Though we prefer to distinguish the architect/designer from the builder in Western building, in Japan the carpenter is also the architect. Japanese carpentry is famous for its ability to construct anything from temples to houses, tea houses, and furniture without the use of nails, screws, or power equipment. The Japanese have developed many different tools over the years which allow them to complete construction projects quickly and efficiently.
Although they may not be visible in today's modern buildings, nails were originally only used as locking devices until around A.D. 400 when people started using them as decorative features. Today most new buildings are nailed together with wooden boards serving as the main source of strength instead of iron or steel frames.
The traditional Japanese house was mostly made up of wood, with the exception of the roof which usually consisted of thatch or shingles. Houses in rural areas might have had dirt floors while those in town could have had wood ones. They were always simple and sparsely decorated, with plants added for color.
In Japan, houses are built with timber framing. The walls are constructed of horizontal beams called joists, on which sheaves of straw or hemp are tied at roughly 45-degree angles, creating a light but strong frame. The spaces between the beams are filled with plaster or clay and sometimes reinforced with bamboo strips. The floor is made of wood planks. Ceilings are usually low and often do not have any supporting beams.
Timber and clay have been the primary building materials in Japanese home construction for hundreds of years. The structure is made of wood, while the walls are made of clay. In order to protect the wooden parts from insects and fungi, they are often coated with a layer of plaster or some other type of paint.
In more recent years, concrete has become popular as an alternative building material in Japan. Concrete buildings are known for their durability and longevity; they can withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters without damage.
Concrete is made up of small particles called "aggregates" (rock, sand, etc.) mixed with water and cement. When exposed to heat, moisture, and air, concrete naturally becomes aged and discolored. This is not considered a defect but rather another way for builders to add variety to their structures. A concrete building will never decay nor deteriorate under normal conditions.
The color of concrete varies depending on the ingredients used during its creation. The standard color for concrete in Japan is white, although colored concretes are available if you want something other than white. Colored concretes are commonly used as playground equipment and sports fields because they make these areas more visible to children and athletes.
Traditional Japanese homes are constructed by stacking wooden columns on top of a level base of packed dirt or stones. Wooden homes may be found all over the world. However, since much of Japan is made up of islands with few natural resources, most buildings are built using wood that has been imported from elsewhere in the world.
In order to keep track of which column is which, the builders mark them with cedar shims. They also use pegs and strings to hold the walls in place until they can be cemented into position.
The doors and windows are made of wood, too. In fact, almost everything in a Japanese home is made of wood. Even the floors are made of planks. The only metal used in traditional houses is ironmongery for cooking tools and armor for samurai.
You might wonder why there aren't any steel structures in these houses. That's because Japan isn't a big country, so building anything huge like a skyscraper is difficult. Also, since most disasters are caused by earthquakes, it makes sense not to build highly concentrated areas of stress into the ground. Instead, the Japanese prefer to use timber because it's easy to find and fast-growing trees will replace what's been lost in case of disaster.