The word ‘tradies’ paints a very Australian picture; high-vis shirt, lace up workman boots, shorts, a small esky style lunch box, ute and beer stubbies. The hard working tradies of Australia have a certain look and certain mannerisms, and their work becomes a big part of their identities. Men who take up trade are well respected for their commitment and hard work, so what’s it like in Japan?
The Japanese tradies are known as ‘daiku’ or ‘daiku-san’ if you were to address them politely. The Japanese tradies are also hard working and committed people but out of their work clothes it can be hard to tell what line of work they do. When they are working they often wear long, traditional style daiku pants or long cargo pants, a utility vest, long or short t-shirt, a small towel around their neck or on their head and tennis shoes. They drive a truck similar to the ute, but they’re much more compact, suitable for Japanese streets and are reffered to as ‘kei-tora’ which translates to lightweight truck.
In Australia, to become a tradie of any sort you must first study your trade and take up an apprenticeship with a licensed tradie. You must pick a part of the field that you’re interested in, whether it’s plastering, framing or flooring. After several years of studying and apprenticing, that’s when you’ll be licensed in whatever chosen field and be allowed to trade with your own name.
It’s a different story over in Japan, from the way tradies learn the trade to how tradies operate in the industry. Rather than studying one particular field of trade (which you can also do but it’s a less travelled path), those who desire to become a daiku takes up an apprenticeship with a master (a toryo) – who will most likely own their own carpentry company – and you begin hands-on training with them from day one.
You are not required to have an official certification from an institution to be a tradie in Japan, but you are required to stick with one master and learn from them for up to 8 years, and this is the way it has been since hundreds of years ago.
So without certification, how do they know they are fully trained and ready to work on their own? When the master of the company asks a daiku to take lead on a job without the master, is when a daiku knows they have earned a place as a bonafide daiku.
When Japanese tradies take up a job, they generally do not divide their workload with other companies or tradesmen. A daiku must learn and know how to do every single craft that goes into building a home which includes plastering, framing, flooring and all other aspects that get given to specialised tradesmen in Australia.
Many companies in this field are family businesses that have been around for generations. They are able to survive because many have been around in the one area for so long, that it’s almost automatic that any new business would go to the oldest existing company in the local area. By having a master to apprentice teaching style, the quality of workmanship stays consistent throughout the generations. Each new master would have been with the company for most if not their whole careers whether they’re related to the name on the sign or not.
It is widely known that the Japanese carpenters are able to build strong, wooden homes with need for very little amounts of nails and metalic fixtures. Although this technique has phased out quite a bit due to various reasons including earthquakes and of course, Japan’s need for highrise homes, once upon a time that was how homes were built in Japan.
The daikus would cut and shape hunks of timber with chisels and planes to fit into one another perfectly and stand up on its own. If you ever walk past a new home being built in Japan, especially on the countryside, chances are you’ll see tradies using these tools and other non-electric tools in the process.
The passion, commitment and skill set you must have as a Japanese tradie is perhaps the foundation of the reason why Japanese building technologies are praised all around the world.