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TEDxSeeds-Kongogumi-12/12/09

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Hello everyone. All the previous speakers had wonderful performance before they speak so I don't feel comfortable coming out here to start my speach. (laughter) There will be some performances later on, but first, I'd like to take some time to introduce our company, Kongo-gumi. As introduced earlier, Kongo-gumi is considered the oldest company in the world. Today, we are continuously working on shrines and temples all around Japan. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to show our techniques here in TEDxSeeds. I'd just like to start by introducing some of our works. This is "Kondo", center of the temple "Shitennoh-ji", in Osaka city. One of our greatest works. Kongo-gumi was found 1,400 years ago. Prince Shotoku-Taishi brought few carpenters from Korean Peninsula to Japan is how it started. Present temple was rebuild in 1950s. I will show some pictures in late 1800s later on. This here is another work of ours, "Seigan-To-ji" of Mt. Nachi in Wakayama, and this is the three-story pagoda. There is a fall in the back of the temple in the picture as you can see and this temple, along with the fall, was designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. Another one here is "Kuon-ji" in Yamanashi, the head temple of Nichiren Buddhism. We dealt with all the reconstruction of this temple and of five-story pagoda last year, which had been 134 years since last repaired. And this is the Ko-buntei, a building in Kairakutei, one of three most beautiful gardens in Japan. This here is considered to be Mito-Kohmon's study room. Kongo-gumi dealt with the construction work. When APEC international conference was held in Osaka in 1995, these conference building in Osaka castle was also built by Kongo-gumi. Our works on castle vary from the first tower of the Osaka castle to the Utayasu-gate of Edo castle in Tokyo. Next, I'd like to introduce the history of Kongo-gumi. In 1431, the prince Shotoku-Taishi brought the three carpenters from Baekje, a kingdom in ancient Korea, and one of the three, Shigemitsu Kongo, established our company. Current head, or 39th Kongo, is now 86 years old and he is still working as an official carpenter of the temple Shitennohji. This is the former building of the Kondo, before burning down in WWII. It was a magnificent wooden masterpiece. But the Shitennoji, you may know, had gone through many disasters in the past. It is said that there were 7 big disasters. It's ironic, but the reason why Kongo-gumi was able to carry on the techniques is said that it's due to major reconstruction projects caused by these disasters. So if it wasn't for these disasters and reconstructions, I may not be here today. This is the two story pagoda of Shoman-in temple, a branch temple of Shitennoh-ji temple. There is a copper plate used as a lightning rod in the temple, and characters saying, "Chief master Takumi Kongo" is written at the arrow on the plate. It's clear that it was made 417 years ago. Kongo-gumi itself also met some disasters all around Japan. And so, many of our records and documentations had been lost. It happens that even nowadays historical materials like this are found from the roof of old building, telling it was one of our works. So, I'd like to explain how and why we can maintain buildings for hundreds years. You can see a round timber in center, this is going to become a pillar. And you can see a timber already attached at the left corner. This here is going to be combined with another timber from right side. Here, a carpenter is hammering it. By hammering a bung between two timbers, the stability becomes much higher, more than a single timber itself. There is also another wood at a right angle to give extra support and this is combined using a technique called "Shiguchi". A technique combining two timbers horizontally is called "Tsugite", and combining at right angle is called "Shiguchi". That's how parts are put together at a construction site. To show up close, this is a picture of them combining at a right angle in first, and then combining horizontally. These techniques are used in every details. Now it's actually becoming a building, but you can see that the work has been done with just woods. Since it is built without any nails, and we can dissect and reconstruct repeatedly. This is how wooden buildings are maintained for over centuries. This is called "Masu" one of the parts which holds the roof up. You can see only a small metal linkage in the center, used for reinforcement, but there is no metal anywhere else. Gradually parts are combined together. This is the one already built up. The expert techniques of carpenting are obviously essential to continue this way of work. From their experiences, masters make precise adjustments depending on temperature, humidity, and kinds of woods. We Kongo-gumi persist such handy-works without depending on machines. The reason is because "Inheritance of the techniques from 1400 years ago to the future" is the motto of our company. Persisting handy-works is the reason Kongo-gumi is who we are today. This will be the end of my presentation. You can see some tools and lumbers in front of you. Today, Kongo-gumi has branched to 8 teams. So there are 8 master carpenters and 120 carpenters in total. Working from east to west, all around Japan. Among them, today we have the one of the 8 master carpenters. If you would please give him a big hand, he might do us an extra performance. (laughter) Please welcome, Master Haba. He is the best of the 8 masters with magnificent skills. Though he is not much of a character to talk in this kind of stage, today, he has worked hard on preparation with his men. He will show