Daisugi is a forestry technique from Japan that is almost 6 centuries old. It consists of creating a platform of trees. This platform can then be used to plant and grow more trees. This traditional art can be a big help in preventing deforestation. Furthermore, it also leads to perfectly round, more flexible, stronger, and straight timber.
‘Bonsai’ is a Japanese word that you may have heard of already. The literal meaning of the word is “planted inside a container”. Bonsai is a technique used in horticulture. It is used to create miniaturized versions of trees that are usually very large normally. The technique is very popular for decoration and ornamentation purposes.
However, Daisugi is a technique that is similar to bonsai. This Japanese technique is not nearly as well-known or popular across the globe. The origins of the technique date back to approximately the 15th century. In the city of Kyoto in Japan, this horticultural style named Daisugi was developed. In Japanese, it is denoted by 台杉. The literal meaning of the team is “platform cedar”.
Daisugi: Trees Growing Out Of A Hand
The technique led to a grown tree that looks like the hand’s palm that is turned upwards. Inside the open palm-like area, there are growing multiple trees that are also perfectly vertical. Daisugi makes use of several principles that are present in Bonsai. However, the final results are not similar at all. Instead of small ornamental plants, Daisugi creates timber that is more flexible and stronger. The timber is also perfectly straight and round. Most importantly, it reduces how much we need to cut down normal trees in the wild.
The forestry technique makes use of cedar trees that are specially planted. They are heavily pruned, similar to the process of growing a bonsai. As such, “shoots” are produced that grow perfectly uniformly. The lumber does not have any knots or any bends. Every two years, the shoots get a gentle and careful pruning. The pruning is done by human hands. Only the top-most boughs are left. This results in the trees in the palm-like areas growing straight.
Harvesting trees that are grown in such a manner can take up to two decades. Furthermore, as many as one hundred shoots can be grown on a single fully mature “tree stock”.
The origin of the style did not have much to do with forest preservation. It had more to do with the raw materials of architecture. Back in the fourteenth century, high fashion involved a type of very stylized and straight architecture called sukiya-zukuri. However, the amount of raw material required to build a home in this style was far more than what was available. Furthermore, given its popularity, almost every noble or samurai who was anybody wanted it. Thus this style was developed for its space-saving trait as well.
However, outward appearance was not the only thing in mind. The lumber of Daisugi is 40% more flexible than the usual cedar. Furthermore, its density/strength is twice that of the usual. This meant that the wood was extremely suitable for roof timbers and rafters. These were the places, in the architectural style, where the aesthetics needed slender wood that can also withstand typhoons, Of course, the perfect straightness was also a must.
The Daisugi’s appearance is quite peculiar. However, by the 1500s, the demand for this type of lumber had drastically reduced. As such, ornamental gardens became the new home for such type of horticulture.
Daisugi Is Still Alive
You can still find abandoned huge Daisugi in areas of Kyoto. The trees produce lumber for 2 to 3 centuries before wearing out. Some of them are still living, measuring more than 15 meters in the diameter of their trunks.
Thus, the traditional style still lives on. Even though it is fading, with enough popularity perhaps this method will have enough attention to be implemented globally. The human attention required is huge, however, the number of resources that it provides is also irreplaceable.