Hakone Yosegi (Parquetry)

Hakone Yosegi (Parquetry)

Wooden parquetry from Hakone is instantly recognizable as “made in Japan.” Hakone Mountain is blessed with a huge number of trees, and its beauty has been compared with Arashiyama in Kyoto and Daisen in Tottori. Parquetry with complicated and detailed geometrical patterns is made using the unlimited colors and shades of the natural resources of Hakone Mountain.

Nihei Ishikawa (1790-1850), a resident of Hakone town, created the first Hakone Parquetry. More recently, the art form was registered as one of the Traditional Crafts of Japan in 1984. It has two major styles: Hikimono and Sashimono. Hikimono is a technique where one places wooden parquetry onto the surface of pottery-based products like trays and small bowls. In the case of Sashimono, the parquetry is placed directly on a wooden surface. This latter technique is used mainly to make small decorative boxes.

A wooden mosaic pattern may appear on the boxes, as if each wooden piece was directly applied to the base material. However, this is just an illusion, as the geometric design board is created first by gluing each piece together. This board is called Taneita. The next step is to peel the top part off the thick design board, and attach it to the top of one’s designated object, be it a box or something else. For the finish, one applies botanical gaze to secure and shine the parquetry.

There is a famous annual New Year’s relay marathon race called Hakone-Ekiden that features university student runners in competition against one another. The championship trophy is made of Hakone parquetry, and the design is different each year. A mosaic is added to portray and celebrate the great joint efforts of each runner to finish the 217.9-kilometer long race.

Pen stands and coasters are popular Hakone parquetry items, but the most famous has to be the secret box. This tricky object requires one to move certain of its pieces correctly to open its lid. A delicate Hakone parquetry box is a great place to store your important keepsakes.

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