Websites to Spend Countless Hours On:

24. January 2021

次世代に繋ぐ伝統建築 (先人の知恵を記憶する) According to Google this translates to “Traditional architecture that connects to the next generation, remembers the wisdom of our predecessors is a YouTube channel by Toshiro Kobayashi, whose company Kobayashi Kenko is specialized in building homes from wood, using traditional Japanese methods. On his channel, he shares videos of the company’s carpenters at work as they carve the most impressive wood-only joints or assemble beams into a structural frame.


I first heard about Japanese architecture in school, when we studied the work of contemporary Japanese architect Tadao Andō in art class. Even before becoming a teenager, the self-taught architect started as an apprentice with a local carpenter … later becoming a professional boxer. His biography is worth a read.. As part of his apprenticeship, he learned the meticulous craftsmanship of Japanese carpentry, which traditionally works without nails or screws. Instead, it’s focused on complex wood-only joints, many of which are extremely sturdy when assembled but can be just as easily be taken apart again.

Some standard longitudinal joints, taken from Heino Engel: “Measure and Construction of the Japanese House” [p. 80]   
Some standard longitudinal joints, taken from Heino Engel: “Measure and Construction of the Japanese House” [p. 80]   

There is something meditative about watching someone who is a master at a craft do their work. Designer Frank Chimero, who likes to watch restoration videos on YouTube writes: “It is care as entertainment: a fulfilled wish to watch something come together instead of fall apart […].” Designers obsessing about handicraft (or bread baking) has become a tired trope — especially when it comes to woodworking or cabinet making. But apart from the much-discussed point of envying actually seeing the physical result of your work, instead of ending up with some changed bytes, I believe another aspect is also significant: the fascination with an occupation where after proficiency comes mastery, rather than management. Brian Lovin’s new site Staff Design explores what this might look like for designers.

Carpenter’s scroll: Plans for a residential building, taken from Heino Engel: “Measure and Construction of the Japanese House” [p. 72]   
Carpenter’s scroll: Plans for a residential building, taken from Heino Engel: “Measure and Construction of the Japanese House” [p. 72]   

Apparently, even in Japan, the traditional joinery is not that common anymore — which is not surprising, giving the amount of manual labor it requires and the decades of work it takes to achieve mastery. Toshiro Kobayashi founded his company “Kobayashi Kenko” to preserve this knowledge and offer it to clients. He argues that wooden buildings come with many health benefits as well.

His videos are always a bit odd and very anticlimactic. They are filmed off the cuff, from unflattering angles. There are very few cuts, the scenes just go on. All of this creates an aesthetic that is contrary to what we’ve learned to expect on social media. This contrast between masterful craft — a lifetime of training — and the nonchalant look of the videos makes them feel utterly unpretentious. That’s what pulls me in. There are many accounts specialized in Japanese joinery — this Twitter account for example shares 3D models — and it’s not hard to find higher quality videos Dylan Iwakuni creates amazing videos. Check out this overview over many joints or this detailed video showing the step-by-step process for a single joint.. But Toshiro Kobayashi’s just have a very specific atmosphere that I love.

My favorite joints §

Here is a small selection of some videos which I found particularly interesting. But I strongly recommend just randomly watching some from the channel, for the ultimate calming effect.

  • 002: This is one of the most famous Japanese joints: Isuka Tsugi.
  • 018: In this video they join together two entire logs with a single joint, lift them up to show the stability, and then casually take them apart again, in less than four minutes.
  • 118: An entire gable for a roof, hold together merely be wood pieces sliding into each other.
  • 120: Here, the rest of the roof frame comes together and you can see the structural frame for the entire house.

These are some interesting pages from Kobayashi Kenko’s website:

  • Step by Step: On this page, you can click through the step-by-step process of building a house from planning to finish.
  • Case Studies: These are some case studies of houses and temples built by Kobayashi Kenko.

The website §

次世代に繋ぐ伝統建築 (先人の知恵を記憶する) on Youtube — 古き良き日本の伝統建築の継承・技術を繋ぐために。 伝統継手のカラクリ、彫刻、作業方法、建前風景など、日本であまり見られなくなった技術・先人の知恵の結晶である伝統建築を動画で記録していきます。

The series §

In my series “Websites to Spend Countless Hours On” I write about my favorite wholesome websites. I focus on those that are slow-growing, personal, opinionated or fastidiously comprehensive. They are like the websites that first drew me into the web: Quaint personal spaces by real people.