The Kiji-shi (wood specialist) has a core role in designing and manufacturing Buddhist altar supplies. Such examples include, the Ku-den (palace), the Shumidan (pedestal), the Maezukue (table in front of pedestal), Zushi (miniature shrine), Nintengai (canopy), and the Buttengai (canopy for statue of Buddha). While the development process is regulated in this industry, the shape of the products may be different depending on different sects.
All the timber we utilize are from domestically grown and native to Japan including, the Coniferous-family of trees (Japanese Red Pine, Japanese Larch, Yeddo Spruce), and the Broadleaf-family (Keyaki, Castor Aralia, Katsura Tree). The dehydration process is critical and is a highly important factor in regard to producing high-quality wood. We spend 3-5 years on the dehydration process depending on the type of tree as well as the size of the cut. If this process is not done properly, the condition of the wood may diminish in the future (wood warping). Thus, the dehydration process is important and necessary process even if it requires a substantial amount of time.
Lacquer is applied to the interior of Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, altar supplies, and materials (wood, metal, paper, glass, etc.).
Lacquer has been the foundation of such arts since the ancient times. By combining traditional manual techniques with new-age methods, craftsmen are able to achieve smoothness without deforming the material that lacquer is being applied to. Color is achieved by kneading over 20 colors of pigment with lacquer. The product that receives a lacquer finish is coated by the substance several times with what is known as a lacquer brush. In order to achieve a glossy finish, the product goes through what is called the “roiro” process. If the product requires gold foil stamping, it does not go through the “roiro” process and directly moves ahead to the gold foil stamping phase.
Gold foil stamping begins by putting lacquer as an adhesive that attaches gold foils on an already lacquer coated product. This is a 2-step process. First, the craftsman will apply the foil stamping and the adhesive to the desired location. Next, the craftsman will utilize a wiping cotton to wipe the lacquer in order maintain an equal surface. The type of lacquer and the wiping adjustments are decided upon by factors such as the phase of dehydration, temperature, and humidity of the current day. It is this highly attentive to detail process and the minimization of gloss that creates Kyoto’s unique profound glitter.
Karazikanagu is a metal ornament utilized for decorative purposes. Metal ornaments are equipped (sometimes as reinforcement) on the exterior of buildings such as shrines, temples, and castles. Metal ornaments are also used as interior decorations. Other usages include on a Mikoshi (portable shrine), the Yamahokos (decorated floats) of the Gion Festival, stupas, etc. The metals that are utilized include gold, silver, copper, brass, and iron. We create attractive metal ornaments by transforming these metals with wooden hammers and chisels. The craftsmen who make karazikanagu are known as “Kazari-shi”.
The combination of long-standing traditional techniques with modern ones is one of our core beliefs. We hope that one day, perhaps 10 years, 50 years, or even 100 years later, our processes will also be known as “traditional techniques” and that they will become the cornerstone of the Japanese manufacturing industry. As a collective whole, we pursue such goals everyday.