Kyo-ishi craft Kyo ishi kogeihin
Art created by a single artisan
Honed, prodigious techniques influenced by tea culture and Buddhism
Kyo Ishi Kogeihin refers to stonework and precious stonework which are produced in and around Kyoto City and Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture. Abounding in quality granite from the village of Kitashirakawa at the foot of Mt. Hiei, the well-endowed environment made Kyoto a favorable place for stonework production. Kyo Ishi Kogeihin has been cherished at nation’s best Japanese gardens and guest houses to this day.
It is characterized by its traditional start-to-finish production that all the processes are carried out by a single mason. Only artisans with prodigious techniques and a finely-honed aesthetic sense that was nurtured in the culture of Kyoto have been eligible to produce stone lanterns, multi-story pagodas, garden ornaments such as pots while refining the techniques of Kyo Ishi Kogeihin. A design engraved on the surface of a stone is so exquisite that its expression changes with a slight force, which represents sophisticated stone carving techniques among masons in Kyoto.
Stonework found its way into Japan in the late Nara Period, but actually the transfer of the capital to Heian-kyo spurred the development of the art of stonework in Kyoto because a number of stone crafts were needed for the capital. Stone Buddha statues, stone pagodas, stone lanterns and other stone crafts were produced for the construction of temples and shrines in step with the widespread adoption of Buddhism from the Heian Period to the Kamakura Period. As a cultural center, Kyoto allowed various traditional crafts to reach a higher level of sophistication even after the Kamakura Period while delivering elaborate and beautiful stonework through subtle techniques. Tea culture flourished in Kyoto in the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, which exerted a profound influence on stonework and popularized stone lanterns as a decoration in a Japanese garden.
Harmony between the beauty of tea ceremony and stonework enhanced the traditional stone carving techniques notably.
General Production Process
- 1. Ishimawashi
A stone lantern is composed of six components: hoju (onion-shaped part at the top), kasa (umbrella covering the fire box), hibukuro (fire box), chudai (central platform), hashira (post) and gedai (base platform). The following describes the production process of the umbrella covering the fire box.
This process includes inking dimension lines on a coarse stone while imaging a completed lantern.
- 2. Aradori (roughing cut)
Aradori is a process of cutting four corners of the stone block to make arrow holes by cutting off along the inked line using haikara and carving with nomi (chisel). Cutting stone roughly is technically known as “hatsuru.”
- 3. Shitaba-zukuri
This process is of leveling out the back of the umbrella called shitaba using special tools such as haikara, nomi, hapishan and pishan. Shitaba-zukuri is of significance in keeping the sides of the lantern straight, and a slight error could affect the entire balance.
- 4. Nokiba-zukuri
Following shitaba-zukuri, nokiba-zukuri is carried out to place the side of the lantern, called nokiba, perpendicular to the umbrella (shitaba).
- 5. Kasaura-tsukuri
This process is of ink-marking the grooves on the back of the umbrella and the corners that curl upwards, so-called warabite, and cutting the stone along the line. Caution should be exercised to keep warabite straight.
- 6. Warabite-tsukuri
This process is of carving warabite carefully while making fine adjustments to curves with a chisel. It requires careful, elaborate work not to chip the corner.
- 7. Kasauwaba-zukuri
This process is of carving the top of the umbrella. Hatsuri (roughing cut) is technique-intensive, elaborate work, nothing like it appears. The umbrella is added a flavor and atmosphere by subtle adjustments.