Daikoku-bashira (大黒柱) – The main structural column or “pillar” in traditional Japanese houses. A daikoku-bashira is generally about 240 millimeters square (八寸; 8 sun) and together with the chouja-bashira (長者柱; the second largest pillar) or medaikoku (女大黒), make up the primary — and sometimes only — central support for the structure. Traditionally, these columns were left exposed and served an aesthetic purpose as well as a structural one.
What Wood to Use for Daikoku-bashira?
The Japanese zelkova or Keyaki (ケヤキ； 欅) is generally the preferred or most desirable option if price and time constraints weren’t a concern. Keyaki, often referred to as the “king of the trees” here in Japan, is a slow-growing and beautifully grained hardwood. But due to its slow growth, cost, and propensity to curve, it’s not always a viable option.
Secondary options include Hinoki (Japanese cypress; ヒノキ; 桧). Hinoki grows faster and straighter than Keyaki, and is also naturally rot-resistant. It is the most popular and widely used timber after Sugi (Japanese cedar; 杉). There is even a popular house-maker named after this tree, Hinokiya (桧家), whose houses are built with an all-hinoki boneframe.
Although many modern designs don’t incorporate these elements in the same way as they were in the past, there are many rustic designs that still partake of their traditional and nostalgic charm. The term daikoku-bashira has a figurative meaning to it as well, and refers to what we might call in English the “main pillar” of a household, or breadwinner if you will.