The Hida region is one of the most recognized places in Japan for woodworking traditions. Located in the center of the country in Gifu Prefecture, its wood crafting history began 1,300 years ago. This exhibition aims to explore the heart of Japanese craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibility through the ever-present artistry represented in traditional Hida woodcraft techniques and products from its forests, from contemporary chair designs to fragrant aroma oils.
The exhibition is organized around four core principles as embodied in the work of Hida Sangyo Co., Ltd., one of the oldest furniture manufacturers in Japan, founded in 1920. The central ideas include coexistence with the forest (Forest), consideration of inherent human needs (Human), legacy cultivated through time (Time), and continuous refinement of craft (Craft). Together, they have contributed to the rich history of woodcraft in the Hida region.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, woodworking became the Hida region’s main commercial industry. This success has much to do with the innovations of Hida Sangyo, which continues to refine its manufacturing of bentwood furniture through the utilization of local forest resources.
The work of Hida Sangyo has become synonymous with the age-old skill and craftsmanship of the Hida region, and, yet, the company continuously seeks new methods of design and production. For example, collaborations with international designers enable Hida Sangyo to engage Western aesthetics with a Japanese style. The resulting pieces speak to a global audience and foster innovation while retaining the core principles of Japanese craftsmanship.
The company’s most recent innovations are in revolutionary wood-compression techniques with cedar, an incredibly sustainable domestic wood that is typically too soft and often not suitable for long-lasting furniture. In the Hida Sangyo factory, cedar is compressed and strengthened. This material transformation allows designers to create smooth and durable chairs, tables, and flooring imbued with cedar’s subtle scent. Hida Sangyo’s success has influenced a community of other manufacturers to flourish in the Hida area, incorporating the time-honored mastery of the region’s woodcraft.
The exhibition highlights the Hida region’s enduring craft connections to wood and the forest. The featured objects and processes engage the five senses and touch upon all aspects of contemporary lifestyle. From the raw materials of the forest, the origins of Hida’s craft traditions, to the furniture designs developed by Hida Sangyo in collaboration with some of the world’s top contemporary designers, such as Enzo Mari and Sori Yanagi, the exhibition spans the evolution of Hida’s relationships with the Forest, Human needs, Time, and Craft.