The artistic wooden traditional crafts in Japan | traditional crafts in Osaka

Osaka Ranma

Osaka Ranma stands for the wooden carving Art 

Osaka ranma are made from the grain of
Yakusugi cedar, and include carved Ranma with three-dimensional carvings of the
eight views of Omi and other landscapes, openwork carved ranma that harmonize
the paulownia wood and openwork patterns, reeded ranma, braided ranma, and many
others. There are seven different techniques used in Osaka ranma, all of which
have a serene beauty. These not only excel in ventilation functionality, but
also create a serene beauty befitting a Japanese house. Osaka ranma and Toyama’s
Inami carving are two of the major production centers for ranma.

Ranma position (Source: Tanaka Furniture Manufacturing)

Osaka ranma

Originally, Kyoto was the main production
center of ranma, as they were used in temple and shrine buildings. However, as
ranma spread to ordinary houses, craftsmen gathered in Osaka, where the lumber
trade was thriving, and Osaka ranma developed. Osaka ranma are characterized
not only by their design, but also by their functional aspects, such as

Inami Sculpture

Inami sculpture is said to have originated
when carpenters in Inami learned sculpting techniques from an official sculptor
sent from Kyoto when rebuilding a temple that had been destroyed by fire. Until
around the end of the Edo period, temple carvings were the main focus, but
after the Meiji period (1868-1912), the high skill of carving was utilized to
make ranma for homes for the general public. Currently, the mainstay of Inami carving is the “Sukashibori Ranma,” or openwork column, which is a
typical product of Iwa sculpture.


Features of Osaka Ranma

Carved Ranma

This technique utilizes the grain of
Yakusugi cedar to carve a three-dimensional design. Compared to other types,
the range of expression is wider, and the subject matter of the ranma can be
freely chosen, such as plants, animals, or landscapes. Because of its
three-dimensional effect, it is possible to change the design on the front and
back by making the board thicker.

Carved Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Sukashibori (openwork) Ranma

This technique uses thin wood such as cedar
or paulownia, and various designs and shapes are carved through openwork. These
transoms have a simpler impression than carved transoms.

openwork Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Kumiko (braid) in Kumiko ranma

Kumiko: A technique of assembling wood into
geometric patterns. The wood is lattice-worked, and small wooden parts are
inserted into the latticework to form the geometric pattern.

braid Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Osaranma (reeded Ranma).

This technique is used in shoin-style
architecture. The reeded transom has a large number of vertical stiles, with
three horizontal stiles in the center and one at the top and bottom. It is
called a reed ranma because its shape resembles a reed used in weaving.

reeded Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Embedded ranma

A ranma with carved designs dotted in a fan, snow ring, or wreath made of paulownia or cedar wood, Yakusugi or Jindai cedar, or other wood of different colors and textures. Also called Zogan carving.

Embedded Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Bamboo Knotless Ranma

A transom that utilizes the cross-sections of bamboo joints. The bamboo is gathered into the basic shape and inserted into the cut boards.

Bamboo Knotless Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Shoin Ranma

This ranma is placed in the area above the upper and lower shoji screens next to the alcove. The upper and lower part of the shoji screen is located next to the tokonoma (alcove). It is made in the shape of an incense ball with a lacquered ball rim, and is decorated with carvings and openwork. There are a variety of shapes, such as the kadama type with lacquered bead edges, carved, and openwork. Shoji screens and glass are placed on the corridor side.

Shoin Ranma
Source: Osaka Ranma Cooperative

Ranma are no longer seen in modern houses.
Ranma are carved panels attached to the opening between the ceiling and the
Kamoi, and were once familiar to the Japanese as decorative elements that
enhanced the dignity of the house. They were not only beautiful, but also served
functional purposes such as ventilation and lighting.

