Hida Furukawa may have shot to fame in recent years as the alleged inspiration for some scenes in the hit animation “Your Name” (Kimi no Na wa), but it has been renowned for much longer as a center for woodworking and high-quality artisan craftsmanship.
Ancient woodcraft heritage
Hida Furukawa’s master carpenters and woodworkers are known as Hida no Takumi. Dating back around 1300 years, their highly-skilled joinery techniques developed by using the specific qualities of various types of wood to create timber structures that slot perfectly into place, requiring no additional nails or other kinds of reinforcement (a technique known as kumiki).
Even as far back as the Nara period (710-784), it is said that carpenters from the Hida region helped build the temples, palaces, and shrines in Kyoto and Nara—both former capitals and the most important cities of the day. Thousands of craftsmen were dispatched to work in these cities, but later returned to the Hida area, bringing back further knowledge and refinements to their craft. By the 15th and 16th centuries, Hida Furukawa was thriving thanks to its innovative woodwork industry and lucrative lumber trade. Today too, the town’s artisan craft techniques are still used for making high-end furniture and other items.
Hida’s outstanding natural resources
Part of what helped to make woodcraft in the Hida region so predominant can be traced back to its connection to the natural environment. The mountainous area is known for the high quality of its water, which has proved to be excellent for growing rice and brewing sake. The region is also blessed with an abundance of rich forests that provide superb quality timber for the craftsmen of the local towns to use. These include a wide number of prized varieties such as Japanese cedar, cypress, beech, and chestnut. With such easy access to high-quality timber, it allowed Hida’s woodcraft industry to flourish.
Experience the craft
Even today, many examples of Hida no Takumi craftsmanship can be found around Hida Furukawa. Walking through the older districts of town, you can’t help but notice the numerous historical buildings constructed using Hida’s characteristic building techniques and local timber. Many of the newer buildings also retain that same traditional style. Details to look out for include kumo (cloud) markings under the eaves of the houses—these indicate who the carpenter was—and the region’s signature chidori-goshi—checkered latticework (which was later exported to Kyoto).
Perhaps the best place to learn all about the town’s woodcraft and history is at the Hida Crafts Museum. Here, displays and explanations show how the woodworking tradition developed (English audio also available) and how it compares to modern building techniques. There are fun interactive woodcraft puzzles to try, plus wood-crafting experiences where you can make your own items (for an additional fee). The building itself was even constructed using traditional techniques and no nails at all!
There are also various other spots around town where you can try your hand at traditional woodwork, such as at Hida-Furukawa Sakura Gift Shop. Wherever you go in Hida Furukawa, you will feel that the tradition of Hida no Takumi remains as strong as ever.
If you’re staying in the Hida area for a couple of days, a hike up to the top of Mount Anbou is well recommended. Suitable for hikers of all levels, the summit can be reached in about 1–1.5 hours and is a fairly leisurely climb, with plenty of nature to admire along the way.
Your Souvenir Stop: Japanese Candles by Mishima
This little unassuming store along a Hida Furukawa backstreet is well worth seeking out on your Hida travels. If not to chance your luck by observing a live demonstration of Mishima-san making his Japanese candles (Wa-rousoku) inside the entrance, then just to meet and admire his incredible passi...