Osaka karaki wood joinery Osaka karaki sashimono
A solid feeling and deep colors elegantly shining
Beauty increasing with the passing years
Osaka Karaki Sashimono are wooden articles manufactured in several cities of Osaka Prefecture. Karaki are woods from trees mainly grown in Southeast Asia, and include rosewood, ebony, Chinese quince, and Bombay black wood. Sashimono (joinery) is the name of a woodworking technique for assembly without using nails or screws. Sashimono is so called because planks are joined by sashiawaseru (combining) mortises and stops. Karaki Sashimono artisans and merchants settling in Osaka in the Edo Period when the city was a bustling center of commerce established the history and tradition of Karaki Sashimono in the region. Osaka Karaki Sashimono are characterized by their shiny solid and attractive colors and urushi lacquer surfaces as smooth as a mirror. Today’s furniture made with the traditional techniques still blends well with modern interiors, and products range from cabinets and tea shelves to tables, such as Japanese low tables and vase stands, as well as very small items, like chopsticks and small boxes.
In the Nara Period, products brought by Japanese missions returning from Tang-dynasty China included those made of rare woods never before seen in Japan - karaki – and this is said to be the origin of Osaka Karaki Sashimono. In the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, the amount of karaki items used increased in parallel with the emergence of the Japanese arts of the tea ceremony and flower arrangement. Due to the inconvenience of shoin style built-in nidanchigai-tana (two-level shelves) and desks, the demand for portable furniture increased. Joinery artisans evolved from among carpenters, and professional joiners appeared as the number of types of sashimono (joinery) increased, until joinery was established as a profession in the Genroku Period. In the Edo Period, Osaka became a thriving center of commerce, and karaki wood imported to Nagasaki was transported on to Osaka. Since pharmaceutical wholesalers in Osaka were selling karaki wood cabinets, a guild of joiners was established, which led to an increase in the number of artisans, and Osaka Karaki Sashimono was established as a craftwork of Osaka. At present, as a traditional art craftwork with a history of 300 years, Osaka Karaki Sashimono has been certified as a traditional craftwork by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.
General Production Process
- 1. Sawing Wood
To make a fine piece of furniture, only the finest wood will do, making the selection of wood materials extremely important. Since karaki woods are very hard, they can only be sawn in a sawmill specializing in such work. Logs are assessed to bring out their beauty and much care is taken not to crack the core.
- 2. Drying
The wood is naturally dried indoors for five to six years.
- 3. Preparing the Timber
When dry enough, wood is cut roughly to size, with an allowance for error.
- 4. Planing
The roughly cut materials are planed to an accurate thickness. Detailed sections and curved and joined sections are finished with planes set with a variety of angles.
- 5. Marking in White
White lines are drawn with a blade on the planed surface for later processes.
- 6. Cutting the joints
Mortises and tenons are cut out with a chisel and finished with a wood file.
- 7. Polishing
The materials are polished with water and water-resistant paper.
- 8. Forming
The sections to be joined are finished.
- 9. Coloring
The wood is colored with dyes, such as sappan dye and black-tooth dye.
- 10. Assembly
Components are assembled and glued.
- 11. Lacquering
Naturally purified kiurushi (raw urushi) is evenly rubbed over the product to give a beautiful finish, which over time will develop an attractive antique patina.
Where to Buy & More Information
Japan Folk Art Museum
ClosedMonday, 2nd Tuesday, Year end and new year holidays