History of Osaka Ranma

Osaka ranma is said to have originated
around 1604. The prototype of the traditional technique can be seen at the
Sacred Shrine and the Shitennoji Temple, an important cultural property in
Osaka Prefecture. At that time, the area along the Horie and Yokobori rivers in
Osaka was a major source of lumber, which led to the flourishing of ranma
production. There were many lumber wholesalers in the area, and woodworkers
formed a craftsmen’s town, and ranma craftsmen competed with each other.

Osaka was the center of commerce at the
time, and Sakai was home to many wealthy merchants. Osaka’s location as a
consumption center also contributed to the demand for ranma, which is why ranma
production flourished in Osaka. Initially, ranma were used in temples and
aristocratic residences as a means of expressing authority. In the Edo period
(1603-1867), ranma became widely used in the residences of ordinary people,
especially in merchant houses. They were installed above the kamoi (gateway) of
tea rooms and guest rooms for their practicality in improving lighting and
ventilation, and were popular as dignified interior decorations.

Osaka Ranma

In the late Edo period (1603-1867), laws
prohibiting extravagant carvings were enacted, and the production of gorgeous
and extravagant carvings was banned. The production of simple transoms, such as
openwork carvings, became the norm. After the end of the Edo period,
craftsmen’s towns remained in Horie and Yokobori until before the war, but they
were dispersed due to the war damage. However, the area gradually recovered
from the war and the craftsmen returned, and today, about 30 companies continue
to produce and maintain the tradition of Osaka ranma from long ago.

 Manufacturing Method & Process

1. SENBOKU (wood selection)

The following is an explanation of the
Osaka ranma production process, using an engraved ranma as the easiest example
to visualize. First, the wood used for the ranma is selected. The materials
selected are cedar, hinoki, paulownia, and other suitable materials for ranma,
which are said to be 2-300 years old.

2. Lumbering

This is the process of cutting the material
for the ranma from the selected wood. The thickness, width, and length of the
boards are determined according to the size of the ranma, and the lumber is
then milled.

3. Drying

The lumber is left to dry for at least
three months in a dry place out of the wind. Depending on the material, it may
take several years for the lumber to dry completely, and if drying is not done
properly, the lumber may crack during the process.

4. Wood trimming

After drying is completed, the wood is
marked and cut to the required size.

5. Painting

A rough sketch is drawn directly on the
surface of the wood with a brush and black ink. The detailed design is decided
while keeping an overall image in mind, taking into consideration the
characteristics of the wood, the flow of fibers, and the strength of the wood
when it is cut down. At this point, it is decided whether the top carving or the
side carving will be used.

6. Grinding work

Using a fine-toothed saw, the unnecessary
parts are roughly cut off according to the rough sketch.

7. Carving work

Roughness is carefully corrected by shaving
off unnecessary parts with a small knife. Unlike finishing by sanding, this
process does not destroy the grain of the wood, but accentuates the beauty of
the grain.

8. Rough carving

In this process, a rough pattern is carved
out with a chisel according to a rough sketch. The process is carried out while
taking into consideration the fibers and strength of the wood.

9. Carving

After rough carving, the pattern is carved
out in detail according to the rough sketch. The carving is completed when the
overall three-dimensional effect is achieved.

10. Chamfering

Chamfering is done to separate the carved
area from the outer edge of the carving.

11. Polishing

The carving is polished with wood wax or
Ibota wax using the Ukizukuri technique to bring out the luster.

This process tightens the surface of
coniferous woods such as paulownia and cedar to accentuate the grain and bring
out the luster. Gloss is also said to be effective in protecting the surface.

  • Ukizukuri: Roots of kariyas (kariyas) that
    are dried and bound together after being exposed to water.
  • Ibota: Wax made from the secretions of the
    wartweed weevil, a parasite of the wartweed tree.

12. framing

Finally, the frames are assembled and the
carved transom is inserted to complete the work.

Osaka Ranma

With changes in housing styles, Osaka ranma
is rarely seen in Japanese houses, but its artistic value attracts buyers not
only from Japan but from all over the world. Unlike in the past when they were
used as part of the structure of a house for their practicality, in recent
years, more and more people are buying them because they find value in them as
works of art.

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