Alvan Koh (From Singapore)
“I was first interested in how the Japanese could make fabulous joinery and shave thin shavings. I dug deeper and became even more fascinated by the philosophy behind Japanese woodworking. Thus began my relentless learning from YouTube. For 2 years, I watched all the videos on YouTube on woodworking and honed my skills. My skills improved a lot and fast, through many hours of learning and putting what I learnt into practice. However, my learning eventually plateaued. One can only learn that much from watching a video. Because when I watched YouTube and things like ‘a hair’s width’ is used, I wonder what a hair’s width was. What is the baseline? When I mark a line on a piece of stock and begin to chisel away, how close to the line do I stop? Tiny nuances like this example are things that one cannot learn simply by watching a video- and this began my quest to look for a master who could show me by doing, explaining and then giving pointers on what I can do better.
When Suikoushya launched its Kickstarter, I did not hesitate and I was the first to commit to the month-long course. During the course, I received many valuable pointers on technique. Sensei told me what I was doing right and what I could do better. Positive affirmation is a way to learn as well; I knew what I was doing well and what I could improve on. Did you know that you can tell how much the blade of the kanna is protruding from the mouth simply by using the sense of hearing? How close to the line to chisel depended on how that face would affect the strength of the joint. Some lines were chiseled right in the middle of a pencil line, and some were left a hair’s width away; it all depends.
More valuable were the visits that Sensei arranged – visits to blacksmiths workshops, lumber yards, hiking to see old natural stone mines, tool makers festival and a visit to a tateguya-shi’s workshop. Though these visits, I could grasp what woodworking meant to the Japanese; and I could then bring these experiences back home to share with many others. I also particularly enjoyed the many hours of chatting during lunch to hear about Sensei’s experiences and anecdotes he would tell. Through these whole experiences, I could then truly be immersed into the sometimes secretive and hard to access the world of Japanese craft.
I have no doubt that Sensei is doing the right thing about opening Japanese woodcraft and sharing invaluable knowledge to the world. Whatever your level when you join, you will return home at a much higher level than before. Being the first graduate of Suikoushya International Craft School in Kyoto, I am looking forward to you joining us in the alumni of SICS.”
Johanna Lee (From Singapore)
“In Kyoto, my teacher was this Miyadaiku (shrine carpenter), and his deshi (apprentice)…” Begins the story I have retold many times. The time in Kyoto left a deep impression on me. I had come to Japan wanting to understand the spirit of craftsmanship and gain technical skill. The course had exceeded my expectations.
Projects are planned in a progressive manner so that skills build upon each other. At the end, you will be equipped with fundamentals of tool maintenance, understanding wood, and hand-tool techniques to make joints. While you probably won’t have enough time to finish all the joints on the list, Ithink the foundation is there to take it further yourself. Learning happens through a variety of means – there are real life demonstrations, videos, drawings and a lot of self-practice. I liked the emphasis on caring for tools and keeping them in the best of condition. It is a practice of self-discipline so essential in craftsmanship. In today’s world where many things are measured in terms of convenience and short-cuts, it is precious. And best of all, the teachers embody what they teach.
Other than the time in school, you can also go for your own “enrichment lessons”: visiting the tool shops around, craft museums and exhibitions in town, carpentry museums, Suikoushya workshops etc. Since Kyoto is a craft center, it’s a good location and offers a full experience. At Suikoushya, the teacher you learn from is someone knows his craft in both mind and body – as opposed to a teacher where there is a disconnect between what he teaches in theory and what he can actually do. Sensei also has a unique background having worked in Ise Jingu. He is someone who possesses valuable experience and skill.
Sensei and Dylan are a rather enigmatic team – while they are dedicated to and love traditional woodworking, their worldview is very broad and forward-looking. They are very open minded and not once will you feel a wall between yourself (as a foreigner) and them (as Japanese). For anyone committed to this craft, if it is within your means, you should really go for it. Traditional methods and living persons practicing it are becoming rarer. While such knowledge is still alive, you should take this chance of a lifetime to learn it.”
Ruben VL (From Belgium)
“Since I was completely new to Japanese woodworking and only had little experience working with western hand tools, I arrived in this school with big expectations but also with a feeling that my beginner level wouldn’t allow me to get the most out of the course.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The first day, Sensei Takami Kawai, Dylan Iwakuni and myself sat down to talk about my experience, my expectations for the coming month and what I wanted to do with the knowledge I gathered at the school afterwards.
