Osaka Karaki Sashimono is one of the most typical traditional furniture


Osaka Karaki Sashimono is a stately piece of furniture

Osaka Karaki Sashimono is a time-honored woodworking craft in Japan, crafted from karaki wood which is native to Southeast Asia. The craft employs a technique called sashi-mono, resulting in products that are known for their serene coloring and mirror-like shine. The “Suribuki urushi” finishing technique is used to make the best use of the wood’s grain. This involves repeatedly rubbing and wiping off naturally refined raw urushi lacquer, a process which creates a natural and unique beauty that showcases the wood’s grain while also creating a glossy finish.

What is Karaki?

Karaki is a generic name for ebony, hana-nashi, and ironwood. Although it was previously believed to be harvested in China, it actually originates from the tropical and subtropical regions of Southeast Asia. Today, most karaki products in Japan are produced in the Kansai region and are commonly referred to as Osaka karaki shimono. The production process for karaki products includes the selection of wood, sawing, drying, cutting, crafting, assembly, polishing, lacquering, finishing, and completion.

What is “Sashimono”?

The term “Sashimono” refers to the joints where the pieces of wood are pointed out and joined together. In Osaka Karaki Sashimono, a hole called a hozoko is made, the clasp is cut, the hozo is created, and the joints are pointed together. Some suggest it is called “Sashimono” because it is made using a mono-jirushi, or a ruler. There are several schools of Sashimono works, and Osaka Karaki Sashimono is one of the representative schools, along with Edo Sashimono and Kyoto Sashimono. Osaka Karaki Sashimono is primarily produced in Osaka Prefecture, although it is also produced in Hyogo, Nara, and Wakayama Prefectures.

Traditional Japanese furniture
Source: DE JAPAN


History of Osaka Karaki Sashimono

The origin

As per a record found in the booklet “Namba Suzume” published in 1679 (Enpo 7), the history of Karaki products in Japan is ancient. It is believed to trace back to the Nara period (630-839) when Japanese envoys to the Tang Dynasty brought back products made of a rare tree (material) not found in Japan, which was called “to-no-ki” or “Karaki”.

Due to the maritime transportation difficulties during that time, the amount of imported Karaki was limited. Craftsmen who processed the wood into materials were mainly Watarijin, a small group of top-class artisans who used the wood for decorative purposes in temples and residences.

However, with the increase in transportation to and from the continent, the amount of materials used increased proportionally. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), the use of Karaki increased along with the popularity of the tea ceremony and flower arrangement. This led to the development of portable furniture, as the two-tiered shelves and desks of the shoin-style architecture of that time became inconvenient.

Osaka karaki Sashimono
Source: FJ From JAPAN

The development periods

As the variety of furniture increased, specialized cabinet makers emerged. And, it is believed that this profession was not established until the Genroku period in the 1680s. The earliest reference to karakiya in Osaka can be found in the “Kasho Namba Suzume Zen” (The Pocket Namba Suzume), which was published in March 1679. Subsequently, the “Settsu Kuni Osaka Namba Marukamaru No. 2,” dated April 1704, lists karakiya and sakimono-ya together, and mentions that there were two or fourteen shops that were engaged in the manufacture of finger works. In addition, the names of Shirobei and Mokuzaemon are listed as master craftsmen of desks and tables.

In August 1825 (Bunsei 7), the “Merchant’s Guide to Buying and Selling” mentions a shop selling “Suho”, which was the only dye used to color karaki-ya ornaments, as well as “Karaki-ya Sashimono” (a woodworking shop). The “Guide to Commerce and Industry in Japan” of 1882 lists the national taxpayers, and among them are the names of karaki work wholesalers and retailers. The “Osaka Taikan” of 1912 also lists the name of a karaki work wholesaler and retailer. It also lists a number of names as karatsuki-zaiku merchants.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), when the Shogunate made Osaka the center of commerce, and most of the products of other countries were gathered in Osaka, karaki took root in Osaka. Karaki was shipped to Nagasaki, where it was sold by a wholesaler of medicine in Osaka. At this time, the artisan system was established, and the number of karaki craftsmen gradually increased, and the history and tradition of karaki shimono became established in Osaka.

Manufacturing Method and Process

1. Lumbering

The selection of timber is a crucial aspect as the material chosen has a direct impact on the quality of the product. Due to the hardness of karaki lumber, it can only be milled by specialized sawmills. Each log is processed according to its unique condition, taking great care not to split the core.

2. Drying

The logs are naturally dried indoors for 5 to 6 years.

3. Cutting

After the lumber has dried sufficiently, it is roughly cut to the size of the area where it will be used, with the surplus portion added. 4.

4. planing

Roughly cut wood is planed to the correct thickness. Fine details, curved surfaces, and joints are finished using a variety of planes at different angles.

5. White Writing

A white line is drawn on the shaved area with a blade for later processing.

6. Machining

A chisel is used to make a hole and a hole. Finish with a wood file.

7. Polishing

Polishing is done with water and waterproof paper.

8. Forming

Finish the parts to be joined.

9. Coloring

The wood is colored using dyes such as Suho and Ohaguro.

10. Assembly

Parts are assembled using glue or bond.

11. Lacquering

Natural refined lacquer is evenly rubbed into the wood.

osaka karaki Sashimono
Source: Reuse box Kurashiki


The profound hue of the lacquer exudes a noble ambiance that is absent in mass-produced industrial goods and complements both Japanese and Western aesthetics, rendering it still in high esteem among the Japanese populace. This conventional craftsmanship, which has served as both Japanese furniture and embellishment for guest rooms, is sure to gratify your yearning for possession.


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