A cubic shaped lantern decorated with fine hemp leaf patterns on all sides.Hemp is known for its toughness and fast growth. It also grows straight up, so hemp patterns have traditionally been used to decorate clothes for newborn babies. It is a familiar pattern for Japanese people.
It is also said that hemp patterns can cast away evil spirits. For this reason, they are used as amulets to protect oneself from misfortune.
When the lantern is lit, the shades created by the pattern are projected from the sides, allowing you to enjoy the beauty unique to kumiko woodcraft.
Diverse craftsmanship utilizing the delicate art of kumiko
Beautiful geometric patterns such as hemp leaves and turtle shells emerging through the soft light of shoji screens. Kumiko fretwork is a traditional Japanese woodworking technique in which small pieces of wood are hand-crafted and fitted into various patterns without using a single nail. Kumiko evolved as a decorative technique for fixtures such as shoji screens and ranma (transoms), which emerged in Japan’s late Heian period (794–1185), developed over time, and truly blossomed in the Edo period (1603–1868). More than 200 types of patterns, including floral, snowflake, and other auspicious designs, have been handed down to the present day.
While it has inherited traditional techniques, Edo-Kumiko Tatematsu is also engaged in creating new products. The company’s founder, Matsuo Tanaka, taught himself the art of kumiko fretwork while training at a joinery shop, later launching his own business in 1982. Today, he and his son, Takahiro, the second generation of the Tanaka family to be involved in the company, continue to create this delicate fretwork, which does not rely on machines.
Production of delicate, intricate kumiko fretwork begins with selection of high-quality wood. The workshop mainly uses Kiso cypress, Akita cedar, and Aomori cypress, the three most renowned timbers in Japan. The wood is cut into thin strips, and then grooved, drilled, and tenoned before assembly. First, a large frame is formed by assembling a lattice or lozenge shapes, and then the smaller pieces of wood are fitted into each crosspiece to form the pattern. However, "Even a 0.1 mm error is not tolerated," says Tanaka. He regularly holds sales demonstrations at department stores throughout Japan, in the hope that people will learn more about the depth of this sophisticated craft.
With the recent decline in demand for traditional Japanese fittings, the company is keen to create products that meet the needs of the modern age. The company's diverse lineup of products, which include furniture such as tables and cabinets, small items such as flower vases and coasters, and paper-framed lamps, all of which make the most of the beauty of kumiko fretwork, are gaining recognition.
"We hope to continue introducing to Japan and to the rest of the world products useful in everyday life, while maintaining our traditions," says Tanaka.