Traditional Japanese wooden architecture is the focus of this fascinating mini-museum, with a particular emphasis on the technique of wood joinery - the art of constructing wooden buildings with interlocking wooden joints instead of nails and screws. It's very much a hands-on museum - visitors are encouraged to touch the exhibits and explore the various types of wooden joints by taking them apart and putting them back together again. Recordings of bird sounds play in the background, and the whole museum exudes the pleasant aroma of a lumberyard.
The biggest exhibit, taking up much of the museum's main room, is a three-quarter-size scale model of a small section of the West Pagoda of Yakushiji Temple in Nara, which was originally constructed in the year 730. The rest of the room is filled with numerous examples of different styles and shapes of wooden joints, which the staff enthusiastically demonstrated for us. You can also inspect various types of wood used in construction, in the form of both sample swatches and actual logs.
The museum's second room covers more general aspects of Japanese wooden construction, with exhibits devoted to carpenters' tools, traditional nails, plastering techniques, and ornamental carving and metalwork. There's a small scale model of a tea-ceremony building, and a nice example of an onigawara - a goblin-faced decorative roof tile of the type used in temples and shrines since the twelfth century.
Although the museum is small, it provides a captivating look at this often-overlooked traditional craft. Most exhibit captions are in Japanese, but there's an English-language pamphlet, and most exhibits are self-explanatory. Note that the museum is open only three days a week (Tuesday through Thursday) as well as the first Saturday of each month, and it can be a bit hard to find. Admission is free.
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