Hamamatsuya : Observe Hakone’s Traditional “Yosegi Zaiku” Wood Mosaic Technique

A technique that brings natural colored woods to life

osegi Zaiku marquetry, or wood mosaic, originated in Hatajuku in Hakone. The wood mosaic technique is said to have been created here by a man named Nihei Ishikawa in the late Edo period (1800s), and the craft has since been passed down from generation to generation. Hamamatsuya’s president Mr. Ichiro Ishikawa is one of those descendents, the seventh generation of the Ishikawa family. Hamamatsuya (its flagship store, “Mieru Kojo”) is immediately next to the “Honjin Ato” bus stop in the Hatajuku district (photo 1). There is also a branch store up on the hill.
Hakone wood mosaic products are handmade artworks in which the different tones and grains in natural colored woods are combined to create detailed geometric patterns. These mosaics are then finely carved using a specialized plane and affixed as decoration to small boxes, chests of drawers and other items (photo 2).
The craft has 200 years of tradition, with a history dating back to the late Edo period as I mentioned earlier. It is said that its designs were modeled on the cobble-stones of Hakone’s old highway.
The Hakone region is the only place in Japan where Yosegi Zaiku is produced. The wood mosaic techniques are a unique and precious marquetry art which is unparalleled elsewhere. In May 1984, Hakone wood mosaic was designated as a traditional craft by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (photo 3). This technique has real depth to it.

There is also an inlaid woodwork technique called Hakone Moku Zougan

What is even more amazing is the technique called “Hakone Moku Zougan”, or inlaid woodwork. Like wood mosaic, this also uses natural colored woods, and is a wood art technique that depicts pictures or patterns by inlaying them using a woodworking machine saw. This method has a 130-year history: it was devised by a man named Senseki Shirakawa in the mid-Meiji period (1880s).
The manufacturing method is divided into a “layering method” and a “cutaway method”. The base wood is thinly shaved with a specialized large plane into paper-thin sheets of wood to create the artwork.
The technique of operating the machine saw teeth requires careful attention and a high level of skill (photo 4). Nowadays, the Hakone-Odawara region is the only area where this method is preserved, and it is a valuable traditional craft technique. I have to take my hat off to its excellence.
There are three types of technique of Moku Zougan inlaid woodwork: “cutaway inlay” (cutting one layer), “layered inlay” (cutting two layers) and “carved inlay”.
Various timbers are used for the base wood plate, with different lumber qualities and hardness, so considerable skill is reportedly required for the respective processing techniques.
The main timbers used in Hakone Yosegi Zaiku wood mosaic and Moku Zougan inlaid woodwork are: white woods (Ilex macropoda, Japanese spindle tree, dogwood), yellow woods (Picrasma quassioides, Japanese wax tree, lacquer tree), light brown woods (pagoda tree, Japanese cherry, Japanese Zelkova), dark brown woods (Japanese Zelkova bogwood, walnut (imported)), gray woods (Japanese whitebark magnolia, Japanese whitebark magnolia bogwood), black woods (Katsura bogwood, ebony, black persimmon), and red woods (Chinese mahogany, Rengas (imported)) (photo 5).

Look, listen and admire

It is said that “to understand true beauty, you have to understand the process”. At the second floor of Hamamatsuya’s flagship store “Mieru Kojo”, you can watch a demonstration of Yosegi Zaiku wood mosaic and Moku Zougan inlaid woodwork.
The traditional craftsmen display their skills right in front of you while giving an explanation, so it’s worth listening closely to their meaningful words. As well as feeling that I benefited greatly from watching, I was really impressed.
Additionally, there is even a free gift of a Yosegi Zuku (a Zuku is a thin sheet of wood shaved from the patterned surface of the wood plate with a plane) for those who come to watch the demonstration. How about one as a memento of your trip and a piece of history? There is also a large assortment of original artworks at the branch store.

These traditional skills are constantly evolving in new ways (photo 6). I am sure that craftsmanship and manufacturing will continue to be mastered through an ongoing fusion of past and present techniques.

>> Kanagawa Travel Info

Kanagawa P.G.T.D. image

Kanagawa P.G.T.D.


Kanagawa P.G.T.D.'s other advice

Traditional fire festival at Shonan beach, Oiso SAGICHO. images

Traditional fire festival at Shonan beach, Oiso SAGICHO.

Oiso SAGICHO is the last event of NEW YEAR celebration in SEISHO Area (western district of Shonan, Kanagawa Pref.). Originally, local fishermen operated this event and it has been held for 400 years …

Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks Make your own original glass creation images

Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks Make your own original glass creation

“Kokonotuido Home-Fired Suenosato Hand-blown Glassworks”, where you can try your hand at glassblowing, is a 10-minute bus ride from JR Ofuna Station. After walking through a peaceful rural area for a…

Yokohama Port Museum and the Training Ship Nippon Maru Learn all about the Port of Yokohama images

Yokohama Port Museum and the Training Ship Nippon Maru Learn all about the Port of Yokohama

Yokohama and its port have an inseparable relationshipMost people immediately associate the words of “harbor” and “ocean” with Yokohama. The “Yokohama Port Museum” and the “Training Ship Nippon Mar…

Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho images

Kinokoen Oyama no Taisho

Providing the rich bounty of nature to urban dwellersEating wood-grown shiitake mushrooms freshly picked? There is a place where such a luxurious delight, hardly imaginable by city dwellers, can…

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village images

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village

Kirin Beer originates from YokohamaThe Kirin Beer Village, where you can learn about the history of beer, is surely a place that any beer-lover would want to visit.Kirin Beer originates from Yoko…

The Silk Museum A specialized silk museum that is out of the ordinary images

The Silk Museum A specialized silk museum that is out of the ordinary

The port of Yokohama has developed dramatically together with raw silk, and at the same time the silk thread industry has supported the Japanese economy. The Silk Museum was established in 1959 as pa…

You might also like

5 Traditional Japanese Villages to Explore images

5 Traditional Japanese Villages to Explore

The rural area of Japan is quite worth an exploration. Many villages in Japan have typical Japanese styles. Although they are quite far away from big cities, you can enjoy enchanting natural views an…

Alexlovetravel image


LOOK application makes you to understand Japanese product by your native language images

LOOK application makes you to understand Japanese product by your native language

▼ Download “LOOK”https://look-goods.com/en“LOOK” is an application that allows foreign tourists in Japan to understand information about Japanese products in their own native language, and shar…

R2C8 image


Popular Anime Locations in Japan images

Popular Anime Locations in Japan

One of the most popular anime ever. In an apocolyptic future, after the destruction of Tokyo by giant monster, the capitol of Japan is moved to Hakone`s Sengokuhara area.The main characters go to…

Kintaro-man image


Ethiopian Food in Nakameguro images

Ethiopian Food in Nakameguro

when you would like to try spicy ......try Queen Sheba at Nakameguro.This restaurant was the oldest Ethiopian restaurant in Tokyo.You can try traditional Ethiopian food such as, spicy meat and ve…

yukorose image


Hakone & Lake Ashi images

Hakone & Lake Ashi

If you are in search of that idyllic movie setting lakeside outing, then you have stumbled upon the right guiding information here. Look no further than a visit to the city of Hakone, which lies in t…

Alex image


1920's Japanese life style house images

1920's Japanese life style house

I visited a museum near where I live....retaining the old lifestyle from 1920s. http://www.showanokurashi.com/Even for me who was born and grew up in Japan, it was quite interesting....when I…

Zara image