Culture Art & Design Article - 11.02.2020

TAKUMI | The Arts and Crafts of Hida Takayama

two light stand

Takayama is the largest city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu prefecture located in central Japan. Surrounded by dense forests, Hida and Takayama, in particular, have long been a source of top-grade timber and highly skilled carpenters, who came to be known as Hida no takumi, the master craftsmen of Hida.

In the early eighth century, the Hida no takumi name achieved prominence through a directive of the imperial government implemented, under which the Hida region provided woodworkers to the imperial capital in place of taxation. Over the next 600 years, as part of the Hida no takumi system, 40,000 to 50,000 carpenters and artisans were sent to the ancient capital, presently known as Nara, to build now-famous shrines and temples. Hida's craftsmen started as workers and stepped into supervisor roles at the many construction sites at Nara and their hands and skills shaped many of Japan’s most ancient wooden structures. For 1,300 years, even after the system ended, these craftsmen and techniques remained in the town, and the region is still renowned for its takumi. There are several national treasure crafts from the region (total 235 crafts as of November 2019).  Source: Kogei Japan


JAPAN HOUSE is featuring six artists that represent the region’s diversity of craft – woodcarving, lacquerware, ceramics, papercutting, wooden lighting products and photography – and reflect the refined skills of ongoing generations of the master craftsmen of Hida. 

Kosaka Choubou Studio

Ayayuki Kosaka headshot

Ayayuki Kosaka II (b. 1969) 
Ichii Woodcarvings Woodcarver 

*National Treasure Craft

Ayayuki Kosaka II is a second-generation woodcarver, studying under his father, master woodcarver, Ayayuki Kosaka. Entering his apprenticeship at the age of eighteen, Kosaka II, together with his father, began exhibiting his unique Hida Ichii itto bori work throughout Japan. Ichii is Japanese yew wood, and the process of itto bori is carving created with a single instrument (in this case, a chisel). Kosaka II has received many prestigious international awards, and in 2016, he contributed to the interior renovations of Nagoya Castle.

Hannya, Okina, Izutsu

Left: Hannya (Noh mask)
Middle: Okina (Noh mask)
   Ichii (Japanese yew wood)
Right: Izutsu
   Cherry wood
Izutsu is a classic Noh play written by Zeami. The main character is deeply in love with her husband. After they both pass away, she appears to a monk offering continued praise of her partner.

turban shell

Turban Shell
   Japanese cassia wood

Beshimi noh mask

Beshimi (Noh mask)
   Cherry wood

Menpou

Menpou (Miniature Noh mask) 
   Maple and cherry wood 
This mask represents those used in traditional Noh theater and dance performances.

Fukujyu Shunkei Lacquerware Studio 

Ryota Fukujyu headshot

Ryota Fukujyu (b. 1961)  
Hida Shunkei lacquerware Lacquer Artisan  

*National Treasure Craft 

The Fukujyu Shunkei Lacquerware Studio was established in 1850. Currently, fifth-generation owner Ryota Fukujyu leads the work, overseeing ten artisans in the creation of traditional lacquerware with a touch of modern taste. The Fukujyu studio elevates the essence of Hida Shunkei lacquerware in its ability to encapsulate both practicality and beauty, as well as the history of Hida. 

three nesting boxes

Three Nesting Boxes of 6.5 sun*
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei lacquer 
*traditional Japanese measurement: 1 sun equals 3 cm/1.18 in. 

round bento box

Round Two-Tiered Bento Box (Lunch box)  
   Japanese horse chestnut, Shunkei Lacquer 

three nesting boxes

Traditional Two-Tiered Handled Box
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei lacquer 

three nesting boxes

Mage Mizusashi Hegime (Bentwood water vessel with kusabi joinery)
   Japanese horse chestnut, Shunkei lacquer 

three nesting boxes

Nesting Boxes 
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei lacquer 

 

three nesting boxes

Five-sun* Two-Tiered Box
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei lacquer 
*traditional Japanese measurement: 1 sun equals 3 cm/1.18 in. 

three nesting boxes

Square Bento Box (Lunch box)
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei lacquer 

three nesting boxes

Shingen Bento Box (Lunch box) 
   Japanese cypress, Shunkei Lacquer 
Shingen Takeda was a preeminent daimyō in feudal Japan with exceptional military prestige in the 1600s. When hunting, he took his lunch packed in beautiful lacquerware. As a result, in Japan lunches packed in lacquerware are now known as Shingen lunch.

