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There are several traditional crafts that Japan is known for, such as urushi lacquerware or Nishijin weaving. Perhaps not as widely known, but just as impressive, is the craft of yosegi, which uses woods of different color and texture to create exquisite patterns. In fact, the precision and skill involved is such that yosegi is not surprisingly, one of the crafts that has been featured in a series of videos uploaded by luxury fashion brand Gucci Japan on their YouTube channel dedicated to introducing the work of talented Japanese craftsmen, and the video has apparently been noticed around the world. Let’s take a look at a master artisan at work!

Yosegi, which literally means “to put wood together,” involves creating intricate geometric mosaics of wood shaved into extremely thin sheets used for decorative effect, often on small boxes and trays. The video shared on YouTube channel GucciJapanHand shows the work of yosegi craftsman Noboru Honma at his studio in the city of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, an area known for yosegi craft. Honma is an expert yosegi craftsman with 66 years experience, and the two-minute video is more than enough to impress viewers with his skill.

▼Here’s the actual video that shows the level of skill attained through more than 60 years of experience:

▼And to recap the process shown in the video, first Honma prepares and carefully adjusts the shape and size of thin, long wood pieces.

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▼He shaves the wood pieces very carefully, as extremely precise adjustments are called for.

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▼The  wood pieces are bundled and glued together …

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▼… and wrapped and tied together to form what is called a tanegi (seed wood) that becomes the basic piece for creating the characteristic geometric patterns.

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▼Adding the last touches to finish a tanegi piece.

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▼Then, once the tanegi pieces are cut into the appropriate size, they’re put together to achieve the preferred pattern.

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▼You can see all the pieces being expertly arranged and fitted together.

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▼Now comes the really impressive part. An extremely thin layer is shaved off the wood — less than 0.15mm (0.006in) in thickness!

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▼The pressure applied to shave off the sheet has to be very constant to get a uniform thickness.

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▼The thin sheet is called a “zuku“.yosegi 15

▼The surface of the wood is wiped clean after each shave.

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▼And now you have the patterned sheets that can be pasted onto various objects for decoration.

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▼An example of a finished product decorated with a yosegi veneer. The intricacy of the pattern is amazing!yosegi 1

The yosegi craft in the Hakone area has been around for approximately 200 years, and as you can see from the video,  it’s clearly a complex and delicate process. In fact, it’s said that it takes at least 10 years to learn the skill.

Although the video itself is about two years old, it has attracted quite a bit of response from viewers abroad, who were duly impressed with the skill involved in the craft and who have shared comments online such as:

“His woodworking skill is simply amazing!”

“This is too impressive!”

“Wow, I was a bit confused at first, about how the sticks of wood would become a veneer, but then he just shaved a sheet right off. This is great :D”

“Wow, the thin sheets look like paper!”

“This is an amazing process! Is there anything like this anywhere else in the world? ”

“The sound of the wooden blocks being put together is really cool!”

“The video’s too short!”

Well, we too were certainly impressed by the beautiful pattern and the fineness of the thin veneer sheet. We thought the video was a sheer pleasure to watch, and if you enjoyed it, there are more videos of master craftsmen at work on Gucci Japan’s special YouTube site. Kudos to them for their fine tribute to skilled artisans!

Source: YouTube (GucciJapanHand) via Otaho (Japanese)
Photos: YouTube (GucciJapanHand)