A captivating exhibition that explores 1,300 years of woodworking traditions in Hida, Japan.

Like Scandinavian countries, Japan has rich woodworking traditions. In the Hida region of Japan, however, this history goes back more than 1,300 years. In “The Carpenters’ Line: Woodworking Heritage in Hida Takayama” exhibition at Japan House London gallery, curator Simon Wright has painted a clear and fascinating picture of this impressive history, from ancient times to present day. Located in central Japan, in a densely forested area (over 90%), the Hida region in the Gifu Prefecture is the birthplace of one of the country’s most long-lasting treasures. The woodworking skills of Hida craftspeople have put this area into the history books, literally.

The first mention of the quality of Hida woodworking dates to the 8th century CE. At that time, local people provided their invaluable skills in place of taxation. From this region, their mastery spread to the surrounding cities. Some of their temples and shrines are still landmarks in the ancient capitals of Kyoto or Nara. Today, the city of Takayama has become the center of Hida craftsmanship. It’s here that Japanese and international designers find local workshops that can bring their vision to life in solid wood.

The name of the exhibition refers both to the sumitsubo (carpenters’ line), a Japanese carpentry tool used to mark straight lines on wood surfaces, and to the ancestry of Hida woodworking traditions. Visitors can discover the area’s legacy of artisan skill and innovation, across centuries. The show features a wide range of objects and installations, from raw materials and tools to lacquer objects and latticework. Additionally, a window display immerses guests in the story of Hida’s forests. Finally, for the duration of the exhibition, the gallery’s AKIRA restaurant will serve Carpenters’ Line, a cocktail inspired by the woodlands and vegetation of Hida. The exhibition runs at Japan House London from 29 September 2022 until 29 January 2023. The show is free, but the gallery recommends visitors to make a booking. Photography © Japan House London.

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