Amazing Woodwork in Japan

Wooden constructions and decorations

By Elena Lisina    - 2 min read

I was told that despite being a mountainous country, Japan is rich in forests, that they are used wisely and that many temples and shrines, despite originally being made out of wood, are now made from concrete. I do know that in Tokyo and other large cities that suffered from fires and the bombing of old wooden houses and temples, that they were more or less replaced by modern concrete constructions. However, many places in the north, I came across many authentic wooden temples and shrines created with wonderfully skilled techniques and filled with beautiful carvings.

My first sense of amazement came with the temples of Nikko – I’d never seen such richly decorated Japanese structures before! The decorations were carved from wood and painted in very bright colours. I understand the need for painting as a form of wood protection but this painting was simply outstanding! Later I found a similar style of architecture and decoration in the Zuihoden, the mausoleum of Date Masamune in Sendai. Not all the decorations were painted, actually many are not, but the texture of wood is lovely to see. I am impressed with Japan's style of wooden architecture. I think it looks quite rustic.

Besides using wood in building and the decoration of buildings, a lot of household items used to be made and still are made from wood. Such items include dishes, cups, chopsticks, boxes, toys and even the traditional geta wooden-clogs. In Nikko it’s interesting to visit the Nikko Woodcarving Center where some good quality woodwork is produced. In some places in Tohoku like Matsushima-Kaigan, Naruko, and Shiroishi it’s possible to watch the work of wood carvers or kokeshi dolls craftsmen. And, of course, it's also possible to buy some of the final results!

If you ever have a chance, take your time to look over the finer details of the wooden structures you come across. It's quite likely you'll find some fascinating images and carvings to admire.

Was this article helpful?

Suggest an edit

Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: Matane!