Shogawa woodcraft Photo:Toyama Prefecture

Shogawa woodcraft Shogawa hikimono kiji

Warm and attractive natural wood grain patterns
Simple and beautiful traditional crafts


What is Shogawa woodcraft ?

Shogawa woodcraft is mostly woodcraft articles such as bowls or trays made in a wide area of the Toyama prefecture including the city of Takaoka and the city of Tonami.
Shogawa woodcraft was registered as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1978 for its simple yet beautifully made wood craftwork.
The characteristic of Shogawa woodcrafts is the intrinsic appearance of texture of the Japanese zelkova with its unique figure grain. In the making of items, logs are sawn in a longitudinal direction and processed so that the grain runs laterally allowing a clear display of the grain. Even items made with the same procedure will be finished very differently as it utilizes each characteristic of different types of trees. Every different unique characteristic adds enjoyable moments to decide which tree to use as an item. Shogawa woodcraft developed their unique features with time.
There are two main types of Shogawa woodcrafts, which are the plain wood finished ones and those finished with Japanese lacquer called urushi.
In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for unpolished plain wood products by enthusiasts who like to apply their own coating themselves.


At the end of the 16th century, the Kaga domain was ruling an area around the current city of Kanazawa and had started to transport Japanese cypress and Japanese zelkova along the Sho river leading to Toyama bay. This new trade is said to have led to the subsequent development of Shogawa woodcraft, as before long, driftwood lost in transit were washed up in a basin in the town of Shogawa.
During the late Edo period (1603-1868), people attempted to utilize the gathered timbers, which was the beginning of the production of plain-wood products
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), potter's wheel started to be used and this heralded was the origin of the Shogawa woodcraft known today.
It is said to take ten years of practice to be able to really operate a potter's wheel and make Shogawa woodcraft. For this reason, at that time, many artisans began training immediately after they finished compulsory elementary school education.
During the Showa period (1926-1988), the market of Shogawa woodcraft expanded across the whole country and even today the traditional manufacturing skills are still preserved. These beautiful pieces of woodcraft are still much appreciated nationwide.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Raw wood Shogawa woodcraft mainly uses Japanese zelkova and Japanese horse chestnut. Japanese zelkova is hard, has rigidity and a beautiful figure grain. Japanese horse chestnut fits well with Japanese lacquer and it has characteristcs of warping resilience. Other woods such as mulberry and Japanese pagoda are increasingly used too.
  2. 2. Lumbering Logs are sawn to the rough size of the products to be made. They are usually made in a saw mill, not in the artisan's workshop.
  3. 3. Stacking lumbers The sawn lumbers are stacked in piles, exposed to the wind and rain and left to season naturally for about six months to one year. This removes substances that cause discoloration (called aku in Japanese) and the lumber becomes rigid with little warping.
  4. 4. Preparing the lumber The designs are laid out on the lumber after the inspection is carried out to check the natural marks, knots and cracks. The designs are carefully traced avoiding those inspected areas. This process requires years of experience and heavy attention. Then the lumbers are processed with further cut into the rough size of the products with a circular saw.
  5. 5. Rough turning The lumber has only been roughly cut to size and shape so that the shape is pretty angular. The next step is rough turning on a potter's wheel with a plane to round off the angles.
  6. 6. Drying The roughly turned lumber pieces are piled up with some space between each pile in a flame drying chamber and will be dried until the moisture content is around 8%.
    They are then rehydrated, a process known as kanso modoshi (literally meaning "restore the original moisture") is carried out by removing and exposing them to the outside air until the moisture content has risen to about 12%, followed by further seasoning for around two weeks. This is an important process to correct any warpage of the plain wood products.
  7. 7. Finishing In the finishing process, a potter's wheel and a plane are used again to plane the wood into the final shapes. Shogawa woodcraft has a unique finishing procedure which starts from the outer surface.
    Thick planes perform rough planing to adjust the shape, and a plane with a thin blade is used to smoothen the surface. At this time, in order to create natural curves, planing is performed in single strokes, which is another characteristic of Shogawa woodcraft. After the planing, the surface is sandpapered.
  8. 8. Rubbing Japanese lacquer All the processes for plain wood products are finished with the sanding. However, if a lacquer coating is to be applied, the process of rubbing it is carried out by lacquering and polishing repeatedly.
    Even for this process, the potter's wheel or the like are used to coat the piece repeatedly with raw lacquer to give a good shine and gloss.

Where to Buy & More Information

Shogawa Tokusankan

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