Toyama is the cradle of woodcraft. Nanto, a city in Toyama’s south, is known for Inami Carving while Shogawa in Tonami city is famous for Shogawa Hikimono Kiji. “Inami Carving” is remarkably intricate woodcarving produced by skilled craftsmen who have mastered over 200 kinds of specialized tools. This technique is so highly regarded it is used in the wooden carvings of temples and shrines throughout Japan. Shogawa Hikimono Kiji continues to convey the woodcraft which flourished in the time when Shogawa was the largest timber yard in Hokuriku. Even today, Shogawa ships and sells the highest volume of woodcraft. Both Nanto and Shogawa’s woodcrafts are designated as national traditional crafts, on par with Takaoka lacquerware, Takaoka Copperware and Etchu Washi.
Inami, a town with remnants of yesteryear Japan located in the south of Nanto city, is the birthplace of woodcarving goods. Around the mid-18th century, the main hall of Zuisen-ji Temple burned down and woodcarvers from Kyoto journeyed to Inami for the temple’s reconstruction. The technique these woodcarvers taught the carpenters of Inami is said to be the origin of Inami carving and by the 19th century, the craftsmen of Inami had mastered deep-carving, which created Inami Ranma. Ranma is the signature product of Inami carving. It refers to the wooden panel with carvings inserted in the opening above the partition between rooms in Japanese architecture. Craftsmen spend over 3 months creating these intricate designs which include various patterns such as flowers, birds and landscapes. Inami still produces various wooden carvings including ranma, wooden screens, ornaments and accessories.
There are even elaborate wooden carvings which capture a split-second movement or expression of animals.
Shogawa Hikimono Kiji
Shogawa River, which flows through Toyama prefecture’s western region, was used for the transportation of timber taken from the Hida region approximately 400 years ago. Consequently, this area was once the location of the largest timber yard in Hokuriku, and the production of woodcraft using this timber became firmly established in the Toyama region. This region is characterized by Yokokidori, which processes timber by laying logs on their side, producing round wooden trays, bowls, cups and so on with an exquisite grain. These products made from natural wood take on character the more they are used, becoming a one-of-a-kind item to be found nowhere else in the world.