Osaka carved wooden panel Photo:Osaka Prefecture

Osaka carved wooden panel Osaka ranma

Exquisite wood grain
Outstanding carving techniques


What is Osaka carved wooden panel ?

Osaka Transoms (called Osaka Ranma in Japanese) are transoms produced in and around the cities of Osaka, Kishiwada, and Suita in Osaka prefecture. In a Japanese-style house, transoms are wooden panels attached between the ceilings and lintels of two adjoining rooms or a room and hallway. They are also used above sliding screen doors to improve lighting and ventilation. This craft has a wide variety of styles including carved and openwork transoms. Carved transoms are the most representative kind with its three-dimensional landscape designs. It is also the most time-consuming technique, and designs are laid out to make the most of the wood grain of Yakushima cedar and other natural wood. Openwork transoms have fretwork patterns cut out of paulownia boards and have an airy feeling. Other transom types include osa, with its arrangements of carefully balanced strips, kumiko, with geometric patterns, and yonuki, where bamboo joints are used for the design. In addition, Osaka Transoms, focusing on functionality and lighting, use thin wood boards and have softer, less intricate patterns compared to other crafts like Inami transoms in Toyama.


The origin of Osaka Transoms is said to date back to the beginning of the 17th century. Carving techniques can be seen at Hijiri Shrine built in 1604 and Shitennoji Temple rebuilt in the beginning of the 17th century, both in Osaka. Originally, transoms were used as a means of showing the authority of high-ranking clergy and noblemen so the center of transom production used to be in Kyoto, which was the former capital of Japan. However, with the introduction of the craft to the homes of ordinary people, production moved to Osaka in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). At that time, Osaka was a collection and distribution center and and there were a number of timber wholesalers along the river in Horie (now Nishi ward) and Yokobori (now Chuo ward). Naturally many transom artisans gathered around the area and Osaka became one of the largest transom production areas serving the whole of Japan. Moreover, being a thriving commercial center, the gathering of many wealthy merchants also created a demand for transoms in Osaka. The techniques of this craft have been passed down for over three hundred years up to this day. Osaka Transoms was designated as a traditional craft in 1975.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Choosing the wood The following describes the production process for a typical Osaka transom with a three-dimensional design. The first step is choosing the wood. The main wood used in transoms are two hundred to three hundred year old cedar, Japanese cypress, and paulownia trees as well as other wood considered suitable for transoms.
  2. 2. Sawing the timber After deciding the thickness, width, and length of the transom, the timber is sawn to the appropriate size.
  3. 3. Drying The board is left out to dry in a place with low humidity and no wind for at least three months. Some timber may take several years to dry completely. Failure to thoroughly dry the wood may result in cracking.
  4. 4. Preparing the timber Layout lines are drawn as guidelines for where to saw. The wood is sawn to size.
  5. 5. Drawing the sketch A sketch of the design is drawn directly on the wood surface with a brush and ink. The fine details of the design are decided while both visualizing the whole design and taking into account any outstanding features of the wood grain and grain direction. The artisan decides how he will carve the wood at this stage.
  6. 6. Sawing The unnecessary parts of wood are roughly cut away with a fine tooth saw.
  7. 7. Adjusting Any remaining rough parts left after sawing are carefully planed and adjusted with a small knife. By finishing with a knife instead of a wood file, the natural beauty of the wood grain stands out.
  8. 8. Rough carving The design is roughly chiseled while taking into account the strength and fibers of the wood.
  9. 9. Carving After the initial carving, the designs are elaborately carved based on the sketch until it becomes three-dimensional.
  10. 10. Cutting the edges To distinguish the carved parts from the outside frames, the edges are chamfered and the carved parts are emphasized.
  11. 11. Polishing To ensure a high shine, the board is polished with Japan wax, a yellow wax obtained from sumac berries, or insect wax using a tool called uzukuri which is made by bundling grass roots. Polishing the surface of paulownia or conifers like cedar makes the wood grain stand out, creates a lustrous sheen, and protects the surface.
  12. 12. Frame assembly Finally, the carved transom is slotted into a frame ready for positioning above the lintel.

Where to Buy & More Information

Japan Folk Art Museum

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