What is Karakuri?

-What is the Karakuri?-

-You can find the answers in a book that "KARAKURI Works in Hakone&Odawara."-

The origin and the development of "KARAKURI Works" in Hakone and Odawara region

In the beginning

 A lot of traditional wooden craft products called "Hakone Works" were called "Yumoto Works"  until around the 10th year of Meiji(from 1877 to 1886), have been produced in Hakone and Odawara region.

 We can classify the products into 2 groups.

One is works made with a turning lathe.

For example, they are Trays, Bowls, and Tables for tea-things, Round Trays, and Toys.

Another is works of Furnishings.

For example, they are small Chests, Letter boxes, Cigarette Cases, and Toys.

And as the skills to decorate the surface of the products, Yosegi-Zaiku, Zougan-Art, Japanese lacquers have developed, they also make the products more attractive.

The origin of the wooden crafts in Hakone region is from the age of The Civil Wars.

In the Civil Wars, works with turning lathes had been produced by craftsmen in Hatajuku of the Hakone Mountains.

They were given a privilege to be able to sell their works with turning lathes at any place in the territory, by the feudal lord, Odawara Hojyo.

After the Civil Wars, in the Edo era, a road called, "Hakone Hachiri" was built from Odawara to Mishima through Hatajuku on the Hakone Mountains, and was put in good condition as the official road of the Edo Shogunate.

After that, the travelers began to come and go, to the west and to the east.

Then the works with turning lathes began to be recognized as the souvenirs along the road, and the demand of the works  increased.

The producing places, Yumoto-Jaya, Sukumogawa, Hakonejuku and others developed as post towns along the road.

 Add to this, Hakone was known as mountains with hot springs for a long time.

At the Hakone hot springs, already there had been many hot springs for medical purpose, even in Nara era and Kamakura era.

Yumoto , located at the foot of the mountain, Tohnosawa, Dohgashima, Miyanoshita, Sokokura, and Kiga along the Hayakawa River were called, "Hakone-Shichitou" with Ashinoyu on the top.

The people visited there even from as far as Southern Kanto region.

Especially, in the latter half of Edo era, the group travels like "Isekoh" and "Fujikoh" became popular.

The groups who go and return along the Tokaidoh road stayed at "one night spa."

Here, the "Yumoto Works" was also recognized for souvenirs of the hot spring cure.

The producing places also spread out to some villages like Tohnosawa, Ohhiradai, Sokokura, Miyagino, that were along the "Hakone Shichitou."

Thus, the producing places of wooden crafts in Hakone region spread out through all of the Hakone Mountains.

 The main works of Hakone Works in Edo era were works with turning lathes.

On a trip record and even other materials, many of the works that are shown are works with turning lathes.

On "Kaigen Kikoh" in 1801 (Kyowa 1), it is written, "Vessels made with turning lathes, Small works with turning lathes" (Yumoto and Yumoto-jyaya).

On "Shichitoh-no-shiori" in 1811 (Bunka 8), it is also written, "Works with turning lathes, Keshi-Ningyo dolls that we can put many into a small space" (Yumoto, Dainocyaya=Yumoto-Jaya, Kawadata=Sukumogawa), and so on.

 Well, when was the Works of Furnishings?

 To say about the origin of the Works of Furnishings, it is deeply related to the origin of the Yosegi-Zaiku and Zougan-Art.

I'll talk about it in the next chapter.

 Secret Boxes, Interlocking Puzzles, Book-Type-Ruiji, Cigarette Cases, 4 Direction Box, Travel Pillow, amd other small works of furnishing were the Hakone Works.

These are the special works with imaginations and inventions on the movements (opening and closing) of the boxes, and on the forms of the boxes.

It was the reason that each of them was called by each name,and was "KARAKURI Works."

The Karakuri Creation Group who aim to create new works and to develop the KARAKURI Works, paid attention to the intelligence and the skills of the craftsmen who have brought up the Karakuri Works like this.

