Prelude to the NHK World show: the process to the nakanuri finish

[THE SHOW: Kyoto Walls: Elegance Molded from Earth

Airing on July 7, 2016, on NHK World, Core Kyoto’s classical Kyoto walls episode will include scenes of this nakanuri finish application on site.  The following blog entry describes how the plaster was created, and about the application.  Depending on how they edit the footage shot on site, you will get to see a pro in action with this very plaster, saving me from pretending I can take it to the finish.  The show will be available online for a month. (If you happen to get the NHK World channel, it will show four times on Thursday, July 7th, Japan time.)  It is very exciting.  The channel airs to 170 countries, and 200 MILLION households.  Maybe seeing a white girl speaking Japanese, with English subtitles, will tickle people’s attention.  Maybe they will remember this elegant earthen option when refinishing the walls of their own homes.  I hope you and your friends watch!  I know it will be fascinating.]

Nakanuri is typically just the same as a “brown coat,” meaning, it’s the plastered application before the finish plaster, or the substrate to the finish plaster.  Depending on the structure and the budget, though, it can sometimes be the finish coat itself.  In that case, it is often prepared especially to serve that purpose.  I was able to document the process while Asahara Ichiro and I prepared the two different nakanuri finishes used for the residence that became a special place to me:  the location where the NHK World film crew took footage of my mentor, Ichiro, pumping up the scene for them to film the odd American girl that’s hooked on this classical Japanese plastering stuff.

So, without further ado…



Prepping the materials




Mixing the materials  (the photo on the left tells the most)

Loading the materials



Nakanuri always goes on in two passes with a jigane trowel.  Here, being the finish, it gets a little extra attention.  After the second pass is applied, a 0.4mm thick hanyaki trowel is used to give the right texture.  The crew aimed to barely expose the straw, while it lay at the surface in “just the right way,” a soft way.  Note: no compression.


Big hallway wall, still wet

This was an old house, so most of the substrates that were being plastered were arakabe, or scratch coat of clay/straw over bamboo lattice work.  That means you loose your moisture much quicker than going over something like drywall, which is not so absorbent.  This crew doesn’t even think about keeping the windows closed to keep from loosing moisture to the wind, the way I’ve done for finishes over strawbale walls in the U.S.  They just open the windows right up and welcome in the cool breeze.  They work with that much speed and confidence.  We didn’t use tape on this job except for the walls that were finished with lime or lime-clay.




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