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Japanese Traditional Craft Resource Center Category


Japanese Traditional Craft

Craft Category Wood & Bamboo Work
Name Nikko-bori: Nikko carving

Main Production Site:Tochigi

The most impressive characteristic of this woodwork is the use of a unique v-shaped gouge called a “hikkaki.” This is a special tool used by hand with a bent tip. During restoration of the Shinto shrine Nikko Tosho-gu, the triangular shape of the end made it ideal to be utilized as a tool to scrape off the difficult to remove varnish.

At the end of the Edo period, this tool began to be used in carving and was known by the names of “hikkaki” (scratcher), “hikkaki-tou” (scratching blade), and “nikko sankaku-tou” (Nikko triangular blade).

Using a single hikkaki and pulling the blade towards the carver across the wood to produce a hikkaki carving is Nikko carving’s most important feature.
Another characteristic of Nikko carving is the use of plant life as the main theme. The influences of the carving designs at Nikko Tosho-gu are clearly shown with tree peony, chrysanthemum, Japanese apricot and cherry trees often included in the design.

[Tochigi Prefecture Designated Traditional Handicraft]

Source: Nikko-bori Taiken Kyoushitsu Unei Kyougikai (Nikko-bori workshop classroom operation convention) (Tel: 0288-53-0070)

Translation: Catherine Newman

Materials Japanese horse chestnut, Japanese Judas tree, Magnolia obovata.
Crafting Processes Nikko carving uses many techniques such as “hikkaki-bori” (scratch-carving), “ukashi-bori” (emboss-carving), “sukashi-bori” (openwork), “maru-bori” (round-carving; U-shaped carving, or 3D carving) and “kago-bori” (basket-carving; outer and inner openwork) but each method uses the same unique v-shaped gouge known as a “hikkaki.” Hikkaki is an edged tool used for the carving of lines. However, unlike normal v-shaped gouges, the edge is bent approximately 60 degrees and brought inwards towards the carver and so became known as “hikkaki” from the Japanese word “hikakku”, meaning “to scratch.” It is believed that it was created during the restoration of the Shinto shrine, Nikko Tosho-gu specifically to scrape off the difficult to remove varnish in some places. This graver is indispensable for the manly, finely chiseled curves of Nikko carving.
History The origin of Nikko carving is not completely clear. However, from the 11th year of the Kan’ei era (1634) until the 13th year (1636), third generation shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu remodeled the main building of Nikko Tosho-gu into the magnificent and splendid building it is today. It is thought that the master craftsmen gathered from all around the country started Nikko carving as a hobby.
Nikko Tosho-gu was built in the 3rd year of the Genna era (1617) but due to the aforementioned Kan’ei era large-scale reconstruction work, the scale of the shrine was completely changed. The number of carpenters involved during this time totaled 1,680,000 with 400,000 of those as carving carpenters. After the reconstruction, several middle or small scale constructions and repairs occurred occasionally and it is thought that a large amount of workmen had a permanent residence at Nikko.

A large variety of goods are produced nowadays such as trays, tea tables, cake boxes, small plates, drawers, tables, and flower vase stands.
Each work has a handmade style and makes use of the warm, natural feeling of the tree. Nikko carving is a manly craft which requires an apprenticeship and yet despite that, the delicate care and attentiveness shown brings the finished product from a daily object into a dignified work of art.
Related URL https://www.mekke-nikko.com/nikko-kibori

◆Exhibition / Showcase
Nikko-kibori Sato-kougei Center

Tochigi-ken, Nikko-shi, Tokorono 2848

◆Event Information
A Nikko carving workshop will take place. Please refer to the related URL for more information.

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