We made a very personalized schedule, based on my skills and expectations.
Since my future is headed towards furniture making, Sensei always kept this in mind and gave me the best advice on which tools were more suitable for me, which skills were most important and what I should practice afterwards as well.
Only three months old, the school was already very professional. A combination of seeing Sensei’s technique, very elaborate explanations with the help of Dylan, videos and step-by-step plans on the school board and also room for practice by myself ( because a lot of the time it also comes down to repetition) made this a very pleasant and efficient way of learning the basics of Japanese woodworking. Sensei is obviously an amazing craftsman but also a great and patient teacher.
I should also mention that while the course is officially from 9am to 3pm, I could be there from 8am to 8pm. And in those later hours, I could always ask Sensei or Dylan a question.
Outside of the school we also went to various tool shops, lumber shops and had an amazing day in the countryside, watching a blacksmith making the tools that were later on used and seeing the effort that goes into making a traditional hand tool made me appreciate them even more ( and the importance of maintaining my own tools in the best way possible).
So as I said, I started as a novice and went back with a strong foundation in Japanese woodworking but through contact with a student that came before me and is on a higher level as me, it is obvious that this course is suitable for anybody with a passion for Japanese woodworking, no matter what level you’re on.
Something that Sensei told me various times throughout the course, proves to be true. During my stay there but also afterwards, you get to meet other people with a great passion for Japanese woodworking and by sharing your experiences, it becomes a lifelong, wonderful journey.”
Mark Plakotoris (From US)
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or an experienced woodworker/carpenter, if your serious about learning Japanese woodworking look no further. You will learn a lot and your skills, patience, and willpower will be put to the test.
Being an experienced furniture maker, I came to Suikoushya with hopes to learn some of the staples of Japanese woodworking like using the various Kannas and understanding the joints. Sensei Takami Kawai, and apprentice translator Dylan Iwakuni taught us all of that and much much more. We had lessons on wood grain structure, harvesting, native Japanese species and tree selection. They brought us to many tool shops to purchase Kannas, blades, chisels, hammers, saws, sharpening stones etc. We were taught how to setup and maintain, and use everything we acquired. One day we traveled to see some local blacksmiths who were very nice and demonstrated how they forge chisels from raw steel. We visited their shop a few weeks earlier to buy a few speciality chisels, so it was awesome to see them being made.
I really liked the format of the school, and I think it worked well for our group. The classes ran from 9am-5pm, however we could come in to work from 8am-8pm which is what I did most days. This way we could catch up on tool maintenance and sharpening, or work on joints and other projects. Believe me, there was always work to be done and not enough time.
The area around the school is very quiet and pleasant, there is a children’s school and art college nearby. There is plenty of cheap good food within a block or two and a 7-11 within a 3 minute walk. Even at night there are a handful of Izakaya’s within walking distance that are good for small groups, delicious, and affordable. Arashiyama is about a 15 minute walk away with tons of restaurants and a few temples. If you’re interested in any of the locations shoot me a message and I can send you addresses.
I can’t recommend Suikoushya enough. If your on the fence about signing up, you’re wasting your time, because this is a once in a lifetime experience. Sign up before all of the spots fill up!”
Alan Oei (From Singapore)
“To try to fill in what the other reviews missed: there’s a curriculum of sorts and official class is daily from 9 to 3. However you can and probably should stay back a few hours. I personally stayed on average to about 7pm. Sensei is usually around til 5 and is there with you in spirit and body. To give an example of how dedicated he is – when I made a wrong cut a day ago, he reminded me to adjust the other part. I totally forgot but he was able to remind me.
Curriculum wise: Week 1 is sharpening and adjusting tools. Very painful and mentally draining but absolutely critical with the sensei the to guide you along when you’re lost in the cloudy haze of seeing your own reflection and wondering if you’re doing it right or going further down hell. Week 2 you start practising your saw, chisel and plane through practical work. You will make a tool box and a whetstone base, and your fundamentals should be improved much and you’ll see how everything is connected. The muscle memory for sharpening tools translates into chiseling or paring for example.
Week 3 to 4 you work on joinery at your own pace and also learn new techniques in addition you will ignore or forget some of the principles you learnt and the wood will not let you forget where you screw up. There are up to 10 basic joinery types but most students get up to 4 or 5 only I heard (I only got up to 4). Each joinery by hand takes 1 to 2 days to complete and is immensely satisfying when the parts come together.”
