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Explore Japan

Capturing Masters’ Workmanship

Aired: August 20, 2021 (UTC)


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In Nara’s Asuka district, where Japan’s capital was located during the 7th century, you’ll find Horyuji Temple, home to the oldest wooden buildings on earth, still standing after 1,300 years. What techniques helped to preserve these buildings through centuries of the rain and humidity of Japan’s climate? During extensive repairs in the Showa period, attention turned once again to the kanna, or Japanese plane, and its role in maintaining the surfaces of wooden buildings.

This summer, expert carpenters from across Japan gathered in Aichi Prefecture to compete in a kanna competition, seeing who could use the tool to create the thinnest shavings of wood. There, we met with a legendary kanna master and three-time winner of the contest. His record for the thinnest shaving is an astonishing three microns, or just three thousandths of a millimeter. Using cutting-edge video technology, we’ll reveal the master’s techniques, which lend durability to building materials.

These master carpenters are particular about their tools. In the workshop of Chiyozuru, a brand that has won favor with skilled carpenters, we’ll turn the latest video technology on their work, revealing the essential skills that go into crafting a kanna. This thirty minute program uses the latest measuring instruments to illuminate the sophistication of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

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