Translating Japanese Woodcraft Terms | Our Mission

We attended a fascinating talk at the Daiwa Foundation last Thursday evening. Organised by the team behind The Creation Of Japan, the speakers explained the challenge of translating Japanese craft terminology into English. In particular, highlighting how one term may have multiple accepted definitions when translated, causing confusion to English readers.

The Challenge Of Japanese To English Translation

It really got us thinking. Within the sphere of Japanese woodwork, how can we be sure that the term has been translated correctly? Is ‘kanna‘ really what we are led to believe a ‘Japanese plane’? Is ‘nomi‘, accurately translated as ‘chisel’ in our English vocabulary. With the bulk of the English-written ‘knowledge’ on Japanese woodwork stemming from translations of Japanese woodwork manuals, we believe this area needs investigating.

If we can assist greater accuracy in translation of Japanese woodcraft terms the whole woodworking community will benefit from greater clarity.

Luckily, the team at The Creation Of Japan are keen to help us explore this area as it falls under their remit of all things “kogei” or ‘craft’ (a term in itself which has multiple meanings when translated into English!). Hideki and Tanaka have invited us over to discuss all things woodcraft on our Japan research trip this Summer and we’re excited to meet them to pave a way forward.

A Dictionary Of Japanese Woodcraft Terminology In English

As a resource for the UK community to learn about traditional Japanese woodcraft, it’s our mission to become the first port of call for anyone interested in this craft. Building a definitive Japanese-English dictionary of the Japanese woodcraft terminology is just one step in that journey.

So as a starter, here’s 10 of the most popular Japanese woodcraft terms that we’ll be investigating for accuracy when translated into English:

The Workshop – Shigoto-Ba

Sumitsuke-Dogu – Marking Tools

Nokogiri – Saws

Nomi – Chisels

Kanna – Planes

Toishi – Sharpening Stones

Togi – Sharpening

Chona and Ono – Adze and axes

Tsuchi – Hammers

Kiri – Gimlets

Kogatana and Kodogu – Knives and other tools

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