Japanese traditional crafts are exceptionally sophisticated. What especially get our attention are those colors and patterns that continue to thrill even modern eyes. To get to understand this beauty I researched crafts in many places and came across Yosegi-zaiku in Odawara, Kanagawa. I learned that the red and green of the small boxes and the trays are the natural colors of the wood, left as is. How did this modern design come to be?
The wooden mosaic form Yosegi-zaiku combines various types of wood in geometric patterns such as fish scales or check. It’s a craft born in the late 19th century. On this day I visited Tsuyuki Mokkōjo, established 1926, and headed by third-generation certified traditional craftsman Mr. Kiyokatsu Tsuyuki, who showed me how he makes these patterns come together.
“For example, for a fish scale pattern, I plane two different woods, red and white, into slim triangular prisms with faces of about 4 millimeters. I then glue eight together alternating red and white and so on, to form a one square-centimeter face.” Just one square-centimeter of surface in a vast pattern spread across each item, but it takes about a half hour to make. I’m moved by the thought of such painstaking labor.