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Sapling at the time of first Viking invasion

Takayama is a fascinating city. Like Iwase and Yatsuo in Toyama, Takayama has set aside an area (Sanmachi) that has been restored to its historical glory. Walking down the streets, you can almost feel that you’ve taken a step back in time to the days of the Edo Bakufu (Tokugawa Shogunate) before the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

I was fortunate enough during my time at the College to have worked on a couple of the old restored buildings in Iwase, so what probably stood out more for me was the subject of the photo below.


This is the ginkgo tree (
大イチョウ - ooichou) in the grounds of the Hida-Kokubunji Temple. It is 37 metres tall, and roughly ten metres in circumference at eye level, but what I found really humbling as I stood next to it was that this tree is over 1,200 years old. It was a sapling during the time of the first Viking invasion of England, and it was already a few hundred years old during the Norman invasion and victory by William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The stories that this tree could tell… It certainly puts things into a true perspective.

Kokubunji Temple itself is the oldest structure in Takayama, dating back to the late 8th century, although it has been rebuilt and restored a number of times over the centuries. While the temple itself is only quite small and well hidden, the main hall is a wonderful example of temple architecture of that era.



45th National Tategu Exhibition

Well, the annual tategu fair is over for this year. This year it was held in Hida-Takayama, a city of about 100,000, located in Gifu Prefecture.

To say it was amazing is a massive understatement. There were fewer exhibits than there were at Akita last year, probably because of a combination of the disaster in March and the smaller venue, but what it lacked in size, it certainly made up in quality, and the “wow” factor.

The main prize is the Prime Minister’s Prize, and this year it was won by a second-generation tategu/kumiko shokunin from Aichi Prefecture. His father won the Prime Minister’s Prize in 1988, and this is the first time that the main prize has been won by both a father and son. It was well deserved. The price for the work is ¥12,000,000, or about $140,000.

I couldn’t get back far enough for a single photo, so I had to split it up. The skill necessary to produce something like this is incredible. The kumiko in the
jigumi (the base) are 1.0 mm thick, and the smaller kumiko forming the internal patterns are 0.8 mm thick.


Next year the exhibition will be held in Fukuoka City, Kyushu.


We’re currently staying with daughter at her apartment in Tokyo. We’re heading off to the tategu display in Gifu later on in the week. In our travels around Tokyo today in preparation for our Gifu trip, we decided to head off to Shibuya to buy a few things. This also meant, of course, dropping in to see the statue of Hachi, the faithful dog who waited outside Shibuya Station for something like nine years for his deceased master to return.


The detailed story can be found
here. Dogs seem to be among the first things that come into mind when talking about loyalty.

In Australia we have our own version of Hachi. Ours is the
Dog on the Tuckerbox, located just outside of Gundagai in New South Wales along the Hume Highway. Although the story is more legend than real, and is based on a mid-19th century poem, I’ve no doubts that the poem itself would have been based on a real story of intense loyalty a dog felt for it owner.

A couple of work-related visits over the next couple of days, then off to Gifu. As an aside, this is the piece that won the Prime Minister’s Prize at the competition last year. It shows a scene from a well-known festival in Akita.


It was absolutely stunning. Those are full-sized doors.

Blog RSS feed

I do all my own website work (as you can probably tell), and I’m still learning all the various bits and pieces. I’ve just changed the RSS feed link to this blog, so a thousand gomen-nasais if this affects your RSS access to this. The RSS feed should hopefully now take you to the latest part.

Shoji screen pattern 2

This is the second of the standard screens I finished about a week ago. This is Tasmanian oak, and it’s the first time I’ve used it. This screen, too, is hand-plane finished, and it’s amazing what water can do.

At the College, we used
bei-hiba (yellow cedar) for the vast majority of our shoji work, and this timber is widely used for shoji in the general market. We always wet the timber after cutting the tenons on the rails and mortices on the stiles to raise the grain and remove any machining marks. Once these pieces had dried, we then did our final planing before assembly. With a sharp plane, this left a beautiful glistening appearance on the timber.

Initial planing of the Tassie oak left a reasonably good surface, but it needed to be better as a final finish. So after doing all the tenoning and mortising work, I wiped a liberal amount of water on the wood, and left it to dry thoroughly. Naturally, the water had left the wood with a very furry surface. A couple of swipes with my finishing plane, and the surfaces were like glass. When I held them up to the sunlight, it was like looking along a mirror. No need for sandpaper on these.

(I’m still trying to sort out the lighting settings on the digital camera, so the shoji paper appears to have a slightly red tinge - I’m certainly not a photographer. The paper is, of course, white.)


We’ll be heading off to Japan to have a look at the national tategu competition and exhibition. This year it’s being held in Gifu Prefecture, and while entry numbers could possibly be down from previous years because of the disaster in March, I’ve no doubt there’ll be some absolutely amazing work on display. My HANABI art piece had roughly 10-12,000 pieces, but some of the work on display in previous years had more than 80,000 pieces, and I’m sure these will be matched this year. Totally mind-boggling. I’ll post some photos here in the blog.