Jonathan Fenderson (From Australia)
“The month-long woodworking course at Suikoushya International Craft school is a fantastic introduction to the art of traditional Japanese joinery. The course provides an introduction to both the tools and techniques of Japanese carpentry. Sensei Takami Kawai and translator Dylan Iwakuni are great teachers as well as fantastic carpenters. Their knowledge and love of Japanese carpentry and the traditional tools is infectious.
At the end of the month, I had developed an understanding of the technique and philosophy behind Japanese carpentry, and had bought a lot of cool tools! In undertaking the month-long course at Suikoushya I have developed skills that I will continue to apply to my woodworking practice for the rest of my life. I highly recommend this course!”
Seto Siu Keung (Hong Kong)
Please find this as a personal reference or review of the above named woodworking school in Kyoto, Japan. I had attended the joinery woodworking class in January 2019. During the four weeks of intensive tutorial, I was deeply impressed by the professionalism, skills, knowledge as well as the attitude towards the traditional Japanese craftsmanship. The course included basic knowledge and technique in handling working tools and equipments, knowledge about the wood, design and making of basic Japan joinery. Throughout the course, teachers exhibited the highest standard of technique and the strictest requirement in traditional Japanese craftsmanship, which I think benefited me a lot. The course further aroused my interest in woodworking and also raised my perfectionism towards any tiny tedious things in daily life and career.
Nancy Hsieh (From US)
“When I discovered Suikoushya’s Kickstarter, I pledged for the opportunity to learn something new. I am not a carpenter by any stretch and truthfully I knew so little about hand tools that I even had to learn how to use a saw correctly. But none of that phased Takami and Dylan. I feel that they truly enjoy sharing their world with others.
However, my main takeaway from the half-course wasn’t the tools or the techniques but rather Takami’s philosophy – his way of doing things. By paying attention to the details and keeping at it, even I was able to create a joint I was proud of and all the while having fun.
I definitely recommend Suikoushya for people of all carpentry levels. The learning environment is one of the best.”
Emeric Leclair (from France)
“I spent an amazing month in Suikoushya during the February 2019’s course. I have learned about tools and how important it is to have tools setted correctly. I think since I left the school I have always used that principle in my everyday life and also in my work as an engineer. I have also learned the best way to build in the most sustainable way whilst collaborating with the nature and not against it.
Takami and Dylan are very nice and respecful peoples and craftmen. I advise everyone who want to MAKE THINGS instead of buying things to participate to Suikoushya courses, it will be one of the most sustainable investment of your life.”
Javad Tizmaghz (from Malaysia)
“I looked for a woodworking teacher for 5 years and did not find anyone. Because I wasn’t looking for someone who can tell me how shape and joint wood. I was interested in finding my self, understanding life and establish a strong connection to nature. Woodworking is just one way or finding that.
My search paid off when I found Sensei Takami of Suikoushya International School Of Woodworking. And since I met him in Sept 2019 I have not been the same craftsman. I am still at the very beginning of my journey but now I feel equipped and confident to venture on. And it’s largely thanks to Takami San.
During my class in Kyoto I had kept my headset on so I can cancel out outside conversations and focus. But Sensei stoped me and asked ” Can you hear the spirit of the wood?” And these words will forever stay with me. Because at that moment I was not one with my tools and wood. I was simply imposing my will on to the material. Sensei explained that the music makes you relaxed but not concentrated. Only if you are able to hear the spirit of the wood you can work in harmony with it.
For that and many other lessons you have thought me I will forever be grateful.”
Marcus Chiu （from Hong Kong）
Rosie Hernon(from UK)
“A month of this course with Takami-san was for me like stepping into another world for awhile. I’m so glad and grateful I had this experience and will be able to carry these skills with me. I can highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to grow their mindset and their skills – you need to put the work in but get so much in return.
If you are a novice like myself, enter this course with an open mind. You will learn more than you expect, and find it more important and helpful to your progression than you thought it would be. Half the work (and more) when using hand tools is maintaining and creating tools themselves – the results on your wood working pay back this investment easily.”
