Kyoto Stone Carving


Although man's relationship with stone began long ago in the Stone Age, it was not until the end of the Nara period (710-794) when Buddhism was introduced into Japan that stone became more than just a utilitarian material.
Gradually, as the art of stone work developed, pieces of stone craft of real cultural value appeared. Being blessed with fine raw materials such as the good quality granite available from the village of Shirakawa at the foot of Mount Hiei, Kyo Ishi Kogeihin has been sustained by the very nature of the cultural of Kyoto, which has been at the center of Japanese culture for over a thousand years. Stone carving techniques, which cannot be found in any other part of the country, have been acquired here over the years and are still in use to this day.

Almost everything that is made is for use in the traditional Japanese garden. A mason is responsible for carrying out all of the work on a piece, making each and everyone according to its function and form. Inevitably though, it is the stone lantern that has been an indispensable component of any traditional garden since the Momoyama period (1568-1600) in step with the fashion for tea. Besides lanterns and various kinds of tubs and pots, some pieces of sculpture are also made.


Kyo ishi kogeihin, mostly used as garden decorations, are manufactured by hand by a single stonemason handling all production stages. A great number of products are created, all different for intended use and shape. Stone lanterns, in particular, have become an essential element of Japanese gardens since the Momoyama period in conjunction with the growing popularity of the tea ceremony.

How to make

Stone lanterns, pagodas, vases and millstones, though varying in type and sculpting techniques, are share the fact of being manufactured in the course of the same general stages: "raw-stone processing," "molding," "sculpting" and "finishing.". In all of these stages are used traditional techniques handed down from ancient times. Even though articles to be installed outdoors require no special care, they may chip or break if receiving a strong blow. An important part of the installation of stone lanterns is the devising of ways to harmonize them with their surrounding garden environment.