Japan has abundant forests and many different kind of tree so that developing a broad range of woodcraft was a quite natural development for Japan. Japan has a very strong culture of using wood including house construction. Most buildings in Japan were made of wood compared to stone houses in other areas of the world. As a material, Japanese wood has an unmatched warmth and responsiveness, and the large number of traditional woodcrafts it has inspired have found a corresponding special place in the Japanese heart. Here is a selection of a few typical and distinct Japanese woodcrafts.
Hakone Wood Mosaic
Hakone Zaiku from Hakone city in Kanagawa prefecture is marquetry based on geometric designs. Different colored natural woods are used to create up to fifty different patterns. These patterns and the hundreds of possible combinations are used to create boxes for decoration and daily use and are a popular souvenir from Japan.
Nagiso Turnery / Nagiso Zaiku / 南木曽細工
Nagiso Zaiku are turned goods of wook such as bowls, tea caddies and containers. Nagiso Zaiku goods possess a natural beauty enhanced by the way the grain of the wood has been drawn out by the craftsman, the warmth of handmade objects and the appeal of simple, unpretentious forms. Many objects are polished with a straw and water which gives the wood a natural sheen.
Kyoto Woodwork / Kyo Sashimono / 京指物
Kyoto woodwork can be broadly divided into two types. Sado Sashimono comprises a number of small items of furniture and utensils for the tea ceremony whereas Chodo Sashimono includes various types of furniture and household goods such as chests, shelving, boxes, trays and light fittings. The finish depends on the type of woods used and varies from Chinese wax, lime or lacquer.
Odate Bentwork/Odate Magewappa/大館曲げわっぱ
Odate Bentwork typical for the Odate region in Akita prefecture. Wood is split into narrow boards which then are immersed in boiling water and bended multiple times before the board is pegged into shape and left to dry. It is very popular for lunch-boxes and containers for rice or sake rice wine.
Akita Cedar Bowls & Barrels/Akita Sugi Oke Taru/秋田杉桶樽
Akita Cedar bowls and barrels first were used to store sake and soy sauce. The bottoms are simply slotted into the baseboard, so that a perfect fit is essential if the finished article is not to leak. The most usual finish is a light coating of wax, but sometimes persimmon juice is applied. Barrels used for celebration ceremonies are covered with red lacquer and called Tsunodaru.
Akita Cherrybark Work/Akita Kabazaiku/秋田樺細工
Akita Kabazaiku – Kakunodate city in Akita prefecture is the center for production of this craft using cherry tree bark. Cherry bark is extremely strong in a vertical direction and impermeable to air. The Akita Kabazaiku products have a durability and charm stemming from the strength and natural patina of the bark, which deepens with use.
Beppu Bamboo Basketry / Beppu Take Zaiku / 別府竹細工
Beppu Bamboo Basketry accounts for the majority of bamboo craft production in Japan. It includes household basketry as well as more artistic pieces. Beppu bamboo ware is available as natural ware, which highlights the color of the bamboo’s skin and black ware, which dyed and lacquered.
Suruga Bamboo Basketry / Suruga Take Zaiku / 駿河竹細工
Suruga Bamboo Basketry is unique for using round splints of bamboo without the skin being shaved off. Five processes are required to make these round splints: the making of the round splints, the forming of the framing rings, the bending of the splints, the assembling and the finishing. Lacquer is used for the finish.