What is Nagiso Rokuro Zaiku?
Nagiso rokuro zaiku is a traditional woodturning craft that developed in the village of Nagiso in Nagano prefecture, a location surrounded by abundant greenery. It is a specialty product that is distinctive of tree country. Utilizing wood that is carefully selected by seasoned craftsmen, rokuro zaiku products include practical everyday turned goods, such as round tea set boxes, trays, bowls, and more. The material qualities and natural grain of the wood differ depending on the type of tree, so the delicate variations in the aesthetic of each kind of wood are taken into consideration when determining the shape and type of product that will be made from it. Over time, people’s lifestyle and preferences have become more diversified. The materials and designs of Nagiso turnery have adapted in keeping with these changes and new products have continued to evolve. 
History
Records of unfinished wood forms being shipped out to Nagoya and Osaka appear in the Katsuno monjo records and it would appear that in the mid-Edo period turned plain wood products were being made in this region. In the early Meiji period, a total of approximately fifteen woodworkers and lacquerers were engaged in the production of a variety of turned wood bowls and trays. By the mid-Meiji period, technological and production capacity grew with the adoption of mechanized water-powered lathes and the area became widely known for its turned craft. 
By the early Shōwa period, the region was delivering products, such as tea trays and tea set boxes, throughout Japan. At this time, both plain wood products as well as fuki-urushi rubbed lacquered objects were being shipped out in large quantities. In spite of encountering difficulties, such as the growing scarcity of raw timber in the area and poor transport conditions, the gradual rise in appreciation for the value of handmade objects and the natural beauty of wood have allowed the craft to continue to the present day. 
The Production Process
Artisans of Nagiso woodturning are individually responsible for all stages of the production process, from the selection of the wood and the finishing of the surface, to forging their own planes and chisels. The fact that one individual craftsman is working the wood at all stages of production results in very high-quality work. A woodworker who is unable to forge his own blades is not considered a true craftsman. Making their own tools from scratch, producing their product and selling it themselves, results in a strong emotional investment in the product. 
The Wood
Horse chestnut, zelkova, castor aralia, katsura, cherry birch and other broadleaf trees are used in Nagiso rokuro zaiku. The kinds of moderate weight woods with beautiful, even grain that meet the conditions that are considered ideal for this craft all come from trees that are more than one hundred years old. 
Wood Grain
The distinctive skill and personality of the individual craftsman is absolutely indispensable in drawing out the beautiful wood grain, which can be said to be the life force of turned wood craft.
Cross-cutting
The logs that are selected by the craftsmen are cross-cut in a process called tamagiri. These cross-sections are machined for maximum efficiency depending on the type, size and purpose of the products being made from them. 
Splitting
The cross-cut sections are placed with the cut edge up and split approximately to the size to be used. This process is called hikiwari. 
Finishing 
Using a finishing turning chisel called a shaka, the grooves from rough turning are carved away and the finished surface is made smooth. This task, which is carried out on a turning lathe, requires masterful proficiency. Precise techniques of applying the blade and carving that can only come from years of experience are key to bringing the beautiful wood grain to the surface. 
Fuki-urushi
Raw lacquer is applied with a brush and rubbed into the surface three to six times. This repeated process creates a lustrous, glossy surface.
Being hand-produced by individual artisans, each of these objects is unique. This process results in a distinctive warmth of the wood material that comes from a combination of the beauty of the wood grain created by nature and the skill of the artisan’s hand.
Plain wood products and  fuki-urushi products
In the finishing process, scouring rushes and sugukiwara straw are used to wet polish the products, resulting in plain wood products that highlight the beauty of the natural wood grain itself. In contrast, the fuki-urushi products give off a deep radiance that results from rubbing in natural lacquer. Both products are equally useful and share the distinguishing qualities of Nagiso woodturning craft, which encompasses a wide range of types of products. 
Forest Cultivation
The decline in raw timber that has served as the material for this craft has become a growing problem and since 2006 there has been activity to protect and promote timber culture and sustainable forests. A “Nagiso Traditional Craft Forest” has been created and forests of zelkova, horse chestnut, and other trees that become materials for turning craft have been planted and maintained, while other modes of timber cultivation have also advanced. Raising good timber results in good product. The town of Nagiso will continue to pass down this culture in the future as the leading production region of wood turning craft in Japan. 
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported and Information provided by:
Nagano Prefecture Sangyorodobu
Nagiso Rokuro Kogei Kyodo Kumiai

English Translation by:
Maiko Bear

Text written and Exhibition created by:
Sugishima Tsubasa ( Department of Apparel and Space Design, Kyoto Women's University )

Directed by:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile