Traditional Japanese Architecture, Design & Woodworking

About Us

East Wind (Higashi Kaze), Inc. works with clients to design and build traditional Japanese houses, guest houses, additions, barns, bridges, and gates. We provide consultation and finished components for the designs or structures of others as well. We also design and make furniture, doors, and windows. We have overseen the design and construction of structures as simple as elegant garden seats and gates and projects as complex as multi-million dollar houses, board rooms, and executive suites.

In the 1970's Len Brackett, head of East Wind, spent seven years in Japan, five of them training as a temple carpenter apprentice in Kyoto. Temple carpentry, along with tea house carpentry, is the pinnacle of the architectural woodworking tradition in Japan. A body of knowledge accumulated over centuries by craftsmen who habitually refine every element of their trade isn't picked up easily; learning temple carpentry is excruciatingly intensive. Brackett's apprenticeship required working ten to twelve hour days, seven days a week, with only a day or two off every month. Upon his return to America in 1976, he began a thirty-year career of adapting traditional Japanese houses for American clients.


East Wind designs and build three kinds of houses: the traditional classic Japanese house; the westernized version of that house, intended for furniture; and the westernized hybrid combining traditional and conventional construction techniques.

  • The traditional Japanese house is not a western house with a few Japanese touches, but the authentic classical house associated with ancient Japan. East Wind's traditional Japanese house is a true timber frame, designed for futons and portable furniture. Tatami mats cover some floors, and engawas (verandas) between living quarters and the gardens are standard. Tokonomahs (art alcoves), chigai-dana (staggered shelves), and genkan (formal entry ways) are commonly found in East Wind traditional houses.

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    Guest house, Bay Area.

    Typical traditional entry step up.

    Guest house, looking out, snow-viewing shoji.

    Traditional master bed room with study desk.

  • The westernized version of the classical Japanese house is designed and constructed with traditional techniques, materials, and workmanship-but adapted to contemporary western lifestyles. The modernized house is no less finely crafted than the traditional one. Designed to accommodate furniture, it is considered more comfortable and "cozy" than its classical counterpart.

    Guest room across interior garden to master bedroom.

    Interior stair well.

    Another kitchen.

    Living room incense cedar log actually carries roof load.

  • The hybrid house ( Type 3) is a less expensive westernized version; its construction blends traditional details and building processes with conventional building techniques. This house is designed so that local contractors perform more of the on-site construction, thereby reducing cost. It has many of the elegant features of the homes photographed here and can be either conventional stud frame or a true timber frame, or a combination of the two.

    Interior engawa and garden.

    Mixed construction house.

    Wood ceilings, sheet rock wall type 3.

East Wind is experienced in designing and building Japanese houses to meet building code requirements. We have spent three decades adapting our houses to satisfy American architectural expectations of warmth, energy efficiency, and comfort. Building the Japanese House Today (Harry Abrams, 2005), a book Len Brackett and co-author Peggy Rao took five years to write, thoroughly discusses these adaptations.

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