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 Ranma are transoms produced in and around the cities of Osaka, Kishiwada and Suita in Osaka prefecture.
In a Japanese house ranma, or transoms are wooden panels attached between the ceilings and the lintels of two adjoining rooms or a room and passage. They are used above shoji sliding doors to improve lighting and ventilation.
Osaka Ranma are characterized by a wide variety of types including chokokuranma (carved transom) and sukashiboriranma (openwork transom). Chokokuranma, with its carved three dimensional landscape designs is the most time-consuming technique; designs are laid out to make the best use of the natural wood grain including the Yaku cedar, which has become the symbol of Osaka Ranma.
“Sukashiboriranma," in which fretwork patterns are cut out of the boards made of such trees as paulownia, has an open airy feeling. Other types include osaranma, with its arrangements of carefully balanced strips; kumikoranma, with geometric patterns; and yonukiranma, in which patterns are made using bamboo joints. In addition, Osaka Ranma, focusing on functionality including lighting, have a greater number of softer less intri


The origin of Osaka Ranma is said to date back to the beginning of the17th century. The origin of the techniques can be found at the Hijiri shrine built in 1604 in Izumi city, and the Shitennoji temple rebuilt in the beginning of the 17th century. Originally transoms were used as a means of showing the authority of high-ranking clergy and noblemen. Consequently the center of transom production used to be in Kyoto, but with their introduction to the homes of common folk the center of production moved to Osaka in the middle of the Edo period.
At that time, Osaka was a collection and distribution center and known as the “kitchen of Japan" and there were a number of timber wholesalers along the river in Horie (the present Nishi ward, Osaka city) and Yokobori (around the present Kita 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 in Osaka, a thriving commercial center, the gathering of many wealthy merchants created a demand for transoms. The techniques of Osaka Ranma have been passed down for over 300 years and were designated as traditional crafts of Japan in 1975.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Choosing the timber (Senboku) The main wood used in transoms comes from cedar, hinoki and paulownia trees often aged between 200 to 300 years old. The following describes the production process for a typical chokokuranma type transom with a carved three dimensional design.
  2. 2. Sawing the timber After deciding the thickness, width, length and the like of the transom, the board is sawn to the approximate size.
  3. 3. Drying The board is left in a dry site out of the wind and left to dry 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 saw guidelines, and the wood is sawn to size.
  5. 5. Drawing the sketch A sketch of the scene is drawn directly on the wood surface with a brush and India ink. The fine details of the design are decided while both visualizing the whole scene, and also taking into account any outstanding features of the wood grain, grain direction and the like. In this stage the artisan assess the level of carving skill needed to create the piece, either a high or middle level.
  6. 6. Sawing work The unneeded parts are roughly cut away using a thin-tooth saw.
  7. 7. Adjusting work Any remaining rough parts left after sawing are carefully shaved with a small knife and the artisan starts to bring out the natural beauty of the wood grain.
  8. 8. Rough carving The design is chiseled roughly taking into account the strength and grain of the wood.
  9. 9. Carving After the rough carving, based on the sketch, the designs are elaborately carved in three dimensions.
  10. 10. Cutting the edges To delineate the carved parts from the outside frames, the edges are cut and the carved parts are emphasized.
  11. 11. Polishing To ensure a high shine, the board is polished with mokurou (lacquer tree fruit wax) or ibotarou (wax from insects) using an uzukuri (bundled grass roots).
    Polishing the surface of conifers including paulownia or 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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