Japan has long been known for their craft excellence, which extends not only to the arts and fashion, but to even the most simple of daily activities. There is care and attention in everything that the Japanese do, and from ceramics to woodworking, there is a long tradition of masterworkers. One of those regions, Hida, is one of the most recognized places in Japan for woodworking traditions. Located in the center of the country in Gifu Prefecture, its wood crafting history began 1,300 years ago. This region, and the artisans from the area, are the centerpiece of the new exhibition, HIDA: A Woodwork Tradition in the Making, on view through April 12, 2020 at the Japan House in Los Angeles

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We have long been admirers of Japanese craft art, and what makes this show in particularly so fascinated to us is the wide-range of wood objects and items in the exhibition. From spoons to chairs, sculptures to kitchen items and even incredible table works, there is exemplary art here. 

From Japan House: The exhibition highlights the Hida region’s enduring craft connections to wood and the forest. The featured objects and processes engage the five senses and touch upon all aspects of contemporary lifestyle. From the raw materials of the forest, the origins of Hida’s craft traditions, to the furniture designs developed by Hida Sangyo in collaboration with some of the world’s top contemporary designers, such as Enzo Mari and Sori Yanagi, the exhibition spans the evolution of Hida’s relationships with the Forest, Human needs, Time, and Craft.

Beyond innovative technology, the Hida craftsmen have endeavored to fulfill intrinsic sensory needs that instill human satisfaction, such as comfort, ease of use, and a sense of familiarity. Dedicated to the five senses, Hida craftsmanship, at its core, has not changed throughout its 1,300-year history. Today’s craftsmen continue to anticipate, and give great attention to, the feelings of the end user.

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It is not possible to speak of HIDA without mentioning the renowned and pioneering Hida no takumi, or craftsmen of Hida. These master craftsmen possess preeminent woodworking techniques enriched through time, and have contributed to the construction of shrines, temples, and even imperial capitals for 1,300 years. The history of Hida exists as a continuum, proudly maintaining the techniques, shapes, and ideas produced and nurtured by these pioneers for successive generations.

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The Hida area has produced highly refined techniques that are respected worldwide, including Hida-shunkei lacquerware, Ichii wood carving (Ichii itto bori—Japanese yew carving), and mageki (wood bending). The history of Hida is also a history of continuous innovation and of sharing the appeal and potential of wood with the outside world. The refinement of skill is a fundamental characteristic of Hida craft that remains unchanged, while the study and evolution of technique is an unceasing journey.

This exhibition provides an opportunity to experience the current progress of this journey through contemporary furniture and lifestyle goods made by Hida craftsmen, while enjoying the charm and soulfulness of wood and the ever-evolving aesthetic of Japanese craft.