Shou Sugi Ban Fencing And Japanese Ko-Ushi Privacy Screens

A sturdy, stylish shou sugi ban fence not only makes a great first impression for visitors, it can dramatically improve the value of a home and provide privacy. In Japan, exterior privacy screens have been historically popular and seem to be catching on in the west as well.

While privacy fences are common in Japan, larger, stoutly-built privacy walls and “ko-ushi” are standard exterior design elements as well. Ko-ushi are traditional privacy screens that block the public from seeing private areas inside the house, on decks, or in yards. They are almost always a creative design, whether planned in advance by the designer or fabricated on site by a traditional carpenter. Varied plank widths, creative design layout, and strategic placement give ko-ushi visual play. This visual play is a traditional characteristic of Japanese design that gives the structure and landscape a timeless, modern aesthetic, no matter what era it was built in. Ko-ushi are an applied art, making each house or building unique while also tying them into the overall neighborhood or regional aesthetic.

One constraint with using shou sugi ban for fencing or screens is that the Japanese heat-treatment is specifically optimized for thin-plank material. Please refer to this page for dimensions and profiles available. Posts, rails, or other structural pieces often cosmetically exposed on fences cannot be effectively heat-treated. Moisture-content variation and extreme temperatures will cause boards thicker than ½” to crook, twist, and bow. However, our shou sugi ban can be used to clad these structural elements for a matching aesthetic, or an oil finish can be applied to them to match or contrast as designed.

The sky’s the limit on design, with fences and screens often being the most creative portion of traditional houses. Classic designs such shadow box, basket weave, and flat board are common on both sides of the Pacific.

Here are some photos we took in historical neighborhoods in Japan.  Note the varied materials used on privacy walls, with contrasting colors and even a roof to convey permanence. Some of the buildings in these neighborhoods are over 300 years old!

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