The Roofer

Have you ever looked at a Japanese tile roof and thought “what a fine thing!” Just kidding. I have, for much of my life.

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This month Yamamoto Kiyokazu, the founder of roof tile manufacturer Yamamoto Kawara Co., Ltd., passed away at the age of 86. He was the master foreman on the large-scale roof restorations of such historical structures as Todai-ji Temple (Nara), and Himeji Castle (Hyogo.) In his position as touryou (棟梁), a term composed of the characters for roof ridge pole and beams, he was the man at the top of these operations.

This was important work.  These and other restorations he supervised, such as Houryu-ji Temple (Nara), which is one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world, are designated world heritage sites, and among Japan’s greatest treasures.

Mr. Yamamoto, you had quite the resume!

Sometimes, when I look up at a fine Japanese roof, I ask myself “How did it get there?” and “Who will take care of it in fifty or a hundred years?”

Well, this master roofer worked hard to promote an appreciation of tile roofing, spending many years of his life lecturing on the subject around Japan.



Thank you, Mr. Yamamoto.

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