Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Meiji Jingu Shrine and Osamu Shoji

Yesterday I met for the first time Osamu Shoji, a noted Japanese woodworker who has taught workshops in the West and led woodworking tours of Japan.  For many years he taught at Takumi Juku, Japan's first furniture school, in Takayama.  Five years ago he became one of the head carpenters at Meiji Jingu Shrine, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan, located in the heart of Tokyo.  I was grateful that Osamu san took time out to meet me, and he invited Azby Brown, author of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry to join us.  I met Azby once 12 years ago when I was building a boat in Tokyo.  His work is very interesting.  Please visit Future Design Institute.

Osamu Shoji and Azby Brown.

Osamu explained that 100 years ago this entire area was cleared as an Army training ground and that this forest, which seems completely natural, was in fact planted 90 years ago.  His shop is now using material taken from the park.

One of two massive torii gates on the long walk to the inner shrine.  Osamu said this one is slated for renovation.  Those posts are about four feet thick at the base.


Osamu said he built this rack for votive tablets last year.

He pointed out that the main door of the shrine has been dented by coins thrown by the huge crowds that throng the shrine for New Years.  

These brass or bronze brackets reinforce the doors and windows.  Osamu explained those are not hearts but boar's eyes, which protect a building from fire.  It was fascinating having Osamu san share details like this as we toured the shrine.

A wedding passed through the center of the shrine.

The bride and groom.

Deep in the shrine property is the carpenters' shop.  Its amazing to be there as its completely surrounded by trees, so its easy to forget that Tokyo is out there somewhere.

Old parts being replaced.



Japanese sawhorses, about 5" tall.

I liked the roof treatment at the entrance to the shop.

That night I was hosted by friends at the Nippon Foundation for dinner.  They've twice funded my work in Japan, including my first book.  The staff brought out a basket of fresh fish for us to choose from...

... and then the fish we picked reappeared as sashimi.



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