The Hida region 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 exhibition aims to explore the heart of Japanese craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibility through the ever-present artistry represented in traditional Hida woodcraft techniques and products from its forests, from contemporary chair designs to fragrant aroma oils.
The exhibition is organized around four core principles as embodied in the work of Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd., one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in Japan, founded in 1920. The central ideas include coexistence with the forest (Forest), consideration of inherent human needs (Human), legacy cultivated through time (Time), and continuous refinement of craft (Craft). Together, they have contributed to the rich history of woodcraft in the Hida region.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, woodworking became the Hida region’s main commercial industry. This success has much to do with the innovations of Hida Sangyo, which continues to refine its manufacturing of bentwood furniture through the utilization of local forest resources.
The work of Hida Sangyo has become synonymous with the age-old skill and craftsmanship of the Hida region, and, yet, the company continuously seeks new methods of design and production. For example, collaborations with international designers enable Hida Sangyo to engage Western aesthetics with a Japanese style. The resulting pieces speak to a global audience and foster innovation while retaining the core principles of Japanese craftsmanship.
The company’s most recent innovations are in revolutionary wood-compression techniques with cedar, an incredibly sustainable domestic wood that is typically too soft and often not suitable for long-lasting furniture. In the Hida Sangyo factory, cedar is compressed and strengthened. This material transformation allows designers to create smooth and durable chairs, tables, and flooring imbued with cedar’s subtle scent. Hida Sangyo’s success has influenced a community of other manufacturers to flourish in the Hida area, incorporating the time-honored mastery of the region’s woodcraft.
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.
Forests are the genesis of the Hida region’s creativity. The techniques of Hida’s craftsmen have been honed by the area’s deep forests. The diverse tree species and high-quality timber have nurtured a woodworking culture for 1,300 years. For the people of Hida, coexisting with the forest is a partnership. Gratitude and care are offered to the life-giving forests as they are bequeathed to future generations. Both co-existence and co-prosperity are at the heart of Hida craftsmanship.
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.
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.
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.
Exhibition-related programs and workshops which complement HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making will be introduced on the Events page.
Presented by JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles
Exhibition contents provided by Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd.
Exhibition and Graphic Design | Daigo Daikoku
Planning and Production Assistance | Intertrend Communications, Inc.
Content Contribution | City of Takayama Historical Archive Department
Planning Support – City of Takayama