Home News Central Japan craftsmen carve wooden tiger ornaments ahead of 2022 zodiac

Central Japan craftsmen carve wooden tiger ornaments ahead of 2022 zodiac


TAKAYAMA, Gifu — Production of wooden ornaments of tigers, the 2022 Chinese zodiac sign, is at its peak at a sculpture store in this central Japan city.

At the Suzuki carving shop’s workshop in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, 68-year-old owner and traditional craftsman Hideyuki Suzuki and his eldest son, Yudai, 32, swing their chisels with single-minded devotion as they carefully carve each tiger using the “Ichii itto bori” technique.

Ichii itto bori carving, a traditional Hida region craft, makes full use of the grain of Japanese yew wood — the craft’s material — and is characterized by the carving marks it leaves.

To make the Chinese zodiac ornaments, 30 to 40 chisel types are used depending on the ornament’s size. About 300 pieces are carved by the end of the year. Even works by the same craftsman have slight differences in their expressions, and many customers reportedly buy them every year after carefully comparing them.

Tiger carvings come in four types, ranging from small ones coming in about 5 centimeters tall and 9 cm wide, to large ones measuring 9 cm tall and 16 cm wide. Its top-selling small ornaments are 2,800 yen (about $24) and the medium are 7,000 yen (about $61).

Suzuki said, “I endeavored to express the tiger’s strength, and carved them with feelings of not wanting to be defeated by the coronavirus.”

Orders are being accepted in store, on their website and by phone. The products’ size and expression can be specified when ordering, but items may not be ready by the end of the year. For inquiries, contact the store at 0577-32-1367 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Tadayuki Otake, Takayama Local Bureau)

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