In a nondescript building in Tokyo there is a little-known museum that celebrates on of Japan’s most distinctive crafts: kigumi, or interlocking wooden joints.
Japanese wood joinery dates back to the seventh century and is a craftsmanship technique that involves complicated, interlocking wooden joints that form bonds without the use of nails, screws or adhesives. At the Kigumi Museum, which opened in the fall of 2015, two separate installation rooms exhibit the history and various techniques involved in kigumi. And the best part is that most of the exhibits are hands-on, allowing visitors to actually touch, feel, pick up and even attempt to assemble some of the wooden joints.
The head of the museum is a friendly man who has practiced the craft for over 40 years and is personally responsible for the restoration of the neighboring Anahachimangu Shrine. And the museum is free! The only drawback is that it’s not very well marked, which makes it easy to miss. But that also means less people! It’s also only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as the first Saturday of each month, so check your calendar before visiting. You might want to call ahead just to make sure they’re open.
If you’re really into kigumi, also check out this twitter account of animated gifs illustrating the many techniques.