kumiko 組子


Kumiko 組子 is a characteristic ornamentation technique in traditional Japanese architecture used in the design of a Shoji Screen 障子 (paper sliding door) and a Ranma 欄間 (an openwork screen installed above the sliding partitions between two rooms).

The Kumiko technique involves a highly skilled and trained craftsman putting together small and very precisely cut pieces of wood to create ornate patterns. The delicate pieces have less than 0.1mm of tolerance with a ditch, extrusion and hole prepared with a saw, a carpenter's plane and a chisel and then assembled by hand using a hammer.

You would need about 10 year’s training from a Kumiko master to become a Kumiko craftsman. Indeed, in Japan today there exist only about 100 Kumiko experts.

Two base patterns are used when making a Kumiko screen. One of these is Hishi-Kumiko 菱組子, which is a diamond shape; the other is Koushi-Kumiko 格子組子, which is a grid pattern. You can choose either of these as a base pattern and then fill the windows to create more detailed patterns.
There are more than 200 traditional patterns in 'Kumiko' screen.
Each of these different patterns has a different meaning.

For example, the Kumiko screen in the original Hotel Okura’s signature lounge had a hemp leaf pattern, Asanoha-mon 麻の葉紋, which is one of the most popular Japanese motifs. It was commonly used in the design of kimonos and children’s clothes, as it symbolised a wish for children to grow strong like a hemp plant. The triangle shape also acts as a charm against evil spirits, so the Asanoha-mon was used to protect the house as well.

Japanese houses have become westernised over the years, and Kumiko screens are rarely used in modern interiors. I feel that I have a duty to bring the Kumiko screen and the Tokonoma space back into Japanese residential projects in a contemporary way whenever I have the opportunity.