They researched the passed works while covering a wide range as much as they could, classified them, amd got to complete this book.

Of course, it's a book by a private group, and maybe it's imperfect.

But, it's a first book that introduced Hakone Works from this view, and will be valued as a useful worl by people.

 Hakone works shop "Yorozuya." There are many furnishing works.

The origin of the Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku and Zougan Art

 In 1820 (Bunsei 3), Vissecher who came to Japan as a secretary of the Netherlands marcantile house, visited Edo Shogunate with Capitan Bronhove in 1822 (Bunsei 5).

At that time, on the way, he visited a shop of Hakone-Zaiku that is guessed to be "Izuya" in Yumoto-Jaya.

Here, he bought various Yosegi-Zaiku, because the price was also more reasonable than that in "Suruga-Fucyu", according to the "Travel records of Visits to the Edo Shogunate."

 4 years later, in 1826 (Bunsei 9), a zoologist and a doctor, Siebold, from Germany, came as a doctor of the Netherlands Co. and visited Hatajuku on the way to the Edo Shogunate.

Here, he studied the wooden crafts that were sold there.

According to the above-mentioned record, he mentioned that they passed steep mountains and visited "Hata", and saw the works for sale in shops.

He felt that they were very expensive.

There were works with inlays, works knitted, works with Japanese lacquer, works with tree bark, and works with shells.

He felt that they were the Japanese liking.

 Within the things he saw,there were works with inlays.

Maybe it's similar to the works of the Yosegi-Zaiku that Vissecher bought in Yumoto-Jaya.

 Thus, we can confirm that Yosegi-Zaiku had been sold during Bunsei era, in Hakone-Hatajuku and Yumoto-Jaya according to the records by 2 foreigners.

Add to this, according to a Vissecher's material, the Yosegi-Zaiku was the same as ones in Fucyu (Shizuoka Pre, Shizuoka city).

In those days, Yosegi-Zaiku that was made in Fucyu was called, "Suruga-Zaiku."

In 1634 (Kanei  11), Asama Shrine was build by the third Shogun Iemitsu.

This time, many carpenters came together, and they decorated the shrine in various way.

Within it, the skills of Yosegi-Zaiku were also included.

It is said that the crafts skills remained, and was revived as "Suruga Zaiku" according to "The history of Hakone Products."

Maybe the craftsmen in Hakone learned the crafts skills from "Suruga Zaiku", and they produced and sold the works in Hatajuku and Yumoto-Jaya.

To say about the furnishing works in Hakone, maybe we can say that it had been in Bunsei period in the later half of Edo era, at least.

 Well, what kind of Yosegi was made in Hakone in this period?

Siebold mentioned that they were expensive, and many of them were furniture or luxury goods.

From this record, it is thought that expensive Yosegi-Zaiku works were produced.

 In March 1863 (Bunkyu 3), the 14th Shogun Iemochi who had married with Kazunomiya, the sister of the emperor Koumei, visited the emperor.

On the way, he bought Hakone-Zaiku according to a Diary.

Maybe, it was a present for the emperor, so we can guess that they were expensive.

 Later, in August 1873 (Meiji 6), the Meiji Emperor who visited  Naraya hotel in Miyanoshita of Hakone for their summer vacation, bought "a  small chest of Hakone works" as souvenirs for the Empress Dowager, according to a meterial.

It is supposed that this chest was also expensive.

 To say about the Hakone Yosegi-Zaiku in this period, many of them were expensive works.

Sawed "Ran-Yosegi" was put on each works.

In the middle of the Meiji era, the style had changed to mass production style.

The Yosegi was made with a big sized hand planer.

That is "Zuku."

Maybe works with planers were also started in Hatajuku.

The location of Hatajuku was in the center between Odawara-juku and Hakone-juku on the road, "Tokaido-Hakone-Hachiri."

It seems that the travelers who left Odawara-juku to pass Hakone used to stay at Hatajuku, take a rest, and fill their stomach.

