Traditional Japanese shoji and kumiko art

Shoji (障子, pronounced “shaw-ji”) are traditional Japanese translucent paper-backed doors, windows and room dividers, and evolved into their present style around the mid-11th century.

Shoji are much more than just thin pieces of wood held in a frame with paper stuck on the back. To the Japanese they are a way of life; a constant that has been a part of their character for nearly a thousand years.

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Perhaps the most significant evolutional change in shoji occurred with the growing power of the samurai warrior class, and the emergence of shoin-zukuri in the latter part of the 16th century. This architectural style, has exerted a profound influence on traditional Japanese building construction right through to the modern day.

In the four centuries since then, shoji design has continued to be refined, and has risen to new heights of complexity and artistic expression with the advent of modern materials, tools and techniques.

The greater use of computers has also seen kumiko art reach new levels, and boundaries are being pushed with every generation.

The internal latticework (kumiko — 組子) comes in a vast range of designs, from very simple vertical and horizontal lattice, to patterns and landscape scenes that are absolutely breathtaking in their complexity and detail.

Despite the many advances in modern technology though, shoji and kumiko work, by its very nature, is largely done by hand using techniques passed down from one generation to the next, so for the woodworking oriented, I've also included information about the different types of
kanna and other hand tools that are used.