Yakisugi Charring Event January 2017

Japanese Burnt Wood and Tea Houses

On the 24th January 2017 the Museum welcomed groups from Kingston University and the Barbican Centre to explore two fascinating Japanese customs: Yakisugi and Chashitsu. For this we were delighted to welcome architectural historian and contemporary Japanese architect Professor Terunobu Fujimori. Assisted by architectural students from Kingston University, Professor Fujimori led a successful demonstration on the traditional Japanese art of charring timber, also known as Yakisugi. The purpose of this technique is to protect the wood from moisture, pests and fungal decay, whilst also giving it a distinctive charcoal finish.

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Timbers were bound together to create tall triangular chimneys. These were then placed against a specially built frame so that a small ball of newspaper could be lit at its base and the flames could take hold inside the chimney. The fire caught quickly and spread towards the top of the chimney and, before long, imposing flames were licking out the top of the chimney towards the sky – an impressive spectacle. A crowbar was used to loosen each side of the chimney in order to allow for an even burn, and after a few minutes they were dropped to the ground where they were unbound to reveal the charred timbers within. This process was repeated throughout the morning until all the timber was charred.

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The timbers will be used as part of a brand new Japanese Tea House, or Chashitsu, and after lunch Professor Fujimori gave a revealing talk on the history of these charming buildings, as well as the influence they have had on his contemporary structures. He has designed a number of innovative Chashitsu in recent years (well worth searching for!) and his latest one will be clad in today’s charred timber and installed as part of the Barbican’s exhibition: The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945, which will run from March 23rd – June 25th 2017.