The Carpenters’ Line: Japan House London showcases 1,300 years of Woodworking Mastery from Hida, Japan

A Japanese craftsman at work – photograph courtesy of Igarashi Junya

Japan House London presents The Carpenters’ Line: Woodworking Heritage in Hida Takayama, an exhibition exploring the art of master woodworking from Japan’s well-known woodworking region.

The exhibition celebrates the essence of Japanese craftsmanship through the story of an enduring woodworking heritage cultivated in the densely forested Hida region of Gifu Prefecture in central Japan. From the raw materials of the Hida forests and tools developed to work them, to the involvement of Hida craftsmanship in global furniture design of today, visitors to the exhibition will be immersed in extraordinary craftworking legacy.

The city of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture has maintained a vibrant woodworking tradition for over 1,300 years, developing, in that time, an international reputation for its highly skilled carpenters.

First recorded in the eighth century CE, the woodworking skills of these craftspeople were provided to the imperial capital in place of taxation, such was the importance placed upon the carpentry techniques originating in Hida. It was the extraordinary skill of these Hida craftspeople that built many of the famous shrines and temples still seen in the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto today.

Today, the practice of woodworking still thrives in Hida, with internationally renowned workshops well known for their collaborations with international designers, the results of which can be seen in museum collections across the globe.


Visitors to The Carpenters’ Line will encounter a series of installations demonstrating the legacy of skill and innovation that runs as a continuous strand through Hida’s woodworking history, including:

* Woodcraft techniques and materials: From ichii ittō-bori, or sculptures carved from Japanese yew and mageki (wood bending), a vital element of contemporary furniture making, to latticework and masterful joining techniques, Materials and techniques from this region of Japan will be highlighted, through video, displays, and a rich variety of exhibits.

* Technology and innovation: Shining a spotlight on where centuries of tradition meet new technology, maintaining working lifestyles while adapting to new methods of manufacture. Hida boasts a design legacy of excellence that continues to this day as exemplified by makers such as celebrated furniture manufacturer Hida Sangyō.

* Products: For hundreds of years, products from Hida have embodied beauty and utility both in Japan and more recently further afield. Visitors can admire delicate Hida-shunkei lacquerware, intricate kumiko latticework, and the culmination of several craft techniques in an example of a yatai. Yatai are large, ornate festival floats that are paraded around the town the spectacular Takayama Festival, which takes place twice a year in spring and autumn.

* People: This exhibition focuss on the skills and lives of those people whose livelihoods have depended, and still depend, on working with the natural materials of their local environment. Visitors can connect with the people aurally by listening to the stirring medeta, a celebratory song sung by residents of the Hida region, as well as through soundscapes that allow the visitor to inhabit the world of the craftspeople.

Japan House London, 101-111 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SA
WHEN: The exhibition runs from 29 September 2022 to 29 January 2023