Miyajima-zaiku, characterized by the beauty of the wood | traditional Japanese crafts in hiroshima



Beautiful woodwork with an appearance that brings out the natural grain of the wood

Miyajima-zaiku is a woodwork made in
Miyajima-cho, Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture. Most people have heard of
Miyajima, rather than Miyajima as a tourist destination. Itsukushima Shrine,
located on Miyajima in the Seto Inland Sea, is registered as a World Heritage
Site and is one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.

Miyajima-zaiku, which has developed along
with Itsukushima Shrine, has a beautiful grain of wood that is smooth to the
touch, indicating the quality of the wood and the high level of woodworking
techniques. The realistic carvings called “Miyajima-zaiku” are also
famous as artistic ornaments. In 1982, Miyajima-zaiku was designated by the
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry as a traditional national craft.

Miyajima-zaiku is characterized by its
technique of accentuating the grain of the wood without using gaudy colors. In
Miyajima, where wood has been cherished and treasured since ancient times, the
sawing is done with the purpose, size, and finished product in mind so that as
little as possible is wasted from a single piece of raw wood. 

Today, they are popular as souvenirs for
visitors to Miyajima. Japanese traditional crafts have developed as daily
necessities, but there are few households that use such traditional crafts as
their main items in daily life. However, they are still favored as special
items for souvenirs and gifts.

Miyajima zaiku
Source: Miyajimazaiku Japan


Origin of Miyajima-zaiku

The origin of Miyajima-zaiku dates back to
the end of the Edo period. To build Itsukushima Shrine, temple carpenters and
cabinet makers were invited from Kamakura and Kyoto, and the techniques used in
Miyajima-zaiku today are the same as those used in Miyajima-zaiku. The
techniques of Miyajima-zaiku were derived from the skills of the shrine
carpenters and cabinet makers, and were developed during the Kaei period
(1848-1854). The techniques of the miyajima-zaiku craftsmen were developed into
an art form during the Kaei period (1848-1854).

Miyajima-zaiku eventually evolved into a
craft with outstanding artistic qualities, and was recognized as a traditional
Japanese craft in 1982. The development of techniques such as rokuro and
carving is said to be due in part to the abundant forest resources of Hiroshima
and its proximity to Hatsukaichi, a center of lumber production. Miyajima-zaiku
was born on Miyajima as a noble work of art, and is loved and nurtured
throughout the country.

There are three main types of

Screw Ladle

It is said that around 1790, a priest
living in Miyajima, Oshin, thought of Miyajima-zaiku as a souvenir of the town
and taught people how to make them. From around the middle of the Meiji period
(1868-1912), the ladle was shipped to the Kansai region as an everyday item.
The quality of Rokuro-zaiku is said to be excellent, and it is the most widely
produced in Japan.


It is said that Oda Gonroku Miyajima
introduced this craft around 1850. From the beginning of the Meiji period
(1868-1912), a foot-pedal type of rokuro was developed from the hand-turned
type, and a variety of items such as confectionery containers and heavy bento
boxes were made. The works that make the best use of the original wood’s
characteristics allow the viewer to fully appreciate the natural grain, color
and texture.

Miyajima Carving

Miyajima carving was introduced by Hakii
Shosai in Koshu (present Yamanashi Prefecture) at the end of the Edo period. 
It is used for trays, confectionery
containers, stands, pillars, etc., and three-dimensional objects such as
figurines are also very popular. The carvings are made using the bare wood, and
the beauty of the work and the skill of the carver increases as it ages. The
taste of the work is exceptional.

Miyajima zaiku
Miyajima Gifts and Souvenirs online shop

Manufacturing Methods and Processes

1. Wood cutting

Sawing is the process of sawing raw wood
while considering the dimensions of the piece to be manufactured. The term
“yield” is often used to describe the process of sawing the logs
while considering the performance and quality of the logs so that as little
waste as possible is produced from a single log. Mulberry, cypress, maple, and
mizume cherry are used as raw materials for the ladle. The logs are marked with
a handsaw and sawed into pieces to increase yield while taking into
consideration the dimensions and purpose of the ladle to be manufactured. The
rough shape of the ladle is then cut out with a hatchet.

