Although this craft dates back to the Heian period (794-1185), specialist cabinet makers did not appear until during the Muromachi period (1392-1573), when this form of joinery developed in step with the ceremonial drinking of tea. Beside a range of the finest traditional household furniture made in solid wood, many pieces of turnery, bentwood work and items made from boards are also fashioned from such woods as paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa), Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), mulberry (Morus) and zelkova (Zelkova serrata).
Perhaps the most representative of the woods used is paulownia. Being both moisture and heat resistant, products made of this wood represent the very best in household storage. Great care is taken with its preparation by ensuring that it is well seasoned and that any impurities are removed before the wood is worked. Apart from the many items which are made for use in association with the tea ceremony, some very finely crafted chest-of-drawers and wardrobes are also made. Freestanding shelves are also produced, sometimes for the display of fine china.
Kyo sashimono is said to find its highest expression in objects made of paulownia wood. Since paulownia wood blocks humidity and is highly resistant to heat, pawlonia wood products have become synonymous with high-quality furniture. When using paulownia wood in Kyo sashimono, particular attention is given to creating a rough body by removal of impurities and extended natural drying.
How to make
A key feature of Kyo sashimono, is the special finishing of the wooden base which brings out all the beauty of the wood grain’s natural texture. The wooden base finishing process includes sanding, wax-wiping, colored wax-wiping and finishing by applying an extremely thin layer of raw lacquer (suriurushi); in the decorative stage maki-e (gold sprinkled picture), urushi-e (lacquering techniques), dami-e (combination of brilliant colors, gold leaf and silver leaf), haku (gold leaf), kingin-dei (gold and silver paint), sunago (gold and silver dust) and many more techniques are used.