11 July 2019

Nara Palace Museum Reconstruction Project and the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

So Kawaii
Of the many impressions and memories from my recent venture to Japan, two destinations merit mentioning and praise. The first and the one that I discovered only by happenstance once I was in Nara.
Reconstructed Imperial Gatehouse
The city of Nara is a well established tourist destination notable for its temples, gardens, and roaming herds of selfietolerant deer. Initially I wanted to avoid interacting with the deer, being far more interested in the landscape gardens and the many mini museums, especially a restored machiya
Traditional house interior

Steep stairway
erstwhile modern kitchen

Understair drawers

I might not have considered trekking the distance from our downtownish B&B to the Palace site if I had not been alerted to the scale and importance of the UNESCO world heritage site by a energetic pair of globetrotting Canadian ladies.

My firsthand experience with the Nara Palace Historical Park is that it is long term project that is comparable to the ambitions embarked upon by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, multiphase project to reinterpret the past in terms of material culture and traditional skills. The area that is referred to as the Heijo Palace Site is so large that a railway line cuts across it. A museum is located at the main entrance helps visitors understand what they are about to see while wandering over the still mostly empty landscape.
Map of the historic landscape

Local fauna

Interactive Joinery display

Construction model

Archaeological recreation

 One of the Canadian ladies who has also written on her weblog about their travels through Japan and Nara shared with me the photos that she took on the previous day.
Spear planing

Foundation and covered construction site

workman with adze

Costumed timberframers
Movable workspace covering
I wasn't able to view the ongoing traditional construction under its purpose built superstructure but I did have a very engaging conversation with a docent at the assembly hall, who was very well informed and surprisingly honest about the potential shortcomings in interpreting the multitude of details of the reconstruction. I wanted to chat longer but there were other buildings that I wanted to visit before the park closed for the day.

Completed Audience hall

Audience Hall interior

Interior plinth

Audience Hall closeup
Throne nook
The park features reconstructed secondary buildings and perimeter walls along with preserved portions of the archaeological excavations left in situ and built upon along with museum commentary.
Historic plinths and elevated foundations

Reconstructed rammed earth perimeter wall and gateway

Reconstructed secondary buildings

Ridgebeam and rafters

Eave detail of reconstructed secondary buildings
It's an education in archaeology and historical recreation. This is a location that I intend to return to again, fully prepared, and eager to see the progress of reconstruction and what programs have been developed to interpret this historic site.
Whichever direction leads to the destination
 Takenaka gateway
The Takenaka Museum of Carpentry Tools was only my list of places where I decidedly wanted to visit. As it happens, the most expedient manner of getting to there is by the Shinkansen. Experiencing just how well integrated this high speed railway was with the rest of the landscape further emphasized just how compact living is in Japan. From the exit gate of the railway it's simply a two block by foot walk to the Takenaka Museum.
Campers on the bank of the Nunobiki stream passing under the Shiinkansen viaduct at the Kobe station
The museum is mostly underground, the first floor is for reception and, on the day of our visit, an exhibition room featuring turned items and those of woven bamboo. Photography was forbidden.
Adult class in progress
The second  basement is where the classroom is located. I saw several examples of projects geared at children's classes, yet notably I watched an adult class being instructed on weaving a small basket.
Junior level projects
There was a teahouse with details on its construction, which is its own specialty trade.
Reproduction teahouse wall section
 There were several interactive exhibits and a recreation of a smithy.
Bellows and forge

Files and scrapers

Imported tools, too!
 What caught my wife's eye was a reproduced carpentry booklet with construction notes from the 19th century. She pointed out to me that nothing similar exists in Chinese.
Timberframing tools

Layout and marking tools
No nails in Japanese carpentry. Never

And of course lots of tools.
Joinery sample

Riving timber with gluts

And how tools get used and a few interactive displays.
Dougong compenents

Dougong roof display

I was only disappointed by the lack of an English version of their museum book.

Mugged in Nara by Sika
 Happy Summer!

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