Hida Shunke

As part of Japan House London’s season of woodworking from the master craftspeople of Hida, this display showcases a selection of objects created using a specific type of lacquer particular to Hida Takayama.

In 1607 CE, master carpenter Takahashi Kizaemon was engaged in the construction of the shrines and temples in Takayama Castle. He became fascinated by the beauty of the grain of the sawara cypress tree (Chamaecyparis pisifera) that he happened to split while working. He decided to use the split wood as a baseboard to which he attached a rim made from bentwood and bark of the Japanese cherry tree (Prunus serrulata), making a tray in the shape of a clamshell. The tray was presented to Shigechika (Munekazu), son of castle lord Kanamori Arishige, who liked it so much that he ordered lacquer painter Narita Sanemon to apply lacquer to the tray in a way that complemented the grain of the wood. Narita applied a transparent lacquer which was given the name Shunkei.

At first, Shunkei lacquer was mainly used for tea utensils, but during the Edo period (1603 -1868), many household items such as trays and stacked boxes were also produced, making the items accessible to the general public. It was designated a ‘Traditional Craft of Japan’ in 1975.

Hida Takayama

The city of Takayama, situated in the northern part of Gifu Prefecture, is located in the centre of the Hida region and is commonly referred to as ‘Hida Takayama’. The old Takayama city centre retains the atmosphere of an Edo-period castle and merchant town and is known as the ‘Little Kyoto of Hida’ for its picturesque streets. Various measures have been taken to protect the old town area of Sanmachi, such as installing all electric wires under the eaves of the buildings.