’s Johnny Waldman. “Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.”

These teahouses are still prominent in Kyoto, a city still known for its traditional cultural heritage, and not coincidentally where daisugi first developed. “It’s said that it was Kyoto’s preeminent tea master, Sen-no-rikyu, who demanded perfection in the Kitayama cedar during the 16th century,” writes My Modern Met’s Jessica Stewart.

At the time “a form of very straight and stylized sukiya-zukuri architecture was high fashion, but there simply weren’t nearly enough raw materials to build these homes for every noble or samurai who wanted one,” says a thread by Twitter account Wrath of Gnon, which includes these and other photos of daisugi in action. “Hence this clever solution of using bonsai techniques on trees.” Aesthetics aside — as far aside as they ever get in Japan, at any rate — “the lumber produced in this method is 140% as flexible as standard cedar and 200% as dense/strong,” making it “absolutely perfect for rafters and roof timber.” And not only is daisugi‘s product straight, slender, and typhoon-resistant, it’s marveled at around the world 600 years later. Of how many forestry techniques can we say the same?

via Spoon and Tamago

Related Content:

The Art & Philosophy of Bonsai

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

The Philosophical Appreciation of Rocks in China & Japan: A Short Introduction to an Ancient Tradition

The Secret Language of Trees: A Charming Animated Lesson Explains How Trees Share Information with Each Other

The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families

A Digital Animation Compares the Size of Trees: From the 3-Inch Bonsai, to the 300-Foot Sequoia

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


This 103-year-old philosopher’s to-do list will get you through self-isolation

This 103-year-old philosopher’s to-do list will get you through self-isolation

  • Like everybody else, Romanian philosopher Mihai Sora is stuck inside.
  • He is keeping busy for a 103-year-old man, and keeping the world up to date on his indoor adventures with Facebook.
  • His to-do list is impressive, but not so impressive it can’t be used by most people.

The social isolation necessitated by COVID-19 is difficult for a lot of people. Between being mostly stuck inside, having reduced contact with other people, and the creeping boredom that comes after you’ve done everything on your to-do list, it’s little wonder that people are getting stressed out about it.

However, there are ways to make it a little more tolerable. A few good ideas for what do at home these days come from the Romanian philosopher Mihai Sora who, at 103 years old, is keeping the world posted on his social isolation practices via Facebook. According to the Calvert Journal, some of the items on his to-do list include:

  • Solving a Rubik’s Cube
  • Painting his white fridge (inside and out)
  • Reading Proust
  • Starting to learn Swedish
  • Improving his Japanese
  • Writing in his “little Facebook notebook”
  • Drawing a flock of sheep
  • Clearing out his study
  • Learning how to use the washing machine
  • “Stoically” listening to French composer Pierre Boulez
  • Checking out planets discovered by NASA
  • “Training in general,” as well as reading and using his exercise bike.

Meet Mihai Sora, one of the most interesting men in the world

Born in 1916 in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mihai went to France for his PhD in philosophy as a young man. When the Nazis invaded, he joined the French Resistance. After the war, he was offered French citizenship but declined to return to his homeland, newly communist Romania. Unable to leave Romania after 1948 because of the aforementioned communism, he was unable to publish his work again for 20 years due to government censorship. To make ends meet, he worked day jobs, often getting fired for insubordination, and translated classic literature into Romanian.

After the fall of Romanian Communism, he served as the Minister of Education for a brief period. He resigned in protest against street violence between miners and anti-communist protesters. Now, in his golden years, he remains an activist. He even found the time to go to a few street protests at the age of 101.

His philosophy is also nothing to sneeze at—his first major essay, “On Interior Dialogue. Fragment from a Metaphysical Anthropology” was well received in postwar France, and his political philosophy has attracted a fair amount of attention.

How he is keeping sane during social isolation

In addition to accomplishing all this, Dr. Sora is keeping the world up to date on his isolation through Facebook posts. The posts include his observations of how nice the night sky is:

Musings on how weird it would be for aliens who show up when the streets are empty:

Notes on how to entertain children:

Mihai ȘORA

Updates on his art projects:

And reminders that this, too, shall pass and afterwards we should go for a nice walk in nature:

This might be the kind of social media influencer the world doesn’t deserve but actually needs.

His posts and to-do list are particularly brilliant in that they are not fundamentally difficult or too foreign for most people to emulate. His to-do list includes chores, learning things he always wanted to but lacked time for, and doing things he already enjoys.

If you’re stuck at home too, perhaps you should borrow a few of these ideas. Ever wanted to start learning a new language? You’ve got time for it now. Ever want to read the classics? Project Guttenberg is online, has thousands of books to choose from, and your schedule is clear. More creatively minded? That’s fine; there are plenty of Bob Ross videos on YouTube to get you started in painting. There aren’t a ton of great online resources for helping you clean out your study, but that’s also a good idea of Dr. Sora’s you should steal.

And don’t forget to take his advice to look up at the sun, moon, and stars every once in a while. Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean you can’t wonder at the scope of the cosmos. Just because we’re all a bit anxious lately doesn’t mean we have to lose our sense of awe.

So, try some of his ideas for yourself. After all, if they are keeping a person with as exciting a life as Mihai Sora occupied, it should be enough to keep most people busy for a few more weeks.