After reviewing my first pass at the shinden I found that the proportions were all off. Originally I was under the impression that there was no way to do a 5 bay moya that would have been typical of the actual design. Then I did some maths. Turns out my design is very nearly half of what a real design (assuming 6′-0″ as the 1 ken or 1 bay width). See below for my analysis.

My overall design in my previous version was the exact same size but the proportions were all wrong. this at least as a regular pattern for the posts and mimic the actual design with a 2×5 bay moya. It means more connection points but it could be possible to have pre-built items with color coded ends. The results are pretty close to other isometric views on the internet:

^shinden v2, now with more bays! (yet somehow similar in overall size!)


Some quick observations:

  1. the floor miters at the corner into the hisashi. I will have to edit my design.
  2. the railings really do add a je ne sais quoi~ I will have to do more research on how this could be implemented without compromising too much of the build/cost.
  3. At the capital of the columns, the detail looks like “wings” outstretched that could potentially be achieved by oversizing the connection points but keeping the inside dimension the same as the posts. Sadly this would most likely be custom.
  4. The outside wall has screens not shades. I wonder if I could do leverage the aluma-wood veneered products from companies such as DIRRT.
  5. I don’t want too many fiddly bits, but perhaps the panels for the walls could be decorated to look like folding screens (back of moya). Perhaps.

Encampment v1.0

I seemed to have not hit publish on this design. This is the first attempt using the previous musing about a Japanese encampment. However, the largest problem I had was it did not keep the right column spacing. This initially did not bug me but I find it completely distracting. I have started a second version and will most more on this at a later time.


more text

even more text


Shinden Zukuri v1.0

Shinden-zukuri (寝殿造) is a style of architecture developed during the later part of the Heian Period (794-1185) in Heiankyou (平安京) or what is now known as Kyoto, Japan (2). These types of dwellings were the homes of the aristocratic nobles and the type of encampment that my SCA persona would inhabit for most of her life. However, this building typology does not lend itself easily to recreationists because of the number of dwellings,  the qualities of layered architectural motifs, the complexity of the structure, and shear size (READ: large) of the overall complex. Also challenging, are the types and uses of the materials within each structure including: Japanese cypress wood hinoki (桧) (4), stone footings, decorative metal fittings. These are not your run of the mill Home Depot or SCA tent construction materials and of course they are/can be expensive.


While many SCAdians have been successful at recreating a Japanese inspired camp, and few have successfully recreated war camps, no one to my knowledge has tried to recreate the complete Shinden-zukuri complex. Above and below is my attempt at doing just that.

First an foremost, in no way is my design 100% accurate. It would certainly be a herculean task to try to move a 120 meters square mansion(2) to an event. So, during the design phase, I took liberties on dimensions, scale, and other architectural elements. The ultimate goal of this project is to find as much off the shelf items and use them to create the right look or a build that is evocative of the real thing so that when multiple pavilions are combined, to recreate the illusion of the shinden-zukuri lifestyle.

Instead of offering an overview of the complex, there are plenty of other websites that do just that (3), I wanted to dive straight into the main building and the focus of my design effots. That is, of the shinden , (寝殿) translated as: sleeping palace.

This part of the mansion consists of a series of layered rooms and corridors and sits at the center of the estate. The center most room is called the moya  (母屋) – alternatively “called the moya no hi no omoshi. (3)” The moya acts as the primary living space with the nurigome (塗篭) – or sleeping chamber to one side. Dimensionally speaking, the moya is typically 2 bays deep by 5 bays wide whereas the nurigome is 2 by 2 bays. 1 bay is equal to 1 ken (間) (5) or approximately 2 meters (~6′-7″ for us Imperial folks).

It is safe to say, this is where my first of many artistic licenses have occurred, as I have reduced the number of bays within the moya and have uneven bay sizes in order to cut costs and minimize the footprint. In the plan above, my chibi moya is 2 “bays” deep by 3 “bays” wide located between gridlines C-G and 3-7. The nurigome  is between E-F and 4-6 and is just big enough to sleep one to two gaijin-sized adults.

Surrounding the moya are 1-bay wide corridors known as hisashi (廂). Each hisashi, is traditionally one step lower than the moya, adding to the complexity of the design and the layered effect you can see in various paintings from that time. Needless to say, I removed this particular quality from the build to minimize specialty parts and pieces in the base and to minimize setup time. In future builds, it might be possible to add height with cushions, thicker base panels, or additional boxes but I anticipate this being an already large budget. Perhaps version 2.0?

One interesting fact about the hisashi is that each side employs a specific name. As far as I can tell, the suffix –bisashi means bridge with the prefix indicates one of the cardinal points. In true architectural fashion, we would label these spaces starting with the the North corridor and moving clockwise thusly:

  • North corridor 2-1: kitabisashi (???) – I could not find the kanji for this name.
  • East corridor B-C: higashibisashi (東大橋)
  • South corridor 7-8: minamibisashi (南見橋)
  • West corridor G-H: nishibisashi (西陣橋)

Again, the size of each “bay” became a constant battle during the design phase and so I decided fairly early on that the spaces surrounding the moya would only be 2′-0″ wide. This reduced the overall footprint of the build, while giving me the layered quality I was seeking within the design by employing the various screens and shutters. Not by coincidence, this 2′-0″ wide constraint was partially dictated by my base platforms being 4′-0″ x 4′-0″ wide.