you some techniques from 1400 years ago, so please make sure to take an in-depth look at it. Please take it away, master. Hello everyone. My name is Toshihiko Haba, the boss of Haba group. I'm 57 years old. My group consists of 15 guys, 7 juniors and 8 artisans, and we are working at 4 sites now. Today we will demonstrate our techniques using "spear plane" and a timberwork. I'd like to introduce my apprentices. He is my first apprentice Ikeue, working for 8 years. I am not going to tell you how Ms. Fujii smells like, And over there, he is Koichi Mutsuna, who joined this year. I will plane with this spear plane, and the 2 guys will build up with a big mallet. What are we going to build? Just wait and you will find out soon. So let's start. Oh and one more thing. You might have seen some perfomances on TV, but this spear plane was used to plane pillars. Pillars in Horyuji temple was finely smoothed using this spear plane. So, I'd like to start the performance. Now, we rarely use spear plane in our usual work, we use it at only the repair of cultural properties. To be honest I have only used this tool 3 times. (laughter) So I might fumble today and if I do please forgive me. That means today's works are going to be cultural properties, right? Oh, okay. Spear planes are different from the ones today. As it doesn't have any back holding metal and "sagami" doesn't works well. As spear planes need to be slid to right, I'll turn the timber. It's a little difficult.. Anyway, this spear creates such shavings. Since we don't have much time, I'll move on to next step. We are going to insert wedges into coaks. This technique has been around for ages. Carpenters commonly call it "hell-coak". If a wedge is inserted, we can never take it out. Cultural properties are going to come along. Ladies and gentlemen, please use your imagination and see what is to be created. It's coming along. I heard some voices from the audience saying, "Mottainai" and "I want to take it home." Aren't this scent of the wood just fantastic? This is a perfect scene to have cymbal ready to strike. (laughter) Uh.. the center X log with a stand is interesting. Such timber are... Please give them a big round of applause! After years, wood tend to wear and start cracking. So we gave it a bit of support on the back of "S". I suppose these could carry on for one or two hundreds. Boss, the "d" is opposite. Thank you for this amazing performance. Boss, do you mind to tell us little bit about your story? Please come front. It's an honor to have a TEDxSeeds logos that lasts for two hundred years. Even for thousand years. For a thousand years!? Thank you very very much. I heard you are from Hida-Takayama. And what lead you to this work, I heard, was one book of Japanese architecture. There, you were glued to the excellence of the architectural masterpiece, and you decided to be the master of Japanese architecture, right? And you were just 17 years old then. Please tell us the story. How you enrolled in Kongo-gumi. While you have to train and raise your apprentices for coming generation, you also have to be responsible as a boss of the group and protector of ancient architectural skills. This responsibility of both creating the future and protecting the past was very touching so please share it with everyone. After graduating junior high school, I went to a training school and studied common architecture. But I was not attracted to them because all the buildings seem same. At that time, I read the Japanese building book and felt "This is the work I want to do." As I was confident to do this work I looked for the company in Takayama city, but there weren't any. Since I was young and fearless at that time, I mailed a letter to the publisher of the book. And a man there was luckily kind enough to mail to the author of the book, and that's how I found Kongo-gumi. So I mailed to the chief executive of Kongo-gumi, and received a letter of appointment. Back then, when TVs weren't developed like today, my parents read the letter and said, "You are being tricked." "If you go such big city like Osaka, they will make you do a forced labor. Don't do it." And I was just 17 years old, and I couldn't overcome parents' opposition. But I really wanted to go, so I secretly created a tool box, and tried to send the box to the station. That's when my father caught me. Parents apparently sense their son's suspicions behavior. My father said "If you are that determined, you can go." "But not alone, let's go together tomorrow." So we went and met CEO of Kongo-gumi and master Miyaura who took me. My father bent his knees, and went back straight home. And yet he was my father. When I was drinking with my boss I was told that my father was sending alchohols and food to the boss 2 or 3 times a year. And that he would ask for my updates. Therefore boss took very good care of me and here I am now. Tribute. Uh.. Yes, it works well. Everyone, please draw upon his experience. Thank you very much. As it was just talked by Mr. Ohi, should things be connected by blood, by techniques, or by heart. An important question which holds the key to a bright future of Japan. The Kongo-gumi excellently crowned the "Redefinition" session. Please give them applause. Thank you very much. They have been really busy with their work plus preparation for this. They have worked over their weekends so many times. Today is a very special day so please, everybody, enjoy till the night's over. Boss was telling me that he wants to learn various things from this TEDx so I hope you'll have an enriched time here. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 28 minutes and 20 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 481
Posted by: translators on Feb 8, 2010

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