What type of wood is often used for the construction of houses and furniture in Japan? - Kistang
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What type of wood is often used for the construction of houses and furniture in Japan?

Kistang - Climate, culture, history are closely related to this. In the past, wood was very abundant in Japan and has been used for a long time in the architecture of their buildings.

With the advancement of civilization and culture, the construction of temples and places of worship has made Japanese architecture more and more developed. Their building technology developed so that wooden architecture became the standard of houses in Japan.

In this modern era, the Japanese use the frame/foundation of a house with concrete material for housing and then use thin wood covered with a cork-like material inside.

So here I will summarize the above as the reason:

1. Since ancient times, Japan has been a country with houses made of wood. The classic examples that we often see are sliding doors and tatami floors.

2. Countries with 4 seasons like Japan and Europe need buildings that can breathe, what do you mean? Yes.. So by using this type of wood and the type of cork in it, it will help circulate air from outside into the house and keep hot air from outside from entering the house. Meanwhile, in winter it helps keep the house warm by keeping out the cold from outside.

3. During the summer, the humidity in Japan is very high, around 90 percent or more. The use of wood materials in the house is very breathable (wood circulates) and helps reduce humidity as much as possible.

4. It's lighter, for a 4-season country that is prone to earthquakes like Japan, the use of materials like this is safer and easier to get.

5. Production costs are cheaper. Compared with a house made of concrete. use and cost of wood materials are cheaper.

6. Fast construction time. The fastest way to make a house in Japan is only 4 days. Whereas concrete, because it has to stick a lot of foundations, takes a long time.

7. Japanese house with wooden construction helps freedom in designing the house. In fact, more than 80% of detached houses in Japan are of timber construction, and most of their suppliers are timber construction companies.

8. As I said before, Japan has a very humid nature during the rainy season and summer. Now this causes white ants to like to attack housing with wood materials. This is one of the disadvantages of using a house made of wood.

Japan has a long tradition of using wood. This is reflected in the many wooden buildings from past eras that are still standing strong.

The wood used generally comes from trees and forests that grow in Japan. However, there are also several types that are deliberately imported from other countries. Usually the wood grows in China and Korea and some of it from India and Southeast Asia.

The answers I write here are information obtained from carpentry practitioners in Japan who have passed on knowledge of wood processing.

Hinoki (ヒノキ)

Hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) is a conifer species that is important in meeting the demand for wood in Japan.

Hinoki is a very reliable wood in construction. Horyuji Temple in Nara is believed to be the oldest building in the world where hinoki is one of the main building materials. In addition, hinoki is also used in the manufacture of Buddha statues, Noh masks, carvings, and also woodworking.

In the beginning, hinoki was the main building material in Japan. However, as exploitation continues to occur, the hinoki population has declined. Therefore, keyaki (Zelkova serrata) and akamatsu (Pinus densiflora) are alternatives to hinoki.

Sugi (杉)

Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica, Japanese cedar) is also an important wood in Japan. Sugi is widely used for furniture, veneer, chest, woodworking, as well as light construction.

Sugi used are usually 200–250 years old. Even the sugi that grows in Yakushima is very protected and may only use sugi wood whose trees fall naturally.

The massive planting of sugi and hinoki in various areas of Japan has created new problems. The flowers produced by sugi and hinoki are one of the main causes of kafunshō or hay fever which usually occurs when spring arrives.

Byakudan (ビャクダン)

We usually know it as sandalwood (Santalum album). This type is not a common type of tree that grows in Japan. Sandalwood from India is widely used for making Buddha statues.

Currently sandalwood is widely grown in India, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and northern Australia. Sandalwood is known for its sweet smell.

Kiri (キリ)

Kiri (Paulownia tomentosa) has great significance for Japan. In fact, the Japanese Prime Minister's office uses the left flower as its symbol.

Apart from that, kiri wood is also used as a material for making Noh masks. Noh is one of the classical Japanese arts that has a drama format where each actor will wear a mask when performing.

The left wood is also used to make crates and boxes. Its low silica content makes it suitable for storing items with sharp blades.

Keyaki (ケヤキ)

Keyaki wood (Zelkova serrata) is widely used to build buildings intended for worship and palaces of the elite. Along with akamatsu (Pinus densiflora), keyaki is an alternative to hinoki wood. In addition, keyaki wood is also suitable for use as a raw material for furniture.

Matsu (マツ)

Matsu is the local name of Pinus sp. There are many types of pine that grow in Japan. Some important types of pine are akamatsu (Pinus densiflora) and kuromatsu (Pinus thunbergii).

Pinus densiflora or akamatsu is an important species as a raw material for buildings. Especially important buildings, such as places of worship and palaces of the elite. This type began to be used when hinoki began to experience scarcity.

Kuromatsu is a cheap version of akamatsu. This type is widely used for residential buildings of ordinary people.

kaya (カヤ)

You know the game of go? The board used for the game is made of kaya wood (Torreya nucifera). In addition, kaya wood is also a very important type of wood in the manufacture of Buddha statues.

Kusunoki (クスノキ)

Kayau kusunoki (Cinnamomum camphora) is used to make kitchen utensils, Buddha statues and Noh masks. The kusunoki tree is a tree that adorns the front of the main building of Kyoto University and is also the official logo of Kyoto University.

In addition, the wood, leaves and roots of kusunoki produce oil that is used for various medicinal and disinfectant purposes.


Sawara (Chamaecyparis pisifera) has a similar appearance to hinoki. However, sawara has a lower value than hinoki.

Sawara was used as building material (palaces and temples). Sawara is also used to make wooden basins and caskets.


Sakura (Prunus sp.) is from Japanese tradition and culture. The blooming of cherry blossoms is a moment that local residents and foreign tourists have been waiting for. Who would have thought that the wood and bark of the cherry tree also have many benefits.

Sakura wood is excellent for making furniture, musical instruments, buildings, woodworking, and carving. In addition, cherry skin is also useful and is widely used by craftsmen to make kabazaiku crafts.

Utilization of the bark is very possible because of the ability of the bark to be stretched and extended even twice the original length. This has been proven through research conducted by my sensei (Prof. Junji Sugiyama) and my laboratory partner (Kayoko Kobayashi).


Anyone know persimmon fruit? Persimmons, also known as kaki, are a fruit that is quite popular in Japan and also appears in Japanese pop culture. It turns out that the wood from the kaki tree is also useful.

The kaki has the botanical name Diospyros kaki. Almost the same as its counterpart in Indonesia, Diospyros celebica, leg wood has a blackish brown color with a combination of light brown. In Japan, legs are widely used as a raw material for making furniture.

I got a lot of information about the types of wood in Japan written by Ms. Mechtild Mertz in a book entitled "Wood and Traditional Woodworking in Japan". His writings in the book are the result of a very comprehensive work that started with the preparation of his dissertation while pursuing his doctoral studies in ethnobotany at the National Museum of Natural History, Paris. To get information, he directly interviewed carpentry practitioners in Japan. At that time he was assisted by Prof. Takao Itoh, a former professor at Kyoto University. What's interesting is that Mrs. Mechtild Mertz once told us that she had a bit of Indonesian blood from several generations before.

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