Timber Woodcraft in Shogawa, Toyama

Take your wooden plate home

By Alena Eckelmann    - 3 min read

Shogawa is the name of a river that has its source in the mountains of the Takayama area in Gifu Prefecture. It runs through Toyama Prefecture and flows into the ocean of Toyama Bay.

The river, which flows for 115km through mountains areas, has always played an important part in the life of those people who live near it. In the old days locals utilised the powerful currents of the river to transport lumber downstream to the ocean where it was collected and shipped for sale across Japan. Timber was also used as tax payment to the overlords of the Kaga Clan during Japan’s Feudal Period. Any surplus of timber, after the tax commitment had been met, was used to make wooden items for daily use. However, in 1930 the construction of the Komaki Dam upstream of the Shogawa put an end to the lumber industry as logs could not be transported downstream anymore.

At the current location of Shogawa Water Memorial Park in Tonami City was once a timber station. A small museum and a local woodcraft center, the Shogawa Mizu Kinen Kouen Tokusankan, invite us to come in and learn about the long tradition of woodcraft in this area.

There you can enjoy a demonstration of how to make a wooden plate by using a rotor and some carving equipment, and you can take the soft and light wooden plate, just made in front of your eyes, home!

70 years old Shimata-san, a local of Tonami City, demonstrates his craft and explains it in English. He picked up the skills for operating the machinery from a German craftsman at an international wood carving festival 30 years ago, and he has enjoyed making wooden plates ever since.

First of all, the timber needs to dry outside for three years in order to loose moisture. Then it is cut into smaller pieces and dried more. Next, it is cut into shape by putting the wooden block on a fast-moving rotator and by using a chisel to carve the shape from the outside and from the inside.

Watching Shimata-san while he is carving, wood chips flying around his head, one can see his enjoyment of making these wooden plates and of proudly presenting them to visitors.

What else to do in the area: Shogawa River is now also popular in all seasons for its Shogawa Gorge Cruise, and sightseers enjoy an onsen bath at the Shogawa Onsen Village too.

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Alena Eckelmann

Alena Eckelmann @alena.eckelmann

Born East of the Wall and South of Berlin, I am celebrating my 15th year anniversary in Japan in May 2020, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the beautiful Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home.I have been a JapanTravel Partner since the conception of the platform in 2011! In Tokyo I worked in market research at AIP Corporation and in business education at JMEC. For the last 10 years I have been a guide for foreign visitors at Venture Japan, on top of being a Freelance Writer and a Business Researcher. Apart from work, I trained at the Yoshinkan Aikido Dojo and at the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko Dojo for several years each, and I ran the 1st Tokyo Marathon and enjoyed cycling around Tokyo. During the last 10 years I am working with local authorities to improve their hospitality to foreign visitors and I have participated in many monitors as a media representative. My current interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains, and I love visiting temples and shrines. I am a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and licensed guide for Forest Therapy (Shinrin Therapy). As a guide for walking tours, I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail and the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage trail. Being grounded during this COVID-19 crisis, I enjoy gardening, baking bread in my new Japanese bread-maker and going for walks around 'my' village. Take care, keep well, stay safe!

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