A couple of weekends ago, Mr. SweetPersimmon and I attended a festival not far from Portland, Oregon put on the the Kominka Collective. This non-profit organization’s mission is “to save old Japanese folk houses while preserving and passing on traditional carpentry methods.”
The word kominka refers to houses built at least 50 years ago and in particular to those built before the Taisho Period. Komika were constructed with high-quality local wood, including zelkova, sakura, chestnut, and cypress. These structures are characterized by traditional Japanese timber framing using broad beams and posts, ceramic tiled roofs, and a rustic yet elegant beauty. Japanese timber framing, used for wooden construction in temples, shrines, and folk houses, has many advantages, including strength, durability, and maintainability – as well as its elegant appearance.
The day was a celebration of traditional Japanese culture. It took place at Camp Colton, a picturesque camp about an hour from our house. The large lodge structure had booths showcasing traditional Japanese arts food and culture. During the day there were taiko and shamisen performances, calligraphy, tea ceremony, ikebana, demonstrations and workshops, origami for the kids, panel discussions, restoring tansu chest workshop, yakisugi (burnt cedar) demonstrations, traditional woodworking with tools and maintenance demonstrations.
One of the presentations by Kiyomi Koike of Kominka Life Coaching. The challenges facing her led her to the healing of Japanese tea, tea ceremony and embracing the mission of Kominka preservation. One of the first Kominka disassembled, shipped overseas and reassembled is in Enterprise, Oregon where Kiyomi lives and runs her business of importing green tea and coaching people “to help you live a life as your authentic self in the midst of life’s chaos.” Enterprise is located in rural Northeast Oregon, with spectacular scenery. You can book a stay in the restored Kominka.
Besides the taiko drumming by Tako Hachi, the highlight for Mr. SweetPersimmon was the traditional Japanese tool workshop by Yann Giguere of Ashland, Oregon. Yann demonstrated how to use chisels and saws to carve intricate joinery in wood that is as beautiful as it is strong. The highlight of Yann’s presentation was tuning up the Japanese wood plane and producing translucent, thin shavings. He also let anyone who wanted to try to produce the perfect curling, continuous shaving.