Romu Gre（From France）
Miguel Sotos(Fron spain)
Charlie Rivera(From US)
Aitor Hernandez Azkueta(From spain)
“Attending the one-month Traditional Japanese Woodworking course in Kyoto during July of 2019 was an experience I will never forget. From the deep knowledge and expertise shown by the sensei, both in theory and practice, to the working style and the good friends that I made from my classmates, it was all a complete success.
“The smell of the wood, every completed exercise and the smile of all the people around me, made me enjoy every minute”
Previously busy with my work I can remember getting there with little practical experience on woodworking but leaving Kyoto, still being a beginner, but with confidence and my mind ready for any kind of woodwork challenge.
Kawai-san, our sensei, being a 宮大工 (Miyadaiku) or “Temple carpenter” he seeks the perfection in his work and this perfection is the path He transmitted to us. His knowledge is deep and every day we were having some theory that could be extended at any time with further explanations. He was always willing to share his knowledge with additional material, whiteboard drawings, books or any mean he considered easy for us to follow. Thanks to Dylan, sensei’s co-worker, we could get all the explanations translated into English, and for those with some Japanese knowledge it is the advantage to hear the explanation first in Japanese and later on in English.
Moving from the theory to the practice, taking care of your tools and having them in the optimal shape to achieve the optimal performance was an every day lesson. You can’t do a good an efficient work without having the tools ready. Bloody fingers from sharpening where a constant in our daily work, but feeling the smooth job that the chisel or the kanna can do when they are sharpened and perfectly set is nothing you can understand until you try it and you compare towards a not ready tool. Sensei was
really strict in this matter, thanks for that sensei. We had the chance to try the Kanna that sensei was using in the Kanna competitions and I can’t describe the feeling when using it and the efficiency of the cuts. I still remind all the jokes we made my classmates and me about our fingers while having a beer in the neighborhood izakaya. Now, I spend a good time to prepare the tools, enjoying it on my own pace, it is worth!!!
By Having the tools ready we were ready to start touching the wood. I got introduced to Japanese joinery, a very advanced joinery, that you can’t learn in one month but, I got the basics to continue digging into it on my own. I can’t avoid entering Japanese houses or temples and try to imagine all the joints used and the reason for using that joint in that place. As sensei told us, a Japanese carpenter trends not to show the joints what makes complicated to clearly see all them and understand its complexity.
From the practical exercises we did, all by hand, the usage of perfect jigs, with explanations on how to do the work and through the daily work You go gradually discovering the skills to address precise tasks. You can work at your own pace and it is important that you complete the tasks, but You are not over until You get the PASS from the sensei. You could think you are finish but, this is not yet flat enough, or, where is the marking? or, there are small gaps here or there… yes, I also learned about how to check the job, carrying continuous check and not rushing the job. I always had plenty of homework that I could carry on at the end of the day and during the weekends. The school was always open to us.
Since then, I have been doing some small projects on my own with the skills and confidence that Suikoushya gave me to keep learning through the practice and I keep in mind what sensei told us, “I will teach you the perfect way, by this, you will know what is possible and you will be able to judge in your projects the level you want or can achieve.”
Thomas Trad(From Lebanon)
“To whom it may concern,
The one month course spent at Suikoushya was probably one of the best experience I had and a memory I will never forget. Of course the class wouldn’t be the same without Takami, the enthusiasm he has talking about the craft is out of this world. He’s super knowledgeable, patient, and an amazing teacher.
The one month class is divided in 4 parts. We start by learning how to use, take care, and look after the Japanese
woodworking tools before moving on several project from making a tool box to very complex joinery. An hour sharpening chisels on a wet stone is better than any meditation.
I came back home a month later having learnt so much more than just woodworking techniques. It opened my eyes and heightened my critical thinking when working on different projects.
I would recommend anyone who has a passion for the Japanese culture, woodworking or in the field of design and architecture to take the class.”
Robert Prentice(From UK)
“By profession I am a furniture maker based in London having started my business around 2010.
During this time it has always been my aim to develop a skill set that went beyond the traditions of European woodworking and furniture making.
After years of searching I discovered Takami Kawai’s school Suikoushya in Kyoto. It was the first set up I had found that allowed me to learn in depth the foundations of Japanese joinery without committing myself to live in Japan for 4 or more years.
