Masters of Hida
For centuries, the inhabitants of Hida have relied on the region’s abundant forests for their livelihood, developing a local culture of woodwork. During the Nara and Heian periods (710–794 and 794–1185 CE) their woodworking skills played a critical role in the nation’s development when Hida carpenters were sent to work in the imperial capitals of what are present-day Nara and Kyoto. At that time annual tax to the imperial court was paid in rice, but as Hida’s mountainous landscape was unsuitable for rice cultivation, the region instead paid tax in the form of its carpentry skill, with more than 40,000 carpenters working in the imperial capitals across this period. For nearly 500 years, they built and restored shrines, temples and palaces including Tōdai-ji and Heijō Palace, as well as other impressive and culturally significant structures. They also produced a variety of wooden objects ranging from ritual implements for religious ceremonies, to furnishings used by the Court. The work of Hida carpenters was held in such high esteem that they came to be known as Hida no takumi, ‘master craftsmen of Hida’.