Traditional crafts are produced all over Japan. Do not miss out the traditional craft "Hakone Yosegi zaiku" in the Hakone area of Kanagawa Prefecture, which attracts not only Japan people but also people from all over the world.
You should visit craftsman to experience the charm of Yosegi zaiku if you plan to travel to Hakone. This article shows 3 spots where you can experience Yosegi zaiku in Hakone area. We introduce 3 shops where you can learn about the charm and how to make Yosegi zaiku from craftsmen who have inherited traditions.
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What is "Hakone Yosegi zaiku"?
Yosegi zaiku of Muku
Traditional crafts of Japan which are handed down to nowadays.
The traditional craft "Hakone Yosegi zaiku" is produced in Hakone and Odawara areas. The beginning of Yosegi zaiku dates back to about 200 years ago. "Nihee Ishikawa", who was born in Hatajyuku of Hakone, learned the technique of Yosegi zaiku in Shizuoka Prefecture and started it as one of his hand works. That is considered the origin of Yosegi zaiku.
The pattern of Yosegi zaiku which is made with various kinds of woods
As you can tell from its name, Yosegi zaiku is the traditional craft, which uses combined woods. More than 100 patterns can be produced with various woods which are chosen considering colors, softness and easiness of whittling. The feature is to make use of different colors (white, reddish brown, green and yellow) of woods.
3 spots where you can experience making Hakone Yosegi zaiku
Yosegi zaiku has a rich texture of wood and the feeling of Japanese “Wa”. Please visit Yosegi zaiku spot if you go to Hakone. If you travel to Hakone area, it is a good idea to buy Yosegi zaiku, but you might as well try to make it. This article introduces 3 spots where you can experience making Yosegi zaiku.
Hakone Yosegi zaiku Honma woodworking workshop/Honma Yosegi museum
The appearance of Honma woodworking workshop and Honma Yosegi museum
■There is a museum in the second floor
“Honma woodworking plant/Honma Yosegi museum” is located in Hakone Yumoto. On the first floor, the shop sells Yosegi zaiku and on second floor, the museum displays various Yosegi zaiku products.
There are various crafts in the shop
There are various Yosegi zaiku crafts in the shop on the first floor. There are also original Yosegi zaiku crafts made by the craftsman of the shop.
Art works displayed on the second floor
The museum displays Hakone Yosegi zaiku, which has been used since Edo period. Long-time use gives an additional charm to Zushi, a storage tool with a door and the closet. That shows how Yosegi zaiku has been used in peoples’ lives since a long time ago.
Some parts of the ceiling have the pattern of Yosegi zaiku
When you go to the far side of the museum, the ceiling with the pattern of Yosegi zaiku welcomes you. It is actually made by Yosegi zaiku, which is a total surprise. In this space, there are art works for every season.
Japanese Hina dolls which are made by the technique of Yosegi zaiku
Seven Gods of good fortune and Moth, which are made by Yosegi zaiku, are displayed for the New Year celebration in January, and Japanese Hina dolls, which are made by the technique of Yosegi zaiku are displayed during the springtime. Why do you feel the season through the Yosegi zaiku crafts?
■Experience making the coaster with hemp leaf patterns.
The coaster with hemp leaf patterns
You can experience making coasters at Honma woodworking workshop if you make a reservation in advance. You can choose the favorite one from various sets of wood pieces and then you assemble wood pieces to make coasters.
Line up the wood pieces with your favorite pattern and hold them with bond
Design hemp leaf pattern, one of the common patterns of Yosegi zaiku, using twelve diamond shaped piece of wood as you like. After you choose the design, connect each piece of wood with bond. It is no problem even if the bond goes out or stick to the desk because you can wipe it off later. After applying the bond generously, fix the coaster with a thick rubber band. It keeps the pieces of woods from falling apart.
The next process is to wipe off overflowing bond completely. You can wipe it off cleanly with a wet towel before the bond dries. After the bond dries, remove the rubber band and polish the entire coaster with a file. By doing so, you can get a smooth touch.
Apply varnish for glossy texture
Finally, finish with applying varnish. Varnish the surface of the coaster slightly with a brush and apply it evenly. It not only makes the wood shine but also makes the coaster last longer.
After letting it dry, it is done. The original coaster gets deep in color as you use it over years.
◆Coaster making class
・Fee: 1000 yen (minimum of two people)
・Time required: About 50 min.
・Advance reservation is needed.
Yosegi zaiku specialty shop Hakone Maruyama product
The appearance of Hakone Maruyama product
■Feel the traditional crafts at "Hakone Sekisho trace"
Yosegi zaiku shop “Hakone Maruyama product” is located in the site of "Hakone Sekisho” which is made by Edo Shogunate. You can not only purchase various Hakone Yosegi zaiku crafts but also see demonstration of making products by craftsmen.
