The above image is Horyuji temple. Do you know it’s the world’s oldest wooden building (registered as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage), built in 607, about 1400 years ago? As you may know that, Japan is a country of earthquake. It’s a harsh environment especially for wooden buildings. Actually, the average lifetime of current residential buildings is about 30 years in Japan, which is much shorter than that of US (around 100 years) and UK (around 150 years), for example. Let’s see why Horyuji temple can exceptionally exist for such a long time.
There are mainly two reasons for that. One is its earthquake-proof structure. The joints of the building frame were designed to be flexible to reduce the shaking force of earthquakes, which has surprised many researchers. Another reason is continuous maintenance. Next to such temples and shrines in the past, there were always residential areas for carpenters in charge of daily maintenance.
On the other hand, most current residential buildings in Japan were built after WWII, when speed was prioritized for people who lost their houses. Such quick-build houses are structurally weak, and now, most people come to think a house is only for one generation; nor maintain their houses too seriously. Consequently, the lifetime of our furniture sometimes becomes longer than houses, and it is handed over and continues to be used by the next generation, which is an honor for us. For both houses and furniture, daily maintenance is the key to long life.