2. Drying

The ladle is dried in advance to prevent
deformation and shrinkage before full-scale processing. 1 to 2 years of slow
drying is required to produce a high-quality ladle.

3. Nakakuri

First, the face (the surface on which the
rice is scooped) is shaved horizontally with a small, palm-sized plane suitable
for carving round, hollow curves. Shaving perpendicular to the grain is called
“yoko-shaving. Next, the wood is shaved horizontally with a
shiho-sori-dai-kanna (a plane for carving complex curved surfaces that cannot
be achieved by simply bending a flat board), and the center portion is further
hollowed out. The entire face is then shaved with a habiki (a blade with a
blade that is intentionally crushed so that it cannot be cut), and the face is
smoothed with sandpaper as a finishing touch. The opposite side of the face is
called the back. The back of the ladle is first shaved vertically with an outer
round plane to make the tip of the ladle thinner. This process of shaving the
back and determining the thickness of the ladle is a difficult part that tests
the craftsman’s longtime instincts. Next, the ladle is sharpened with a
Mamehirakanai (a small plane suitable for processing small items) and carefully
polished with sandpaper.

4. Making the handle

Next to the face, the handle is made. The
back of the handle is shaved with a waridai-kanna (plane for shaving uneven
surfaces) to make it easy to grip. The surface of the end of the handle (the
tip of the handle) is then shaved with a hatchet and beveled with a bean planer
to give it a curved shape.

5. Polishing

The entire surface of the ladle is polished
with sandpaper, and the planed marks are removed to make it smooth and even.
Polishing is done carefully and repeatedly.

6. Wiping

Vegetable oil is applied as a finishing
touch, and the surface is left for one day before being wiped with a dry cloth.
(In some cases, no oil is applied in order to improve water absorption.

miyajima zaiku
MIYAJIMA City Society of Commerce and Industry

Rokuro-zaiku (handcraft)

1. Wood Chopping

The wood is selected by looking at the
surface of the log to determine its characteristics and to select a suitable
piece of wood for the product to be made. The raw materials used are zelkova,
mulberry, koematsu (a thick pine tree with a large amount of pine resin in its
trunk), and yamazakura (a cherry tree with a large amount of cherry bark in its
trunk). The wood is cut with a saw into pieces large enough to be carved into
the desired product and allowed to dry naturally. The drying period is about 2
to 3 months.

2. Molding

The shape of the product is drafted so that
the grain of the lumber can be used, and the product is cut out with a saw.
Since Miyajima-zaiku is characterized by the fact that the grain of the wood is
preserved, with little or no coating, the molding process is an important part
of the work that determines the appearance of the product.

3. Rough sawing

After the molds have been taken, the lumber
is placed on a wheel to shape the outside of the piece. 10 types of round
planes are used for rough grinding, and the excess is removed with a
single-edged plane (kata-ha). After that, it is sharpened with a plane
(hiragana, a plane with a flat blade) and polished with sandpaper. Fine
adjustments such as the rotation speed of the wheel are made based on the
craftsman’s many years of experience and intuition.

4. Stop cracking

After rough grinding, the wood is dried,
but before that, the splitting is stopped. If the wood is left to dry as it is,
it will crack, so a special anti-cracking agent or melted wax is applied to the

5. Drying

The lumber is allowed to dry naturally, and
is allowed to dry thoroughly over a period of one to three years.

6. Rough Finishing

The dried lumber is placed on a wheel to
roughly grind the entire piece. The wood is then gradually finished over time
to its finished shape. The wood is again stoppered to prevent splitting and
allowed to dry naturally.

7. Finishing

The final shape of the wood is cut out
using more than 10 different planes. 
Polished sandpaper or sandpaper is used for
the final polishing. The product is carefully sanded over and over again to
smooth out the shape of the product and complete it.

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