The course at Suikoushya was a month long intensive introduction into the techniques and philosophy of Japanese joinery. Takami had us set up in his workshop in Kyoto with each of us at a workstation of our own. All raw materials were provided for as well as access to his own tool collection. Before any of our own tool purchases were made we had to learn about the individual tools and their purposes. Over the course of the month I was able under Takami’s guidance to build and purchase a Japanese tool collection that would put me in perfect stead for the tasks he had designed for us as well as continuing my journey into Japanese Joinery back in London.
The design of the course was intensive but perfectly tailored to maximise the opportunity to learn new skills, techniques and joints. Takami was supremely assisted by his apprentice Dylan Iwakuni. Between the two of them there was never a moment when a question would not be
answered or a demonstration repeated for the benefit of the students. Their enthusiasm for the craft was infectious. It was a huge privilege to learn from Takami’s vast experience and to talk and share ideas so freely about a world that for me had been somewhat behind closed doors.
Our learning was not just limited to the rigours within the workshop. Trips to toolmakers, markets, other master craftsmen, temples and other famous/notable examples of Japanese woodwork helped massively to reinforce techniques and philosophies we were practicing in the
I couldn’t recommend the course more highly for anyone that is serious about learning the skills of traditional Japanese joinery. It would not be an over exaggeration to state that since taking the course my approach to my profession and business has dramatically changed direction. It is truly an extraordinary opportunity to learn from a true master of his craft who is as hungry to share his knowledge as he is to keep perfecting his craft ever further.”
Rubén Martínez Peral (From Spain)
“I enrolled Suikoushya after working as a carpenter in Japan for a year. During that year, I was only working in a way similar to how you work in Europe, surrounded bymachines. When I took Mr. Kawai’s course, for a month, I learned far more than during the entire previous year working as a carpenter. !en I graduated as an architect in 2019,in fact, the knowledge I acquired in the field of architecture, helped me later to write my
graduation thesis, on the use of solid wood in traditional construction.
What interested me most about Suikoushya was the fact that it is open to anyone who had an interest, be it carpenters, cabinetmakers or architects. From a very basic level, Mr. Kawai teaches you the use of hand tools that have great complexity, and more importantly how they are set up, a complex process that allows the tools to work with surgical precision. Once you have learned how to use Japanese tools correctly, at Suikoushya they teach Japanese architecture and how wood is used to build that
architecture, some field which is the key to understand Japanese woodworking, and few literature can be found. Later they teach the making of wooden joints that are necessary to construct traditional Japanese buildings. All these teachings are a compendium that is difficult to access, even in Japan, where to this day I only know Suikoushya as the only place where they teach in English. !e course, in my opinion, is very complete, it offers useful advice on how to develop professionally as well as delving into such a hermetic culture, such as traditional Japan. As for Mr. Kawai, he is a teacher, he is a man with a generous and clear will to teach, he tries to solve any doubt and is always willing to give you everything he knows. He worked on the construction of the Ise Shrine, the most important temple in Shintoism, which is built every 20 years. Only the best carpenters are hired to build the sanctuary. All that experience, Mr. Kawai tries to transmit through his classes, and that is why I consider that studying with him was one of the best decisions I made in my professional development.
When Mr. Kawai told me that his intention was to move to Europe to be closer to his students, I thought it was very generous of him. It is true that the course in Japan is not available to everybody, first because you have to travel there, and on the other hand the price of tools and life is expensive. !at many more people can access this type of teaching seems almost a gift and I think by coming closer to his students, Mr. Kawai will make it possible.”
Harry T Morris(From UK)
“I took part in a 1 month intensive Japanese carpentry course with Takami Kawai in Kyoto, Japan in August 2019.
After studying historic craft practice furniture making in England and developing my own collection of furniture inspired by Japanese craft discipline and aesthetic philosophy it felt like a natural next step to study in Japan. I wanted to experience the discipline and precision of Japanese carpentry in person and Takami showed and taught exactly that.
Spending 30 days in a small workshop in Kyoto in the summer was a challenge physically due to the heat and mentally because of the focus required in the work but it was no doubt worth it. I feel I learnt so much in this short time, not only learning about Japanese tools and how to care for and maintain them, or the techniques used to make precise joinery but also about how I work myself; and how I can work. Takami taught me
focus like I have not experienced before, he allowed me to develop my patients and truly refine my skills to a higher level.
Takami taught the course in Japanese and it was translated live by his colleague Dylan Iwakuni – this worked really well. By Takami teaching in his first language it allowed him to focus on the important concepts he was teaching and Dylan could translate this into English for us to understand. The two of them together created a focused yet welcoming and friendly atmosphere in the workshop.
