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Experiencing Traditional Japanese Architectural Techniques (5): "Wa-Kugi" (Japanese Nails)

Updated: 5 days ago



At the Kigumi Museum, visitors can experience more than just timber framing; most of these techniques are registered as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage under "Traditional skills, techniques, and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan." In this blog, I will explain the traditional Japanese architectural techniques displayed at the Timber Framing Museum in sequence.


Experiencing Traditional Japanese Architectural Techniques (5): "Wa-Kugi" (Japanese Nails)

What is Wa-Kugi?


Wa-Kugi are traditional Japanese nails that have been used since the Asuka period. Their most distinctive feature is their thick, angular shaft, which increases the surface area in contact with the wood, thereby enhancing the fixing strength and supporting the durability of buildings over long periods. Each Wa-Kugi is handcrafted by artisans, making every nail slightly different in thickness, which contributes to the delicacy of Japanese architecture.


Main Differences Between Wa-Kugi and Western Nails


  1. Appearance: Wa-Kugi have a variety of head shapes but most have angular shafts. In contrast, Western nails, which were introduced to Japan from Europe during the Meiji era, typically have flat heads and round shafts.

  2. Manufacturing Method: Wa-Kugi are handcrafted one by one by craftsmen, which makes them more expensive than mass-produced Western nails. However, this also means that the quality and characteristics of the nails are superior.

  3. Rust Resistance and Durability: Western nails tend to rust over time, which can penetrate into the wood. However, Wa-Kugi are made through a forging process that produces an oxidized film, making them less prone to rust and maintaining their performance over a long period. Additionally, Wa-Kugi have the property of bending naturally around knots in the wood, due to being made of soft iron.


Let's Learn Traditional Japanese Architectural Techniques


Wa-Kugi possess distinct characteristics in their manufacturing method, material, and shape compared to Western nails. These differences demonstrate how traditional Japanese architectural techniques have adapted to unique cultural backgrounds and environmental requirements. The handmade nature of Wa-Kugi requires meticulous attention and skill to maintain the structure and beauty of buildings for long periods. This transcends mere building materials, reflecting the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship and a fine sense of beauty.


As a continuation of traditional skills, the use of Wa-Kugi brings value to modern constructions and forms an important element of cultural heritage. Thus, Wa-Kugi occupies an important position not only in the history of Japanese architecture but also in cultural history, underscoring the importance of preserving these techniques and aesthetics for the future.


Join us at the Kigumi Museum to explore the traditional Japanese architectural techniques firsthand.



Experiencing Traditional Japanese Architectural Techniques (5): "Wa-Kugi" (Japanese Nails)

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