When the highly skilled carpenters of Inami were rebuilding the main worship hall at Zuizenji temple after it had been destroyed by a fire in the middle of the 18th century, some woodcarvers with official patronage were dispatched from Kyoto to help with the work and it is thought that the carving techniques they passed on to the local carpenters marked the beginnings of woodcarving here.
At first the Inami carpenters did both carpentry and woodcarving, mainly doing pieces of carving for temples. By the Meiji period (1868-1912), however, specialist woodcarvers had immerged and they began to produce items of a more general nature including transom for domestic housing.
The principal timbers now used are camphor (Cinnamonum Camphora), zelkova (Zelkova serrata) and paulownia (Paulownia Sieb. et Zucc.). When making a transom, they carve from both sides to produce a deep relief effect which is often cut right through and use a variety of motifs including birds, flowers, people and landscape. This form of traditional carving requires a high degree of skill and using upward of 200 different chisels and woodcarving knives, they complete pieces of breath-taking intricacy and beauty.
Woods such as camphor, zelkova, and paulownia are used, carved on both sides with landscapes, flowers and birds, people, and more in a technique called "sukashi-fukabori". Skilled artisans use over 200 different chisels and carving blades to execute the traditional wood carvings.
How to make
Transoms are carved using wood that has been dried for several months. From creating the design, to sketching it on the wood, to roughing out the design, rough carving, finishing, and framing, everything is done before final corrections are made and the piece is complete.