Japan House Announces New Exhibition

The exhibition “HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making” on display from Jan. 16-April 12 brings Japanese woodcraft from its spiritual homeland of the Hida region of Japan to Los Angeles for the first time.

01/02/2020
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While wood bending is the most recognized HIDA technique, the traditional practice of hand carving wood using knife and chisel is an essential skill passed on from generation to generation. (Photo by Takaya Sakano)

Japan House Los Angeles has announced the exhibition “HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making,” which brings Japanese woodcraft from its spiritual homeland of the Hida region of Japan to Los Angeles for the first time. On display from Jan. 16 through April 12, the exhibition invites visitors to discover the legendary craftsmen of Hida and their design legacy today, embodied in the work of century-old furniture maker Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd. Select items on display include a chair designed by the late Sori Yanagi utilizing wood-bending techniques native to Hida and part of the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and a branch spoon created by Ibuki Kaiyama utilizing a traditional chiseling technique.

Located in the center of the country in Gifu Prefecture, the Hida region became known for its woodworking traditions and skilled artisans 1,300 years ago. This fame continues today through innovative design and sustainable use of the region’s forests, particularly the iconic cedar tree, in everything from contemporary furniture to fragrant aroma oils.

The furniture maker Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd was founded in the region in 1920, and for nearly a hundred years has prioritized four core principles: Forest, Human, Time and Craft. Engaging all five senses, the exhibition guides visitors to experience these themes for themselves: coexistence with the forest (Forest), consideration of inherent human needs (Human), a legacy cultivated through time (Time), and a continuous refinement of craft (Craft). Displays will highlight regional specialties such as Hida-shunkei lacquerware, Ichii wood carving (Ichii itto bori — Japanese yew carving), and mageki (wood bending), as well as materials, prototypes and products developed by Hida Sangyo and its frequent collaborations with some of the world’s top contemporary designers, such as Enzo Mari and Sori Yanagi.

The exhibition will also spotlight where tradition meets technology and innovation, such as Hida Sangyo’s revolutionary wood compression techniques with cedar. This sustainable domestic wood is typically too soft for long-lasting furniture, but in the Hida Sangyo factory, cedar is compressed and strengthened for use in durable chairs, tables and flooring imbued with cedar’s subtle scent. As a business leader, Hida Sangyo’s success has also influenced a community of other manufacturers to stay in, or migrate to, the Hida area, furthering the time-honored mastery of the region’s woodcraft.

For audiences passionate about craft heritage, sustainable business, or a closer connection with our natural world, “HIDA | A Woodwork Tradition in the Making” is not to be missed. A series of events and workshops will also accompany the exhibition. 

For more information on all programs, visit www.japanhouse.jp/losangeles

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