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The best book on Japanese construction methods.

Measure and Construction of the Japanese House (Contains 250 Floor Plans and Sketches Aspects of Joinery) - Heino Engel

This is a book that is great despite its shortcomings. I'll start with the positive, since they outweigh any negatives and make this book a must buy for anyone interested in Japanese house construction.

 

The best part of this book for me was the amazing diagrams. There are numerous illustrations on joints, which other books accomplish as well, but his book shows elevation and plan views of house designs as well as specific joints used at various intersections (i.e., corners, mid-brace joints, etc.). I found this aspect of the book invaluable. The illustrations of foundations, floor construction, ciellings, fusuma and shoji, and sacred spaces is simply unparallel by any other book. The details are amazing and I felt as though I was seeing inside the mysterious box that is traditional Japanese construction methods.

 

The second great aspect of the book is its comprehensive nature. The author really does give an in-depth discussion of the what, why's and how's of the construction methods. This is not a book to gloss over an aspect in its rather conscise review. This is a book that deserves a spot on your shelf if you're at all interested in joinery, architecture, building construction, or Japanese design elements. It covers an incredible range in the 149 pages.

 

As far as shortcomings, or maybe I should say peculiarities, since they don't really pull down the review for the book. The wording is overwrought and clunky at times and really does a poor job sometimes of cutting through the difficulty for someone learning about Japanese concepts for the first time. I would have liked to have seen a much more approachable style, more akin to the wonderful "A Japanese Touch for your Home" that I found much more enjoyable to read.

 

The next thing that seems a bit odd is that the text is written in a way that never relates directly to the diagrams and illustrations in the book, which are arguable the best aspect of the book anyway. You can read the text independently of the diagrams and vice versa. Combined together, it is not unlike using two separate references to learn about the various subjects. Once you adjust to this peculiarity, it works fine. But don't expect to scan the text to find a reference to Figure 7 for further explanation of a diagram, which I do in other books. The text is well-organized and sub-headings really make it easy to find information without the figures and the figures are labeled well enough, although not having a direct link seems like a miss.

 

Overall, this is a cherished book for me and one that I reference any time I need to refresh my understanding of Japanese contruction. It has it all, foundations, architectural joinery, ceilings and floors, screens and doors... I definite must buy for anyone with an interest in this type of construction.