My time at Suikoushya with Takami and Dylan has benefited me and my career more than I ever could have imagined it would, and I have recommended multiple people go and study with Takami; it was an experience I will never forget and I have achieved things I couldn’t have without it. I have been in regular contact with Takami and Dylan since
graduating, there have given me continued support and advice as I begin my journey into working for my own company traditional furniture making.”
Antonio Castillo(From US)
“It is great pleasure of mine to write this brief note of my experience in Suikoushya International Craft School in Kyoto. I participated in this course back in December of 2018 under the guidance of Sensei Takami Kawai and his assistant Dylan Iwakuni.
In my mind, it will undoubtedly take an extensive writing to recapitulate my full experience of this course, so rather I will give a mighty glance and the reason why I favorably recommend this course for anyone who wants to learn fine woodworking from one of the best ambassadors of Japanese traditional carpentry in the world; Sensei Takami Kawai.
Prior to this course, I held none experience of any type of woodworking, however this was not obstacle to pursue my dream of studying woodworking in Japan. The curriculum of this course is well-designed to accommodate all types of experiences in which the student regardless of their woodworking skills will methodically attain skills and knowledge in a series of comprehensive lectures, and hands-on practice of various Japanese joinery projects.
Again, coming from a background of no woodworking experience, I found myself realizing that as I progressed with each week, I was bettering my woodworking skills aside the nuances with the techniques and joinery methods. Furthermore, I embraced the philosophy of this tradition of first hand when walking around perdurable shrines and admiring the joinery and its quintessential beauty that makes these many shrines still standing in Japan. What continues to make this course memorable in my opinion, is Sensei Takami; a devoted master of this craft, who is submerge in his teaching a tradition that is so honorable, and times very guarded in Japan, to anyone in the world. Whatever your level is when you join Suikoushya International Craft School, you will return home with traditional woodworking skills and the philosophy of traditional Japanese carpentry like no other course in the world.
I would like to finish by stating in this brief note that I consider myself fortunate now to be called an alumni of Suikoushya International Craft School (SICC), and my hope that you will too.”
Sophie Bastianutti（From France）
En novembre 2019, j’ai suivi l’enseignement de Takami Kawai dans son école Suikoushya International Craft School, située à Kyoto.
La formation, d’une durée d’un mois, s’est révélée extrêmement enrichissante et très bien organisée. L’enseignement de Takami Kawai vise à transmettre les méthodes de construction traditionnelles japonaises et nous fait passer par toutes les étapes, de l’affûtage des outils, au tracé et à la coupe. En tant qu’architecte, j’ai pu découvrir par la pratique une manière de construire qui ne m’avait pas été enseignée en France. L’apprentissage se fait au sein d’un petit groupe (4 personnes), ce qui permet à Takami Kawai de s’adapter au niveau de chacun et aux différents objectifs personnels ainsi que d’être très attentif au travail produit.
Au-delà du travail à l’atelier, Takami Kawai avait également l’envie de nous faire découvrir le travail d’autres corps de métier tels que la fabrication des outils en métal ou du papier japonais. Ces visites sont de vraies initiations à la culture japonaise et témoignent de l’ouverture d’esprit de Takami Kawai.
J’ai eu pour ma part la chance de pouvoir aller jusqu’à Kyoto pour suivre son cours mais cela reste un investissement important financièrement et personnellement. Ouvrir une école en France lui permettrait de transmettre un savoir ancestral qu’il est très difficile d’aquérir en Europe.
Je ne peux que recommander la mise en place du projet de Takami Kawai.
Santeri Venha(From Finland)
“I travelled to Kyoto and Suikoushya with a great eagerness to learn the secrets of Japanese woodworking. I cannot praise the one month woodworking course at Suikoushya enough. Since attending the intensive one month course at Suikoushya in November 2019 I have started my own woodworking business as a furniture maker. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect upon the teachings I learned at the school. I learned skills and methods of working that have brought a new level of focus in my work and I will continue to apply and develop these skills for the rest of my life. I feel I have built a whole new foundation to my work after studying at Suikoushya.
Teacher Takami Kawai is the most dedicated teacher and carpenter I have ever met. His passion and enthusiasm to woodworking is overwhelming and the precision in his work is a great inspiration to me professionally. Takami’s apprentice Dylan Iwakuni was also a great help during the course and he shares the same passion to woodworking with Takami.
