History of Miyajima-zaiku

The traditional handicrafts of Miyajima Island, which is credited as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan and also has a deep history.

This is said to originate in the Kamakura era(1185–1333). The finish of wooden bases is beautiful, making use of the natural wood grain’s color tone with materials such as Koematsu (the trunks of huge, ancient Japanese red or black pines), horse chestnut trees and Japanese zelkova trees. Otherwise known as Rokuro zaiku, since a rokuro (turning wheel) is utilized in the process.
miyaima’s traditional craftwork was created on this island, and each piece is handmade individually by skilled craftsmen.

Pieces are still sold as souvenirs and good-luck items. At souvenir shops visitors can watch craftsmen make the craftwork pieces using their masterful skills.

Traditional Handicrafts

Miyajima-Rokuro Zaiku(Turnery)

This skill is said to have been introduced in Miyajima during the period 1848 to 1858. A manual turner was then used, but in the early-mid Meiji period, a foot step was developed, and the skill of Rokuro Zaiki rapidly developed as other technology evolved. During the end of the Meiji and Taisho periods, nearly 300 turnery craftsmen moved to Miyajima in order to refine their skills.
This skill is passed down even now, and there are a wide range of daily use products such as round trays, sweet containers, tea powder containers, tea cup trays, incense containers, and other artistic pieces of work.

Every product has the warmth of a handmade craft, and this is because people in Miyajima also passed down the feeling of care and love in their preservation of nature and trees. It is not brightly lacquered, no colored, yet it has a unique depth.
The natural grain is the most enduring feature of Miyajima Rokuro Zaiku.

Miyajima- Shakushi (Rice Scoop)

Some time between 1789 to 1880, the priest Seishin dreamed of Benzaiten one night. He was sympathic toward the difficult lives of the islanders. He then imaged the musical instrument, the Biwa, and decided to make the rice scoop. He also taught the islanders how to make the scoop. It was the beginning of the Miyajima rice scoop. Because there were not many souvenirs for visitors who came to Itsukushima Shrine, it became very popular, and soon spread across Japan.

Now rice scoops are mass produced and they are mostly made of plastic. However, the old style still remains, and each scoop is manually planed one by one in Miyajima. The grain with its superb style and smooth texture and the beauty of the shape are amazing. Rice does not stick as much to hand made scoops, and the smell does not spoil the food. The materials are selected carefully, and polishing is repeated once before they are soaked to make the wood fibers stand out for the second polishing.

Miyajima-bori(Wood Carving)

The quality of Miyajima Bori comes from the way the chisel is used to carve the wood. The skill when using the chisel either delicately
and/or with strength makes all the difference. The craftsmen place the edge of the chisel against the surface of the wood and move it through rapidly to carve without a rough sketch, gradually revealing the shape of the beautiful Otorii. 

There are traditional ways of carving to make the work appear three dimensional, and to make the background subtle, yet effective.

It was created by the woodworkers and cabinet makers who visited Miyajima for the construction of shrines and temples. Miyajima Bori started at the end of the Edo period. The wisdom of the ancestors was substantial, and these tips were passed down. The trays with many  carvings are practical for daily use and the cups never fail. They are not colored, but they do not get stained by the tea because the craftmen wipe the material with tea in advance.