The Original Shou Sugi Ban: 13 Unique Characteristics of Suyaki

The original Japanese shou sugi ban is what we call Suyaki®. The deeply burned and unbrushed exterior siding perfectly epitomizes the wabi-sabi aesthetic.

Suyaki is the most easily recognizable and widely known type of yakisugi “shou sugi ban” in the world. Its iconic black color and scale-like surface texture make it hard to miss. While beautiful and practical, there are a few things that everyone considering using it for their project should know before going too far. Let’s dive into the details of the original shou sugi ban!

The Original Shou Sugi Ban is Very Exotic

1.) Most people contact us interested in Suyaki. However, two out of three end up buying a brushed shou sugi ban material when they see all the options.

2.) The original shou sugi ban is so dramatic and unique that using brushed shou sugi ban instead ends up being a compromise choice on most projects.

Gendai® is most commonly used in place of Suyaki when the textured surface, maintenance guidelines or additional soot are not a match for the project. Gendai has a smoother brushed surface and can come in a variety of colors, including black.

3.) In Japan, shou sugi ban is exclusively made with sugi cypress. It holds a thick soot layer, is rot resistant and patinas into beautiful colors.

The Soot Layer

4.) The soot layer is a consumable surface. It will erode off over a 30 to 60 year period by design. Over time, the wood will show through little by little as the soot layer is scuffed or erodes off.

5.) The wood underneath the black soot layer starts off brown. It usually stays brown on south elevations due to UV exposure, but turns silver on north elevations due to more moisture.

Oil Finish and Re-Oiling

6.) Suyaki can be touched up or recoated with a black-pigmented oil periodically. The oil finish blends in bald patches or blotchiness and restores the burned wood to its black color.

7.) Oil touchup is very rarely done with the original shou sugi ban in Japan. The desirable wabi-sabi patina aesthetic is earned through timeless design and patience.

Installation and Keeping it Clean

8.) During installation, the delicate surface of shou sugi ban is often dinged up. However, this can easily be touched up with black oil at the end of the job.

9.) It is best to wash down shou sugi ban with water 1-2 times per year. This will freshen up the appearance since a black surface highlights contrasting dirt, pollen, spider webs and bird droppings.

10.) Suyaki will show claw mark traffic patterns where squirrels or cats climb the same route year after year. Make sure to keep an eye out and touch-up oil handy!

Trivia and Science

11.) The original shou sugi ban is most commonly used along the coast in Japan. This is because it has fantastic abrasion, UV, and moisture resistance.

The town of Ine on the northern coast of Kyoto Prefecture, Japan is famous for its boat houses, or funaya that are clad in shou sugi ban.

12.) After heat treatment the original shou sugi ban has a much higher temperature of ignition than un-charred wood. The soot layer slows down flame spread to about half the speed.

13.) Japanese people instinctively know that shou sugi ban is covered in soot and develops a rustic patina. Westerners often have a hard time comprehending that the material is sooty and expected to change in appearance.

Check out our YouTube channel for more shou sugi ban tips & tricks!

And a bonus…

14.) The average shou sugi ban installation carpenter in Japan is 64 years old and started working at age 16 directly out of middle school!

We field many questions about the original shou sugi ban every day. We love this product and stand by its beauty, but it is important to clarify what this material is and whether or not it’s a match for your project. Please contact our team about using Suyaki and we will happily work with you to determine if it’s the right fit. Contact us at [email protected] or call our office at (503) 512-6780. We look forward to working with you!

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