I highly recommend Suikoushya to anyone interested in Japanese woodworking and woodworking with hand tools especially. The tradition, techniques and precision needed in adjusting, sharpening and using Japanese hand tools is something I believe would be very hard to learn without a good teacher. At Suikoushya you can acquire a great understanding to the foundations of Japanese woodworking and you can learn a skillset that you can use and develop for the rest of your life.”
Simon Kuwahata (From Japan)
“Thank you sensei Kawai Takami for sharing your Japanese carpentry knowledge to the world! My life long desire of becoming a carpenter has finally taken its path. I always dreamed of one day acquiring the skills of Japanese carpentry so that I can express my self through wood working and carpentry. I have been studying and trying out Japanese carpentry techniques by my self in the past with little progress. At times it can be frustrating because you can not achieve the desired result and also feelings of uncertainty linger all the time as I am unsure if I am actually doing things correctly. Also I have considered apprenticing under building companies in order to fulfill my dreams as a carpenter but this takes a lot of sacrifice such as years and years of dedication to carpentry and carpentry only. I always wondered if there was a school where Japanese carpentry was thought more casually and in a shorter time span. Before when I was looking years ago nothing like that existed which was disappointing, but recently when I started to search again I discovered Suikoushya. At first sight I knew this was the place! The problem was the school was so popular because of the teaching style and being able to cater to English speaking people the classes were always booked out. Luckily for me I was able to get in due to everyone canceling because of corona virus. Hence I was taught one on one with sensei Kawaisan! When I arrived to the school I immediately felt at peace as the class room was built artistically using Japanese style joi nery and techniques. It felt as though it was a little wood working sanctuary amidst the busy city of Kyoto. Sensei has structured the class so that you progress step by step towards more difficult tasks by building up on necessary skills. Firstly getting to know all about Japanese carpentry tools. The variety of Japanese tools are extremely vast, each with its specific purpose and specific way to take care of it. In Japanese temple carpentry there are so many intricate work being done that require it’s own specific tool for that certain job. You will be amazed at the amount of tools sensei will show you in class! For a wood worker it is so mind blowing to see such tools. It is impossible to know every single tool at first so you will concentrate on the most commonly used tools and learn how to tune them and look after them. A big part of tool maintenance is sharpening. This is important in Japanese carpentry because if the tools aren’t sharp you can not even begin to work with wood. So sensei teaches you all about the wonderful world of sharpening. After you master sharpening, you then proceed onto using your sharp chisels to make some nice pieces of wood work. One of which includes making your own Kanna Dai (plane block)! You are also challenged to make various traditional Japanese joinery that require sharp chisels and precision. Sensei will guide you thoroughly through the process with guaranteed results. Ohh the feeling is so good when you get the joinery to fit nicely. On top of all the practical knowledge that sensei provides, I was amazed at his way of thinking towards woodworking. His philosophy obtained through many years of woodworking and carpentry experience is eye opening. He explains in depth about your state of mind while working and how this affects everything. His philosophy somehow also relates to life so I was deeply touched by his words. Experiencing woodworking in Kyoto for one month has deepened my knowledge towards woodworking and also gave me confirmation that woodworking is a skill that I must hone and enjoy. I encourage everyone who is thinking of learning woodworking to attend the course at Suikoushya! It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life!”
Roch ROBAGLIA（From France）
“I loved this month of class. I discovered a lot of things there around the woods but also about me and about another fascinating culture. I particularly appreciated the balance between the intellectual and practical part.
I admired your patience throughout the court especially with the sharpening. I thank you for your presence and your availability to answer all our questions.
Where there is room for improvement: Being a beginner, I may have liked more advice at the beginning on how to hold the tools properly (especially the chisels). I could have avoided damaging them from the start. At the same time it allowed me to live the experience to better understand their use.
The end of the internship (the last 3 days) was a bit strange and seemed less structured as I remained from the internship. Maybe I wanted to do it too much and failed to do it well. Not having finished my last assembly before the ceremony I found it a little strange.
In the end, this internship was really at the top and brought me beyond my hopes. The concepts discussed make you want to practice more and deeply the universe of wood.
I am aware of my progress and my shortcomings, especially in sharpening. And that I am just a novice in this field, I am still very interested in participating in the Millemont project to go further. Give me some news on its progress.