Then Hatajuku also had another role, as hotels on the Tokaido road, and many tea-houses developed like Myogaya.

But, in Meiji era, Tokaido line was built, and as the transport facilities became more modern, the people who passed the Hakone-Hachiri road decreased little by little.

It became a forgotten road by the people.

Now, the people in Hatajuku came to realize that they couldn't rely on the tea-house business.

So they had to select specialists who devoted themselves full-time to furnishing Hakone-Zaiku.

 Maybe the mass production of Yosegi-Zaiku with a big sized hand planer was invented based on this background.

The Yosegi made with the planer was also useful in the decoration of small boxes.

The reason for the change of the production style from Yosegi made with saw that is expensive to Yosegi made with planer that is reasonable, was also to supply the demand by people who wanted reasonable works.

Karakuri Secret Box
 Western Style Miniature Shrine of early Yosegi Works decolated with Ranyosegi.
It's in the Hakone Local Museum.


Various KARAKURI Works

 As I've already mentioned, the Hakone works were developed and begun as souvenirs in Edo era.

However there were limitations.

So, in order for customers to buy these products, they needed to be, "Attractive, Reasonable, and light in weight."

Karakuri Works were continually meeting the demands of customers by changing the devices.

[Hakone Works Secret Box]

 One of the representative works within Hakone Karakuri Works is the Secret Box.

A Karakuri Work like that makes the opening or closing it interesting, and looks like the origin of the Secret Boxes had already appeared even in a "Kokkeibon" book, "Onsen-Miyage-Hakone-Gusa" (written by Takitei rijou, supplied by Tamenaga-Syunseui) in the end of Edo era.

These Karakuri boxes were called "Intelligence Box."

 But, it is said that the prototype work of the present Secret Box was created by Takagorou Ohkawa around 1894 (Meiji 27).

He was a great furnishings craftsman and was from Hakone-juku.

Later he succeeded to the name, "Takajirou".

The Secret Box also has another name, "Ohkawa Type Secret Box." akagorou became an apprentice of Gotoh, and later he learned skills in Cyukyo and Keihanshin region.

After coming back, he founded a factory in Hakone-Yumoto-Nakacyo, and created the Secret Box that is a small furnishing work.

 Takagorou was also eager to train apprentices.

Ohkawa Type Secret Boxes were developed by the apprentices.

Mr. Kenji Suzuki was trained from this current.

He is called a great craftsman of Secret Boxes, and is introduced in this book.

Mr. Okiyama was also trained from this current.

He was introduced in the book, "A Collection of Works by Secret Box Master Craftsman Yoshio Okiyama" (Edited by Karakuri Creation Group), but he passed away during its making.

[Interlocking Puzzles]

 Within the Karakuri Works since olden days in the Hakone and Odawara region, there are Interlocking Puzzles.

It is made of wooden block without glue.

It is composed of solid structures, and free to take apart and put together.

This toy had already appeared in the middle of Edo era, and I heard that it was called "Chiegi", "Chieita."

In Meiji era, Tsunetarou Ohkawa, a furnishing craftsman from Odawara, began earnestly making this box.

He received the training from Hikotarou Kondoh in Kuno (Odawara city), and began to create Interlocking Puzzles in 1897 (Meiji 30).

At first, they were simple products such as cube, sphere, and confeito.

Later, vechiles such as cars and airplanes were also produced.

After Tsunetarou, the craftsmen of Yamanaka Kumiki works who took over the has been creating excellent works, ever since.

The interlocking puzzles were also created by Takagorou Ohkawa who is a furnishing craftsman in Yumoto, and also by Hamakichi Gotoh.

And new works were created.

[Other KARARURI Works]

 The works produced during Meiji, Taisyo, Showa, and Heisei are quite various.

In this book, the various products are arranged systematically.

I feel admiration about the intelligence and the skills of the wholesale dealer and the craftsmen who have created them.