The feature of this shop is the display and product selling “tricks” utilizing the techniques of Yosegi zaiku and puzzle.
A representative work of Hakone Yosegi zaiku is “Secret box”, which is difficult to open because of a trick. Secret box is a tricky box and is decorated with Yosegi zaiku. You need to slide the side of the box according to the specific order to open it. 4 slides are needed for some boxes, but some boxes require more than 300 slides. Secret boxes were born in the late Edo period. It was used as a treasure chest because only people who know how to open can open it.
The box of beckoning cat with trick
There are many different types of “trick boxes”, as well as secret boxes in this shop.
For example, this beckoning cat. It looks just like an ornament, but a small oval gold coin is demountable, and the box opens when the cat holds a small oval gold coin. There are various ways to open tricky boxes depending on the tricky box. How the trick works is secret, and craftsmen’s creativity are amazing.
■Try making "Secret box" using Yosegi zaiku.
You can experience making secret boxes at Hakone Maruyama product. You can assemble big or small size of secret boxes. Hakone Maruyama product is the only place where you can experience making secret boxes. You can make the box which requires 4 slides to open.
Assemble 6 wooden plates
First of all, assemble 6 wooden plates in reference to the sample. By looking at the sample closely, think about how to assemble the wooden plates using your brain.
Process of sticking Zuku
After assembling the box, stick Hakone Yosegi zaiku “Zuku” (thinly shaved stripping sheet by a plane with the pattern of combined wood) to the side of the box as you like. Zuku is of course real Yosegi zaiku. Originally, bond is used to stick them together, but seal-shaped Zuku is used in the trial.
Apply wax for glossy texture
After you are done, file the surface for smooth texture, and finally apply a solid wax for glossy texture. Recently most of the items use varnish to shine glossy texture, but a solid wax was once used for glossy texture.
Now you completed the secret box! You can get your own little treasure box. Same-day reservations are available for the experience of making secret boxes. Please note that the price is different from the reservation in advance.
◆Himitsubako (secret box) making class
・Fee: Child 1720 yen/ Adult 3280 yen
(Same day reservation: Child 1980 yen/ Adult 3480 yen)
・Time required: About 40 min.
Yosegi zaiku Hatanochaya
Retro appearance which still looks it used to be at the time of opening
■The store is in the birthplace of Yosegi zaiku "Hatajyuku"
"Hatajyuku" is the birthplace of Yosegi zaiku. In this area, there are some shops specializing in Yosegi zaiku. One of them is " Hatanochaya " which opened about 40 years ago. The building remains the same since the opening and has a good atmosphere.
As you can tell from the name, this shop opened as a teahouse. Old Highway Ichirizuka was built in front of the shop. Because of that, many people came to the shop for Yosegi zaiku. So this shop was reborn as Yosegi zaiku shop.
There are many affordable accessories
The postcard which is decorated with real Yosegi zaiku
This shop includes items from Yosegi zaiku products, like Obon and storage boxes to small items, like chopstick rests, straps, postcards and accessories.
■You might see the technique of craftsmen
The workplace which is arranged in the corner of the shop for craftsmen
In the historic store, you might have a chance to see handworks of craftsmen depending on the day. You can see craftsmen making the pattern with assembled woods, shaving the finished pattern thinly and creating mokuzogan. You can see these only in the store.
The list of examples for Yosegi zaiku pattern
In the front of the demonstration space, the examples of Yosegi zaiku pattern are displayed. There are over 30 kinds of patterns in display. Hemp leaf, cloisonne arrow feathers, Nikuzushi are the classic. You can ask the craftsmen about the name and meaning of patterns.
■Make coasters by assembling wooden pieces freely
You can make your own coaster with your creativity
You can experience making coasters in Hatanochaya. Choose one from 2 experience kits consisting of two types of wood chips with different patterns and experience making coaster while receiving the instructions from the craftsman.
The feature is that you can create a form using your creativity in this shop. Depending on how you assemble wooden pieces, the final product is different even if the same kit is used. The photo shows the coasters from the same set. You can enjoy making your original shape freely without thinking about the basic pattern. You can definitely make good memories with your friend and family.
Coaster making experience costs 750 yen per person. Advance reservation is recommended.
◆The experience of making coasters
・Fee: 750 yen
・Time required: About 40 min.
See, touch and experience the techniques of craftsman
The traditional crafts “Hakone Yosegi zaiku” has been passed down carefully in Hakone and Odawara areas. There are many spots where you can see the techniques of craftsman, listen to them and make your own Yosegi zaiku work.
You can complete the work and bring it home to keep it as a good memory.
Try making Yosegi zaiku work and feel the attraction of the traditional craft.