Research on techniques to maintain Kayabuki roofs in the City of Senboku, Akita Prefecture

Setting up wooden scaffold by a Kayabuki hut
Craftsmen thatching a roof using the Sashi-gaya technique

 Techniques of maintaining thatched roofs in Akita Prefecture were studied in mid-October 2011. Kayabuki, or a thatched roof, is a general term to explain roofs that are covered with plant fibers, such as Japanese pampas grass, reeds, and Kariyasu (Miscanthus tinctorius) and is a traditional style used on Japanese houses, temples, and shrines. Since Japan’s period of high economic growth, techniques, landscapes, and culture related to Kayabuki have rapidly disappeared. Furthermore, the decline has been spurred by a decline in the number of craftsmen due to their advancing age and the lack of materials due to environmental changes.
 Research was conducted by interviewing Kayabuki craftsmen and studying techniques firsthand with the cooperation of the “Committee for the Transmission of Kayabuki Culture, Akita.” There are basically two types of techniques to maintain a Kayabuki roof: Fuki-kae, a technique to entirely re-thatch a roof, and Sashi-gaya, a technique to partially re-thatch a roof by only changing damaged materials. The Tohoku region that faces the Sea of Japan and that includes Akita Prefecture is unique in the sense that the craftsmen there mostly maintain Kayabuki only by using the Sashi-gaya technique.
 The current study plans to investigate and record the Sashi-gaya technique in order to understand it as a folk technique and to clarify its cultural importance.

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