Yosegi Zaiku: the extreme precision work of exceptional Japanese marquetry

02 Sep 2016 in So Design

The extremely precise and delicate art of marquetry is practiced in Japan, producing very thin decorative sheets for precious objects. Discover the secrets of Yosegi Zaiku’s technique.

Hoshino Resorts Kai Hakone thé

Marquetry is a technique that assembles and cuts various wood varieties and inlays them on a woodwork base, creating various pictures and patterns. Though this is a lost art in most of the world, it still flourishes in Japan with admirable savoir-faire and precision. In the Hakone region, about a hundred kilometres from Tokyo, Mr. Tsuyuki is the fourth generation of cabinetmakers in his family.

Japanese craftsman

The mountains in the Hakone region provide a rich source of various wood varieties (hounoki, katsura, ku sunoki, etc.) for local artisans. These varieties have been used in marquetry for over 1000 years, since the early Heian period. While the original form of this craft evolved during the Edo Period into essential souvenirs coveted by tourists, another new development appeared about a century ago. A few craftsmen innovated by cutting thin slices of wood from blocks instead of using large inlay pieces. These thin sheets were then inlaid on simple boxes, creating a beautiful visual effect.

craftsmen wood objects

Hoshino Resorts KAI Hakone is proud to showcase this exceptional craftsmanship by using it for its tableware, and particularly in their kaiseki meals where “hassuns” – a series of appetizers – are presented in elegant boxes made with the Yosegi Zaiku technique. Mr. Tsuyuki’s designs are used at the table and can also be purchased from the hotel’s gift shop.

Yosegi Zaiku technique

In the evening, visitors can attend a presentation of this craft in the hotel lobby and try to open a “secret box” which requires 5, 7 or 10 combinations of moves to win the prize inside.

The cleverest attendees will win a reward, but unlucky players may still purchase it to bring home to practice until they unlock the secrets within. Rest assured, an explanatory note is provided so you will be able to open it whenever you need to!

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