For example, there is a Tabacco Trick with a crane that was created by Naokichi Tanaka Co,. LTD and furnishing craftsman Bunjirou Ando.

A crane picks up a cigarette from the box when you push the tail.

It became popular due to the novel idea.

And many various works were created, such as Tabacco Trick with a dog, Phonograh-Type, One Piece Standing, Pirate Box and Laughing box.

Please read this book to find out about other KARAKURI Works.

Karakuri Secret Box
 Ohkawa Type Secret Box that is said to have been made by Takagorou Ohkawa himself.

KARAKURI Works that go across over the sea

 From Meiji era to the present, KARAKURI Works that were made in Hakone and Odawara were brought to over seas foreign countries, Europe and America, through buyers.

As I've already mentioned, the Hakone Works are well loved by many foreigners, such as the trade mission group from the Netherlands.

The people in Hatajuku went to Izu Shimoda (Shizuoka Pre, Shimoda City) with the name, "Merchants who sell the shortage works", and began to sell Hakone Works, when the admiral Perry came to Japan, according to a material, "Izu Shimoda."

Add to this, in 1858 (Ansei 5), when Yokohama port opened, Myogaya-hatauemon, Sogorou, and Kanazashi-Rokuzaemon opened shops, and were active to sell to foreigners, according to a material, "Yokohama Town merchants record."

When it became Meiji era and Yokohama port opened, blue-eyed foreign ships and other places for foreigners have increased little by little, to visit Hakone hot-springs where they can see "Fujiyama".

In 1878 (Meiji 11), Yamaguchi Sennosuke who is an apprentice of Yukichi Fukuzawa bought the "Hujiya" in Hakone Miyanoshita, and opened Another "Fujiya Hotel" for only foreigners.

 Also among the foreigners who visit Hakone Hot-springs, Hakone works were popular.

Midford wrote about his impressions.

The impressions were written when visiting Miyanoshita village composed of only hot-springs.

It was mentioned that various kinds of camphor tree boxes, and inlay works were all beautiful and exquisite workmanship.

In 1891 (Meiji 24) Arnold from England came to the hot-springs, and also mentioned about the beauty of the mechanism and the finishing.

He wrote that they were better than famous fine crafts in Wales.

He felt that the materials, camphor tree, persimmon tree and others were very beautiful, and praised them by asking, "Is there nothing these craftsmen can't make?"

 The people in Hatajuku had high wooden craft skills and tried their best to sell the works.

So, many works were sold to foreigners even in the early years.

KARAKURI Works in grass root

 Now, in Japan, when we research the origin of the crafts that have been appointed as traditional crafts, and the successors are protected and raised by the government, we can see that there are many industries that were brought up by feudal domains in the Edo era, such as Satusma-Kiriko, and Nabeshimayaki.

Unfortunately, conversely, the domain of Odawara controlled the sales of Hakone-Zaiku that was going to active while depeding to sell the works to Edo, in Edo era, In May 1841 (Tenpou 12), the domain of Odawara offered a notification to control the sales of Hakone Works.

The craftsmen and sellers appealed their will to oppose it, but they lost.

The domain of Odawara trampled the industry in grass roots.

 Japanese wooden toys including  Hakone works, made rapid progress from Taisyo to Showa as export wooden crafts.(Syowa 1 is 1926.)

The countries exported to were Europe, the USA, as well as all over the world.

In 1937 (Syowa 12), Japan almost excelled Germany as the greatest country of wooden toys.

In the background, there was the low price based on low pay to the craftsmen, and the skills and intelligences of craftsmen that are introduced in this book.

 Also, it's the same about the KARAKURI Works in Hakone and Odawara region.

The KARAKURI Works was fated to be light in weight, attractive, beautiful and reasonable.

The reason that the KARAKURI Works have continued until now is because the craftsmen worked and their families cooperated, even in stressful times.

(Excerpt from"KARAKURI Works in Hakone & Odawara")