Shibukusa Ryuzo Kiln 

Shibukusa Ryuzo 6th and 7th headshot

Shibukusa Ryuzo VI (b. 1946)  
Shibukusa Ryuzo VII (b. 1979) 
Ceramicist 

The Shibukusa Ryuzo Kiln, now in its seventh generation, is one of the oldest potteries in Hida and has continued to seek new and modern Shibukusa-yaki designs while preserving the tradition. The sixth-generation Ryuzo Toda started pottery from a young age and formally entered an apprenticeship with his father Shibukusa Ryuzo V at twenty years old. He received his master’s name Shibukusa Ryuzo VI in 1981. His work is renowned for its traditional style; elaborate, detailed, and distinctively colored cherry blossom paintings; and red-dyed porcelain with classic Shibukusa-yaki texture. 

clay on potter's wheel  

Credit: Shibukusa Ryuzo Pottery Inc.

Today the sixth and seventh generations work together. Shibukusa Ryuzo VII has collaborated with artists from a variety of fields, such as apparel design and music, presenting his work in Milan and across the globe. Each successive generation continues to develop their own style of Shibukusa-yaki at the Shibukusa Ryuzo kiln.

Works by Shibukusa Ryuzo VI

sakura tea bowl

Sakura (Cherry blossom) Tea Bowl
   
Shibukusa-yaki pottery

sakura tea utensil

Sakura (Cherry blossom) Tea Utensil
   
Shibukusa-yaki pottery

sakura vase

Sakura (Cherry blossom) Vase
   
Shibukusa-yaki pottery

sakura incense burner

Sakura (Cherry blossom) Incense Burner
   
Shibukusa-yaki pottery

Works by Shibukusa Ryuzo VII

tiger drawn on a ceramic bird

Engan Kokei (Warrior with the prestige of valor)  
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
*Only Tiger is showing.

sumo wrestler drawn on a ceramic bird

Rikinosuke Oniwaka (Sumo wrestler, 1848–54)  
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
*Description applies only to left piece.

drawings on a ceramic bird

Ginpu Rougetsu (Writing a poem under the moon while feeling the breeze)  
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
*Description applies only to right piece.

drawings on a ceramic bird

Marishiten (Warrior god)    
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
*Description applies only to left piece.

drawings on a ceramic bird

Kashiwade no Omihatebi   
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
*Description applies only to right piece.
Around AD 545, Kashiwade no Omihatebi, a powerful lord working for Emperor Kinmei. was sent to Korea as an ambassador. One snowy night, his young child disappeared. As he searched for the child, he came upon tiger footprints in the snow. Tracking the footprints, he found the tiger and slayed it with his sword. He is considered the greatest warrior. 

drawings on a ceramic bird

Ah and Un  
From the Irezumi (Tattoo) series
   Shibukusa-yaki pottery
In Japanese Buddhist and Shinto cultures, Ah and Un symbolize the beginning and end of all things. The term Ah-un is the transliteration in Japanese of the two syllables “a” and “hūm,” from the Sanskrit alphabet. They are also the first and the last letters, respectively, of the Japanese phonetic alphabet. 

Norihito Yoshimoto headshot

Norihito Yoshimoto (b. 1949) 

Kirie Artist 

The Japanese art of papercutting, kirigami (cut paper), was established around the eighth century as commercial handmade paper became increasingly available. During this period, artisans were cutting a variety of shapes, including animals, letters, and landscapes, often for use in Shinto rituals.

Read more.

In the Hida region, kazarigami, which translates as “decoration paper,” is a unique paper art tradition that has been proudly carried on as part of the seasonal Takayama festivals. Over time, papercutting artisans have informed the development of other traditional Japanese crafts, such as dyed and woven fabrics that feature patterns created through a papercut-inspired approach. After World War II, many Japanese papercutting artists were influenced by Western-style paintings. In an effort to distinguish these graphic paper works of art from more traditional Japanese paper craft such as kirigami, the cultural community began to use the term kirie (cut paper picture).

