Daisugi Is A 600 Year Old Form Of Japanese Pollarding With Roots In Bonsai. It Started In The Kitayama Area & Is Now A Feature In Gardens.

Daisugi technique originated as part of the traditional architecture of Japan, which is admired for its elegance and meticulous craftsmanship. The daisugi tree technique solved a national tree shortage problem as it had previously required centuries to cultivate the timber used and use outstripped growing ability.

By the 15th century Japan was facing a shortage of tree seedlings and land suitable for cultivating trees. In response to this challenge, the ingenious technique of daisugi was developed. Daisugi in some senses is similar to pollarding and involves “growing additional trees out of existing ones”, resembling a kind of giant bonsai, to produce perfectly straight lumber known as taruki.  (In Japanese written s 垂 it can mean hang down or suspend.” Though the colloquial translation is rafter. )

Daisugi - Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kitayama Perfection for Tea Houses

The technique of daisugi originated in Kyoto during the 16th century, where it was driven by the demand for perfectly straight logs used in traditional teahouse construction. Tea master Sen-no-Rikyu demanded perfection in Kitayama cedar, leading to the development of daisugi. The method involves pruning the branches of cedar trees so that the remaining shoots grow vertically from a platform, creating a palm-like structure.

Originally developed as a forestry management technique, daisugi has also become an aesthetic feature in Japanese gardens. It allows for the harvest of straight logs without cutting down the entire tree, resulting in sustainable forestry practices. The timber produced through the technique is highly flexible and dense, making it ideal for rafters and roof timber. Despite being developed over 600 years ago, daisugi’s product is still admired worldwide for its quality and durability.

Similar to pollarding techniques in Britain, daisugi helps to avoid deforestation and has environmental benefits. While demand for the sukiya-zukuri architectural style waned, the technique remained in ornamental Japanese gardens. Today, it continues to be practiced by some, preserving Japan’s cultural heritage and contributing to sustainable forestry practices.

Daisugi Versus Pollarding

Mention of pollarding is relevant though the traditional coppiced English timber was often grown for boatbuilding and were required to be curved. Ditto for Cruck Framed house timbers where a curved timber was used in roof construction.

Daisugi: A Rich Japanese Tradition

Daisugi exemplifies the ingenuity of Japanese horticulture and forestry management, offering an efficient, sustainable, and visually stunning approach to tree cultivation. It not only addresses the challenges of seedling and growing space shortages but also produces high-quality lumber while preserving the base and root structure of trees. As an integral part of Japanese culture, daisugi stands as a testament to the country’s rich tradition of craftsmanship and environmental stewardship.

Image Attribution: Bernard GagnonCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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