The Ancient Japanese Technique That Produces Lumber Without Cutting Trees

Daisugi is an ancient Japanese forestry technique in which planted cedars are pruned in a special way to produce "shoots" that eventually become perfect, straight, knot-free lumber.

This is an ancient method, developed in the 14th century, which was originally used by people living in the Kitayama region of Japan because saplings were lacking.

The terrain in the region is very mountainous, and the steep slopes make planting and caring for trees very difficult, so arborists used the daisugi technique not only to reduce the number of plantations but also to produce denser wood in a much shorter time.
Ancient Japanese Technique  Lumber Without Cutting Trees

Harvesting these shoots takes much less than the time it takes to grow a mature tree.


"The shoots are carefully and gently pruned by hand every two years leaving only the top boughs, allowing them to grow straight. Harvesting takes 20 years and old 'tree stock' can grow up to a hundred shoots at a time. The technique originated in the 14th century", according to Wrath Of Gnon.

How To Produce Lumber Without Cutting Trees

The other reason the technique was developed was fashion. In the 14th century, a linear, stylized form of architecture known as sukiya-zukuri was extremely popular, and every prominent samurai or nobleman wanted a house built in this way. There were simply not enough raw materials available to keep up with demand, so daisugi was developed to produce more wood in a shorter time.

Hence this clever solution of using bonsai techniques on trees.
Technique That Produces Lumber Without Cutting Trees

Not only could this lumber be produced in record time, but it was also more flexible and durable than ordinary cedar. Wood produced in this way is 140% more flexible than standard cedar and 200% denser and stronger. This is particularly important for houses being built in Japan, where typhoons are common. In other words, it was absolutely perfect for rafters and roof timber where aesthetics called for slender yet typhoon resistant perfectly straight lumber.
 Japanese Technique That Produces Lumber Cutting Trees

The other benefit of this method is that it is durable. Instead of cutting down massive swathes of forest, only the shoots are cut. Because it takes only about twenty years for new shoots to grow, these specialized trees can keep up with the demand for lumber in a way that ordinary forestry cannot, and are much less harmful to the environment.
Lumber Without Cutting Trees The Ancient Japanese Technique That Produces

"The daisugi looks very peculiar, so even when demand for the lumber dropped off in the 16th-century demand for them in ornamental gardens kept the forest wardens busy."

Daisugi - Ornamental Use


By the 16th century, demand for lumber had declined, but there was still a demand for these distinctive-looking trees.

Because of their intriguing appearance, many people across the country wanted them as ornamental plants in their gardens, so this trend has kept the practice alive.

"Here and there in the forests around Kyoto you will find abandoned giant daisugi (they only produce lumber for 200-300 years before being worn out), still alive, some with trunk diameters of over 15 meters. Out of this world beautiful."

A Unique Japanese Technique

Many people marvel at the beauty and ingenuity of the daisugi technique. A similar technique is also used in other parts of the world, such as the UK, but under the name Coppice and Pollarding.

While the technique is similar, it's not exactly the same, as daisugi only works with seedlings from a specific mutant cedar in a specific location in Kyoto.
Technique The Ancient Japanese  That Produces Lumber Without Cutting Trees

So while we won't be able to use daisugi in other countries, it's yet another example of the ingenuity Japan has passed on to us over the centuries - a small country with excellent, hard-working, and innovative citizens who find creative solutions to problems many others would never think of.

View Our Journal  & News 

Shop now