6 Classic Examples of Japanese Woodworking


6 Classic Examples of Japanese Woodworking

by Anna Jamieson | CRAFT 

© Kiyoshi Teruuchi, Writing Bureau

Nature forms a vital part of Japanese craft, so it’s no surprise that woodwork and carpentry is a real specialty within Japanese art. With an abundance of woods available all with differing properties, Japanese carpentry is a wonderfully diverse artform, depending on the richness of the wood to the intricate detail and skill of its makers.

We’ve selected 6 of our favorite examples Japanese woodworking artists, skills and techniques, from smaller pieces with intricate decoration, to more contemporary works which rely on impact or the stark materiality of the wood itself.

1. Hiromichi Osaka

© Hiromichi Osaka, Boxwood Incense Container, 2011

The gorgeous work of Hiromichi Osaka proves a good starting point, revealing the incredible array of techniques available to Japanese carpenters. Embodying Japanese art and craft, Osaka is a specialist in the mokuga crafting style, which translates to wood picture. In this intensely decorative style, delicate patterns are inlaid into the wooden object. An ancient Japanese woodworking technique, here we see the fruits of such careful labor, where the painstakingly carving creates the effect of intricately overlaid layers of wood.

Don't miss out on some of Japan's finest carpentry, under layers of luscious lacquer! Check out These Extraordinary Lacquer Works!


2. Tadashi Ohashi

© LDT, Tea Caddy by Tadashi Ohashi

From the Jujube tree, also known as Natsume, this playful piece, by craftsman Tadashi Ohashi, includes delicately carved and colored cherry blossoms, both inside and out. We love the interplay between the light, almost sparkly blossom with the darkness of the wood, as the sakura appears to gently float to the base of the piece.

© LDT, Akita Cherry-Bark Tea Caddy

Here, we see a similar sense of simplicity to brilliant effect. Cherry-bark goods were popular during the Meiji period, and today pieces such as this beautiful Kaba Zaiku cherry-bark box can only be found in Japan. With twelve varieties of bark, with brilliant names such as candy skin bark and torn bark, no two pieces are alike.

This superb craftsmanship can be purchased at LDT (in Japanese only I’m afraid!).


3. Hikaru Watanabe

© Hikaru Watanabe, Display Shelf

The edo-inspired display shelf by Hikaru Watanabe is a real showcase of Japanese ash and paulownia wood, using polished lacquer to finish. The depth of the wood grain creates a feeling of contemporary style and simplicity, reinforced by the empty panels in the back of the case.


4. Kishu Chest

© Kishu Paulownia Chest Association

Like Watanabe’s shelf, the Kishu Paulownia Chest uses the same material. Paulownia wood has been popular since the end of the second world war, eclipsing timber from the Wakayama area as one of the most commonly used woods for the production of chest of drawers. It also has brilliant functional properties, able to hold and absorb moisture, meaning its is perfectly suited to protect textiles stored within.


5. Hakone Marquetry

© Zoukibayashi Group, Hakone Marquetry

Check out these beautiful pieces made from Zoukibayashi group. This group encourages the transmission of traditional Hakone marquetry and currently consists of six-strong group of craftsman who made these incredible pieces combining various natural woods into these intricate mosaics. The skills were developed by astute Japanese carpenters during the Edo period who designed them to be bought and sold by travellers between Edo and Kyoto – many of whom would stop to use Hakone’s gorgeous hot springs. A perfect souvenir!

If you're looking for souvenirs yourself, find out where to buy ceramics in Tokyo and Kyoto.


6. Writing Bureau

© Kiyoshi Teruuchi, Writing Bureau

And finally, this incredible writing bureau oozes with opulence, a far cry from the chic simplicity of the Kishū chest of drawers. Made in Hakone during the mid-Meiji period, we can now see how Hakone marquetry developed into the practice of making larger furniture using a variety of woods. Its exquisite detail means it serves as a work of art or spectacle in its own right - imagine having one of these in your living room or office!

What do you think of our selection of beautiful Japanese woodwork? Let us know in the comments below.


June 5, 2018 | Craft