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Hakone Yosegi, Katsuhiro Kanazashi – ”Yosegi” art trophy

Hakone Yosegi, Katsuhiro Kanazashi
- ”Yosegi” art trophy

DATA
Kanazashi Woodcraft Co., Ltd.
135 Hatajuku, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture
http://www.kanazashi-woodcraft.com/

Traditional craftwork from Edo era

”Hakone Yosegi” is a traditional woodcraft which originated in Hatajuku, Hakone-machi at the end of Edo era. Differently colored and textured wood such as horse chestnut or mulberry tree, etc., are put together to make a geometric mosaic. Next, the patterned wood is thinly shaved and is pasted on craftwork such as boxes, vases, and coasters. The finished product is different from a painted product or inlay work, and has a somewhat foreign atmosphere. ”Yosegi” are well-known for their ”secret boxes” or ”Chinese boxes” which need to be opened a certain way.

Developing tradition

We visited Katsuhiro Kanazashi who uses techniques developed to pass on the tradition. However, his technique carves out the patterned wood. Not the usual pasting of the thinly sliced patterned wood on woodwork, but directly carving the patterned wood into a product. This technique makes it possible to introduce curved lines to the piece. For example, if you cut the ”Yosegi” diagonally, oval shaped patterns appear. Using this technique, he has created a number of new patterns and gave a new aspect to this traditional craft.
In addition, ”Yosegi” usually makes use of the material’s natural colors. Here again Kanazashi applied a new technique. For example, gray is a color you do not often see in nature. Kanazashi boils the wood together with pigment to create this color. Purple and various other darker shades are used to create different textures.

Making the winning cup using ”Yosegi”

Hakone is famous for the annual ”Hakone Ekiden” during the New Years holidays. The winning cup is made by Kanazashi. He has been making the cup for the last 16 years. They wanted to make a trophy that represents Hakone, and Kanazashi was asked to make the cup.
”Is there pressure?” asked Nakata. ”The production is left entirely up to me, so I do feel the pressure. ”Hakone Yosegi” is a designated traditional ”kogei”, but it is not very well known outside the Kanto region of Japan. So I want it have a higher profile to increase recognition, and that is why I am enthusiastic every year.” he replied.
The students run up the hills of Hakone. Hopefully, more people will pay attention to the ”Yosegi” cup in the hands of the winner next year. You will see the beautiful wood in a sophisticated pattern made using a traditional technique.

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