Shogawa woodcraft Photo:Toyama Prefecture

Shogawa woodcraft Shogawa hikimono kiji

Attractive natural wood grain patterns
Warm texture of wood with simplicity and beauty


What is Shogawa woodcraft ?

Shogawa Hikimono Kiji are woodcraft goods, such as bowls, trays, and the like made in a wide area of Toyama Prefecture, including Takaoka City and Tonami City, Toyama Prefecture. As simple and beautiful traditional craftwork utilizing wood, Shogawa Hikimono Kiji were designated as a traditional craft of the country by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1978.
Shogawa Hikimono Kiji mainly use Japanese zelkova, a beautiful wood with a unique figure grain. In the making of items, logs are sawn in a longitudinal direction and processed, so that the figure grain runs laterally, allowing a clear display of the grain. Even two items of the same type will appear very different, as they will have been made from different trees; a characteristic making choosing pieces very enjoyable. Shogawa Hikimono Kiji develop a unique character and the sheen and colors change with time and use.
At present, there are two main types of Shogawa Hikimono Kiji: plain-wood and urushi lacquer. In recent years, there is 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 clan lords were ruling an area around present-day Kanazawa City and starting 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 Hikimono Kiji, as before long, driftwood lost in transit was washed up in a basin in Shogawa Town.
Sometime in the late Edo Period, in an attempt to make the most of this timber, the production of plain-wood products was tried and proved a success. In the Meiji Period, a potter's wheel was used for planing and this heralded the start of the craft known today. It is said to take ten years of practice to be able to competently operate a potter's wheel and make Shogawa Hikimono Kiji. For this reason, at that time many artisans began training immediately after they finished compulsory elementary school education.
In the Showa Period, the market of Shogawa Hikimono Kiji expanded across the whole country, and even today the traditional manufacturing skills are still preserved, and these beautiful pieces of woodcraft are much appreciated nationwide.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Raw Wood Shogawa Hikimono Kiji mainly uses Japanese zelkova wood for its hardness, rigidity and beautiful figure grain; and Japanese horse chestnut, as it takes urushi lacquer well with little warping. In recent years, other woods, such as mulberry and Japanese pagoda, are increasingly used.
  2. 2. Sawing itabiki Logs are sawn to the rough size of the products to be made; usually in a saw mill and not in the artisan’s workshop.
  3. 3. Itazumi The sawn wood shapes are stacked in piles, exposed to the wind and rain and left to season naturally for about six months to one year. This removes aku (substances that cause discoloration) and the wood becomes rigid with little warping.
  4. 4. Preparing the Timber The designs are laid out on the wood taking into account natural markings, knots and cracks; a process requiring years of experience and a good eye. With a circular saw the wood materials are further cut to the size of products to be made.
  5. 5. Rough Turning The wood has only been roughly cut to size and shape and is pretty angular. The next stage is rough turning on a potter"s wheel with a plane to round off the angles.
  6. 6. Drying The roughly-turned wood pieces are piled up with space between them in a flame drying chamber and dried until the moisture content is around 8%. After which they are rehydrated, a process known as kanso modoshi, 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 plain wood products.
  7. 7. Finishing In the finishing process, a potter"s wheel and a plane are used again to plane the wood materials to the final shapes. Shogawa Hikimono Kiji are characterized by their way of being finished from the outer side. The different planes used in the finishing process also have specific tasks.
    Thick planes perform rough planing to adjust the shape, and a plane with a thin blade is used to make the surface smooth. At this time, in order to create natural curves, planing is performed in single strokes, which is another characteristic of Shogawa Hikimono Kiji. After planing, the surface is sandpapered.

  8. 8. Fuki-Urushi-Nuri All the processes for plain wood products are finished with the sanding. If coating is to be applied, the process of fuki-urushi-nuri (repeated lacquering and polishing) is carried out. Even in lacquering the potter"s wheel or the like are used to repeatedly coat the wood products with kiurushi (raw lacquer) to give the wood a good shine.

Where to Buy & More Information

Shogawa Tokusankan

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