Looking forward to continuing to work with wood together. Have a good day and good woodworking with your news students :)”
Lokesha Haber(From Sweden)
Onno van Ameijde (From Netherlands )
Although a month is short in a way, I feel like I now have a very firm and confident base set of skills and knowledge on which I can build further. It helped me a lot to have a few clearly defined learning goals before starting the course. There was very much opportunity to ask individual questions, and with help from Takami to reach your own goals. As the course has a small number of students per group there is much room for individual attention. My advice to future students would be: give as much time, energy and attention during the course as you can muster, as there is no end to the amount of knowledge and growth you can get from this course. Just watching Takami-san while he worked has thought me much already. And, apart from a great teacher, nothing beats working a full month doing just one thing: woodworking. I felt my senses get sharper and more sensitive to small changes, my eyes learned to see better, and my body to work more efficient. To me, it was an amazing and very profitable experience, that will stay with me, and grow, in the future.
“Voor mijzelf was de cursus van een maand een geweldige ervaring. Als amateur houtbewerker had ik al langer interesse in de Japanse benadering van dit ambacht. Hoewel ik veel informatie kon vinden op internet en in enkele boeken, bleef ik met veel vragen zitten. Iedere bron zei weer wat anders, en specifieke vragen stellen was niet mogelijk. Het ging er mij om een solide basis te krijgen in hoe om te gaan met Japans gereedschap waarop ik met zelfvertrouwen kon verder bouwen. Ik was daarom erg enthousiast toen ik ontdekte dat Takami Kawai les ging geven in Frankrijk. Hoewel ik niet zeker wist wat ik kon verwachten bleek Takami een uiterst toegewijde en gedreven leraar te zijn. Hij is geduldig, en houdt zijn uitleg vol tot je het écht begrijpt. Takami heeft een goede leerstrategie uitgedacht en gedurende de maand bouw je je kennis en vaardigheden op. Hoewel er rond veel Japanse kunsten en ambachten een romantische zweem van geheim en mystiek hangt is Takami duidelijk een moderne ambachtsman. Zijn kennis en vaardigheden zijn van de bovenste plank, en stammen uit een eeuwenoude traditie, maar hij deelt ze ruimhartig en met een open instelling (en ruimte voor humor). Hij laat zien dat Japanse houtbewerking een plek heeft in het nu, en te leren is door iedereen. Dat gezegd hebbende is Takami ook een Japanner, en is de hen zo kenmerkende diepgang, concentratie, en gedrevenheid ook goed merkbaar, en zeer inspirerend. Het zien werken van zo’n vakman is al een studie op zich. Takami’s Engels is misschien nog niet zo vloeiend als dat je van een gemiddelde Europeaan kunt verwachten, maar dit vormde tijdens de cursus zeker geen hindernis.
Omdat de groep cursisten per maand klein is, is er veel ruimte voor individuele vragen en ontwikkeling. Er is op die manier voor zowel ervaren houtbewerkers als beginners heel veel te leren. Ook ervoer ik een goede sfeer onder de studenten; we hielpen elkaar ook groeien. Los van dat alles: jezelf 100% inzetten en verdiepen gedurende een volle maand geeft je vaardigheden een enorme groeispurt. Vingers worden handiger en gevoeliger, je lijf sterker en je ogen en brein scherper. Na afloop van deze cursus heb ik het gevoel een grondige basis te hebben waarop ik kan voortbouwen.”
Raphael de Mévius （From Bergium）
” This one month course was an amazing introduction to Japanese carpentry. I would recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in the matter. I was a bit apprehensive before entering Suikoushia International craft school in Marseille since I was a real beginner, but I don’t regret one minute spent there. Takami Kawai is a great teacher. He is very patient and involved. He really knows what he talks about. Everytime, he explained something to us, he took the time to make sure every student had understood.. He was always available for questions or general discussion about carpentry. Moreover, our workshop was beautiful, located on a hill overlooking the mediterranean sea. We were a small group of five, which was a perfect number since it allowed Takami to help us one after the other. The workshop was always filled with a focus, working atmosphere. Seriously, I will remember this month for a long time. Thank you Takami! I hope our paths cross again (90° of course ;-). ”
jean pascal Giraldi (From France)
Hello I’m Jean Pascal Giraldi,
Filip Neyrinck (From Belgium)