Japan Atlas: Traditional Crafts 
Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku marquetry


Hakone Town, Kanagawa Prefecture

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A traditional craft that arranges the natural colors of wood to create elegant geometric patterns  

Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku marquetry is a woodcraft that uses abundant natural materials that are available around the town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, which lies immediately to the south of Tokyo. It originated in the middle of the 19th century, in the late Edo period.  

Situated on the Tokaido, the main highway between Osaka, the commercial center, and Edo, the nation's capital at that time, Hakone was also famous for its hot springs, and attracted visitors from all over Japan. Because of these travelers, Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku marquetry became well known all over the country as one of Hakone's souvenirs. 

A wide variety of trees grow in the rugged terrain of Hakone. None of the wood used in Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku marquetry is artificially colored in any way and each work is created to take advantage of the natural colors of the various trees that grow around Hakone. 

Different colored thin pieces of wood are squeezed in a vise to create geometric patterns. The pattern of this cross-section is planed to make one unit or sheet with a geometric pattern that is 1/100 cm (0.04 in.) thick. These paper-thin sheets are then glued on decorative boxes and other items. 

Photo: Products of Hakone-Yosegi-Zaiku (Hakone Town) 

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