Osaka Fine Cabinetry
Rich Lines and Fine Finish
Rich and deep color, sumptuous lines, and exquisite finish combine with the grandeur of rosewood to produce fine furniture unsurpassed in workmanship. The highest skills and techniques are used to create the fine joinery necessitated by this hard and luxurious material. Such furniture creates a mood of relaxed richness in any room, providing a haven from the vicissitudes of modern life.
Wood rare and beautiful
The history of rosewood furniture in Japan goes back to the Nara period (705-794). The government envoys to China of that time returned with exotic and unusual furniture, the likes of which had never been seen in Japan. The rosewood of these pieces became known as 'Chinese wood.' Of course, at that time only a few members of the imperial family were able to enjoy the beauty of the small amount of such furniture imported from China.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), rosewood was imported through the port of Nagasaki and it all was purchased by medicine wholesalers in Osaka, who had a monopoly on this material. With the peace and prosperity of the Edo period, craftsmen increased in number, and Osaka became the main place where rosewood furniture was made. The skills of this craft have been transmitted from generation to generation of Osaka craftsmen, and today's fine rosewood furniture has become a luxurious adjunct for contemporary life. With a history of almost 300 years, Osaka fine cabinetry maintains the beauty and luxury of this long craft lineage, adapted to today's lifestyle.
Rosewood furniture provides a graceful addition to a room.
Once most of the rosewood furniture workshops in Osaka were located in today's Nishinari and Ikuno wards. As solutions to modern urban problems of noise and waste retrieval, the workshops today have moved to various locations--14 in Osaka, 2 in Nara, 1 in Fukui, 1 in Wakayama, 6 in Hyogo Prefecture, and so forth.
We visited the workshop of Designated Master Craftsman Seiji Yoshida in Nara Prefecture. "My father's workshop was in Ikuno Ward in Osaka, and I worked with him there. In 1974, we moved here to Nara Prefecture, where my father was born." Here Mr Yoshida worked together with a young craftsman. "In the past, craftsmen were paid by piecework, not a monthly wage, and they were given work by the master craftsman of the workshop. In my youth, the harder we worked, the more we got paid. Thus, the harder I worked, the more my skill developed. However, today the demand for traditional craft items has decreased, and the chance for young craftspeople to develop their skills by constant hard work has disappeared, I am sorry to say." This problem is common today in today's traditional craft world. Inexpensive imports have supplanted quality traditional objects.
Little tool chests with long years of use
From a well-ordered workshop
Every step in the making of fine rosewood cabinetry is done in this workshop, from measuring the wood to cutting to carving to the lacquer finish--everything is done by one craftsman. The tools for every step of the process are all beautifully arranged according to how they are used. This well-ordered workshop is an elegant testament of how much Mr Yoshida loves his craft.
Ordinary lumber is carried by ship then dumped into the sea and stored in the water; rosewood is too heavy to float and must be lifted by crane in limited quantities from ship to dock.
If there is a flaw in a finished piece, then all that work has been wasted. Tables for Japanese tatami rooms, tea utensil chests, and the like--large pieces are many, and great care must be taken in transportation. Mr Yoshida is always careful about blemishes on his work, whether in the process of making a piece or afterwards, when it is transported to the customer.
There are about 20 steps in the making of a fine piece of rosewood cabinetry. Mr Yoshida likes best the last step of finishing in lacquer. "I get the most pleasure from wondering in what house a finished piece of furniture will end up and how will it be used." His expression is like a doting father giving away his only daughter in marriage.
A variety of tools on the wall
Second-generation rosewood cabinetry craftsman, a smiling and warm Mr Yoshida