Norihito Yoshimoto moved to the Hida-Takayama area at the age of fifteen. He taught himself the traditional art of papercutting, and is the pioneer of a style of kirie called “wa modern” (which means traditional Japanese taste mixed with a modern Western style). He has published numerous works encompassing the theme of Hida Takayama’s landscape and seasonal symbols, and has received acclaim domestically and internationally with exhibitions in Denver, New York, Paris, Cologne, and Singapore, as well as through studio visits by foreign collectors.

Kirigami

Left: Hida Takayama: Spring, Nakabashi Bridge 
Right: Hida Takayama: Summer, Old Village Street 
   Kirie

Kirigami

Left: Hida Takayama: Autumn, Hida Kokubun-ji Temple 
Right: Winter Is Coming: Shirakawa-go in Late Autumn 
   Kirie

Kirigami

Left: Hida Takayama: New Year 
Right: A Cold Night in Hida Takayama
   Kirie

Kirigami

Girls’ Festival 
   Kirie
With origins in the Heian period (794 to 1185), Hina Matsuri (Girls' Festival) is an annual festival that celebrates the health of young girls. Typically held on March 3, in Hida Takayama, it is observed on April 3 and households are decorated with beautiful Japanese dolls and drawings.

Kirigami

Boys’ Festival 
   Kirie 
This annual festival, typically observed on May 5, celebrates the healthy growth of boys. In Hida Takayama it is held a month later on June 5. Flying carp kites and samurai armor displays symbolize robust energy and forward momentum.

Kirigami

Otsukimi (Moon Viewing)
   Kirie  
During one of Japan’s most beautiful and poetic festivals, people gather to gaze at the autumn full moon. Today, the celebration is also seen as an appreciation of the harvest.

Kirigami

Mt. Fuji
   Kirie  
Mt. Fuji is a prominent symbol of Japan located just southwest of Tokyo. In this artwork, Mt. Fuji is portrayed with strength and gentleness using traditional Japanese patterns, including pine, bamboo, plum, clouds, haze, and waves.

Kakishita Woody Works Co., Ltd. (Est. 1957) 

Kakishita Woody Works Co., Ltd. is a family-run company that has created wooden lighting products for half a century in Hida Takayama. Its celebrated Moare line is Japan’s first wooden lighting brand. The work of these master craftsmen of the Hida region carries tradition into the present, conveying comfort through the gentle beauty of light and the warmth of natural wood.  

At the core of the company’s monozukuri, or holistic, start-to-finish manufacturing perspective, is light itself. However, it is the synergy of the materials and the entire design that allows the product to shine. Kakishita Woody Works aspires to create a new lighting style in tune with the traditional Hida skills that have been honed in harmony with the forest. 

two stand lights

Left: H+ Stand (Walnut) 
   Walnut, plastic-coated paper 
Right: H+ Stand (Beech) 
   Beech, plastic-coated paper 
Collaboration between Kakishita Woody Works and  Heikki Ruoho (b. 1969), an industrial and furniture designer from Finland.

two tall floor lights

Left: Floor Stand Shiromuji (Plain white) 
Right: Rangoushi (Lattice pattern)
   Walnut, plastic-coated paper
Designed by Tatsuya Shibuya. Shibuya previously worked and designed lighting products for Panasonic. Incorporating natural materials such as wood and handmade washi paper is the core of his design.

two light stands

Left: H+ Stand (Walnut) 
   Walnut, plastic-coated paper
Right: Tipo (Oak/Walnut)
   Oak, walnut 

Fukutaro Teraji headshot

Fukutaro Teraji (b. 1983) 

Photographer and Videographer 

Fukutaro Teraji studied photography and film editing while working at an advertising agency in Tokyo. In 2012, while in his twenties, he established Naughty Studio in Takayama, a creative firm focused on video, photography, and web design. In 2013, the studio was awarded the Grand Prize as part of Universal Music’s video contest hosted by Lancers Co. The studio has gone on to produce major network television content, including closing credits for Japan’s Yomiuri Television programming. In his work, Teraji aspires to share the attraction of the Hida-Takayama region through his own unique perspective.

making matcha green tea in a bowl by Shibukusa Ryuzo VI  

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Special Thanks

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles would like to thank the City of Takayama for the opportunity to be able to share this unique collection of remarkable craft, TAKUMI-The Arts and Crafts of Hida Takayama, in concert with our exhibition HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making. This exhibition from Hida Takayama is traveling to Denver later this year to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the sister city relationship between Takayama and Denver. 

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