Surrounding the hisashi is the sunoko (簀子) (6). Technically, this narrow portion of the plan is lower in elevation to the hisashi and sits just with the large eaves of the roof. Again, I have opted to keep this level the same as the interior. This section is not enclosed by any walls and is outside of the primary living space, often referred to in many of the online links as “the veranda” (2) (3). One stark change you will notice between recreated models or pictures and in my design, is the lack of kouran (高欄) (6), or railings. Typically the sunoko would have a low height kouran that interconnect with pathways to other pavilions. For me, this is another cost savings measure and I found that in micronization of the structure, the railings seemed puny. Further designs and time will tell if I add them back into the design but for now, no railings.

Above is an exploded axonometric of each “layer.” I have designed the space that it can be built upon or added to over time. The image above is the full monty for my overall plan (minus the railings as stated earlier). It is my intent to start small and work my way up to this point. As with any design, building the parts and pieces ultimately become the best teacher.

This building, in my opinion, is certainly a challenge but I believe it can be achieved. The key to creating a successful design that can be replicated is to minimize the total cost of this item by using parts that are easily sourced and off the shelf. Hopefully my struggles will not be in vain and then other SCAdians would be able to also build their own.  When combined they would form a very beautiful view.


Next steps: Like all things, good design takes time. I’m going to continue my research and also reach out to companies who I think might be willing to experiment. I know a few car-port companies could probably create or have the right connection points and metal might be more suitable than a wood structure. Yes, this is another compromise in the materials but if painted or powder-coated, perhaps the effect would be just as good while being able to hold its shape and be packed up after a long weekend.

I have a few ideas on how to achieve a raised stage that can be folded up. The topper would be 4′-0″ x 2′-0″ leaves that could be connected to each other using typical table hardware. It’s possible I could use pre-made architectural decking material, but that might make the project cost skyrocket. We shall see..

Additional reading:

(1) shinden-zukuri teien – 寝殿造庭園 – Also important to the style were the gardens and how both influenced each other. Be prepared to dive into the vocabulary.

(2) shinden-zukuri – 寝殿造 – Definition regarding architecture. Again, be prepared to dive into the vocabulary.

(3) Shinden-zukuri: Estates of the Heian Period – A great overview of the campus and all things Japanese.

(4) Architecture and Authority in Japan by: William H. Coaldrake – A very dense, wonderful, and expensive textbook on architecture.

(5) Ken architectural unit – Wikipedia  A modern blog wouldn’t be complete with out a link to wikipedia, am I right?

(6) JAANUS – Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System – A great resource for art and architecture and for translating items to Japanese.


Please note: I do not speak nor can I read Japanese . I rely heavily on Google Translate for the items showing kanji. If you find an error, please know, I aim to rectify it as soon as humanly possible. Thank you for your patience!

Banner Designs

I am posting a bit out of order but in all things, we only have so much time. Below are some recent explorations in my most recent banner designs sporting the every awesome, sangaibishi (三階菱). They are shown in a variety of shapes so as to judge the overall design based on items I have witnessed in the SCA. For instance, when you register your device, you have to put it on a shield. There is also a different between a tall gonfalon banner, a nobori (幟) banner and a sashimono (指物) banner.

In addition to the various shapes, I have even taken a stab at emblazoning (that’s heraldic speak for describing) each design as they all are a bit uniwue. I do not know how accurate they are, but they are my first attempts using this new charge. Also included are my raw thoughts on each design. These are being cross posted on Tousando if you would like to follow along.

A Work in Progress

Design A (preference) – Argent, a sangaibishi purpure and on a chief two bars purpure.

  • Is it appropriate to have stripes on a banner? I see later period banners having stripes but am unsure if there is meaning attached the number or placement.
  • If you have stripes on the banner, would you have to register the device with stripes? How about a badge? mentions the following: “In the film Ran, the various divisions of the Ichimonji clan were identified with different color banners and different designs (one stripe for Tarô, two for Jirô, three for Saburô); in Kagemusha, we were shown the same flag — the Takeda mon on a solid color field — with the color of the field marking different divisions of his army. Both of these are legitimate Period techniques.” Are these Heian period techniques?

Design B (I flirted with this design but I think it ultimately might be too modern) – Argent, a sangaibishi voided purpure surmounted by a sangaibishi purpure.

  • I was looking into how I could modify the classic design. Would this even be acceptable?

Design CArgent, a sangaibishi purpure.

  • I have no problem with this design but I was trying to add a little more design into the banners. At the end of the day, if this is what I submit, I would be happy.

Design D (If purple doesn’t work, red would be my next go to color.) – Argent, a sangaibishi gules.

My favorite design is Design A but they each have merits. For now, I will ponder in my dreams.

Jinmaku Designs

Today I spent the better part of the day, reading, writing, and generally learning about jinmaku (陣幕) – simply known as camp curtains or screens. To me, this is a simple item for your Japanese encampment that gives it more of a Japanese feel while assisting in hiding the modern amenities you might have brought with you from the current times (coolers, strollers, cars, etc.).

Below you will find an image of my musings using the sangaibishi (三階菱heraldic device I am currently considering for my kamon (家紋). While the sangaibishi is shown in purple (or purpure tincture for you budding heralds out there), I am not married to the color yet as I have yet to register the device (more on that to come). That said, I hope to purchase or create two copies of these curtains for the 2017 eventing season. Wish me luck!