Okazaki stonemasonry Okazaki sekkohin
From master to apprentice, a 400 year tradition
of hand crafting stone to release its inner beauty
What is Okazaki stonemasonry ?
Okazaki stonemasonry is stone crafts including stone carved lanterns produced in the area around the city of Okazaki in the Aichi prefecture. It is made using traditional masonry skills that were found and developed in the late years of the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The original lantern form was established in the Azuchi momoyama period (1573-1600) and the easy acquisition of fine quality Okazaki granite supported the development of the masonry industry.
Makabe in the Ibaraki prefecture, Aji in the Kagawa pefecture, and Okazaki in the Aichi prefecture are known as the three major stone production areas of Japan. Each area produces its own characteristic stone.
The Makabe region has a large variety of stone types and a high production volume because of its abundant and good quality granite.
The stone craft from the Aji region has a very attractive mottled pattern unique to the region, and it is categorized as a world class stone craft.
Okazaki stonemasonry has a long history and one of its characteristics is the abundance of stone with distinctive marbling such as Okazaki granite. Moreover, its masonry skills and techniques have been developed to such an extent that it is known as the stone capital of Japan, and in 1979, Okazaki stonemasonry was registered as a Japanese traditional craft.
During the Azuchi momoyama period, Yoshimasa TANAKA (1548-1609), the lord of Okazaki castle brought skilled stonemasons from the Kawachi and Izumi areas to construct walls and moats in the castle town. The unique techniques were refined by the remained stonemasons, who made further developments and the current form of Okazaki stonemasonry. It was inevitable that the Okazaki region became a leading stonemasonry area as it had an abundance of available and high quality granites.
In the early days, there was about a dozen of masonry workshops but by the golden age after World War II, the number of stone production workshops expanded up to 350, turning it into a major industry. The Yahagi River was an efficient means of transport and contributed to the development of the industry. In the postwar rapid growth period, which was the industry's peak, mechanization made fast progress of work and it increased the production efficiency. This surely affected the stone crafts as well. In addition, the development of the automobile industry required better road construction, which expanded the stone craft marketplace and consequently, the Okazaki Mason Complex was established. Today, a vocational training school passes down the traditional techniques of Okazaki stonemasonry.
General Production Process
- 1. The jewel
The major products of Okazaki stonemasonry are stone lanterns regulated with six parts, which include the jewel, the lantern roof, the light box, the central platform, the post, and the base platform. Each part is carved before all the pieces are assembled. The basic lantern consists of these six pieces, however, there are also modified types such as Oribe stone lantern. The following describes the production process of Oribe stone lantern, which is the buried lantern assembled with five regulated pieces.
To make the jewel, the underside is first cut out. The diameter of the jewel is inked out with Chinese ink and sent though a rough chipping. Then, the stone with ink marks is roughly shaped using a koyasuke hammer, and the last finish is made using bishan bush hammers and tataki hammers.
- 2. The umbrella part 1
For the first step, the upperside and underside are carved. After the center of the rough stone is determined, the stone is carved and a square is drawn with ink on the underside. In the same way as the jewel, rough chipping, ink marking, and rough shaping are carried out.
- 3. The umbrella part 2 After the rough shaping, bishan and tataki hammers are used to give a final touch to the umbrella.
- 4. The fire box part 1 For the fire box as well, the upperside and underside are carved, and the rough stone is machine cut to the prescribed dimensions.
- 5. The fire box part 2 After finding the center of the rough stone, marking lines with ink, and rough chipping, a tetrahedron is created by rough shaping. A hollow is carved and lines are marked with ink.
- 6. The fire box part 3 By making full use of tools such as tataki hammers, bishan bush hammers, and kobera small chisels, the fire box is completed.
- 7. The central platform The central platform is carved following the steps described above.
- 8. The post part 1 For the post, after the same process is repeated up to rough chipping, using different tools such as setto hammers and chisels to roughly shape the stone.
- 9. The post part 2
On the upper part of the post, a simple design is engraved using a small chisel, and there is a Buddhist image on the lower part.
Finally, a bishan bush hammer is used to finish the post.
- 10. The completion All parts are assembled to complete the stone lantern.