The Art of Japanese Marquetry

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Woodworking Workshop
The Art of Japanese Marquetry

West of Tokyo, in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, the small mountain town of Hakone, Japan, is known for its legendary hot springs, but it also gives its name to a special type of woodcraft known as Hakone Yosegi-zaiku. Yosegi-zaiku is a kind of parquetry featuring elaborate inlaid, geometric mosaic designs. Hakone Yosegi-zaiku makes use of the diversity and great beauty of the trees found in the region and celebrates their beautiful colors and composition in the resulting mosaics and marquetry work created with these local, natural materials. No stains or colorings are used.

In this video, we see master of Yosegi marquetry, Tanegi Zukuri, going through all of the steps for creating the cylinders of cut wooden strips that are glued together into blocks and then shaved with a plane to create paper-thin wooden sheets of marquetry. These sheets are then used as veneer on boxes, cabinets, and other wooden objects. The results are incredibly beautiful and have made this region of Japan and its craftspeople world-renowned over the past two centuries.

This rather charming, if funky around the edges video from Technigeek (which appears to be an Arabic YouTube channel with Japanese-produced programming) not only explains what Yosegi is, and its history, but it also introduces us to a new generation of Hakone craftsmen who are bringing fresh ideas and design applications to their trade. To the common boxes, jewelry cabinets, bowls, etc., younger Yosegi artistans like Kiyotaka Tsuyuki are creating mouse pads, phone cases, jewelry, high-end dinnerware, and other 21st century products. This new generation of Yosegi marquetry craftsman are known as Zoukibayashi. Hoping to keep up with the times and a globally-accessible online marketplace, they want to take the craft of Yosegi-zaiku in more artistic and creative directions.


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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