There are so many wonderful options for exploring and experiencing the Japanese culture: festivals, food, clothing, holidays, shopping. Yet, one not so common option is repair of traditional Japanese houses.
It seems that many Japanese people find little interest in preserving the past and traditions. As a result, it’s quite common for them to leave the old, traditional Japanese houses for newer, modern homes or apartments. As a result, many of these gorgeous, uniquely-designed homes have fallen into disrepair from countless years of neglect.
Yet, many westerners find these homes beautiful with their traditional tatami mats, sliding shoji doors, and kotatsu for the warm weather. As a result, my host here in Japan is renting an old Japanese home from one such family who no longer cares for it. However, there is much work to be done to repair, refurbish, and maintain the extraordinary culture that rests in each room of the house.
It just so happens that I get to help out with some of this repair and while I’ve never been much for handy-work, as I don’t have a steady hand, or the engineering mind required for it, I was able to help with repairing shoji! Not hard work, but tedious, time-consuming, and well worth the effort! Let me show you!
1. First, you must remove the current paper from the shoji. To do this, one must wet the paper with water and sponge, which looses the glue holding the paper to the wooden frame.
2. Once the paper is removed, you must wipe the wooden frame of any little paper flakes you missed and dry it.
3. Apply a thin layer of glue to the wooden frame where the shoji paper will be applied.
4. Roll out the shoji paper along the length of the door/window and cut from the excess of the roll.
5. Using a flat surface(such as a ruler), gently slide it along the top of the shoji paper to adhere it to the wooden frame. Make sure the paper is tight against the inner edges and corners.
6. Using an X-acto knife, slice off the excess paper following the inner edge of the door/window.
7. With a spray bottle, gently spray the shoji paper with a small amount of water. The drying will cause the paper to harden and stay firm after returning the doors/windows to their places within the Japanese house.
And voila! You can tell the bottom shoji are new by their lighter color whereas the top shoji has not yet been replaced. The paper weathers and yellows with time and sunlight. For this reason, shoji are meant to be replaced once a year in the spring. Yet, it is more common for the Japanese to repair the shoji once every five-ten years. At least, if a child hasn’t poked any holes through the paper. Haha!
So, that’s my fun piece of Japanese culture for today! Hope you enjoyed!