The Philosophy And Spirit Of Woodcraft In Japan

In Japan, nature, religion and society are deeply intertwined. Nowhere is this more evident than in the mind of a woodworker, whose philosophical and spiritual beliefs are at the heart of their craft.

Shinto – the indigenous faith of the Japanese people – places a spiritual essence in all things: animals, plants, rocks and of course, wood. It’s this belief in ‘animism‘ that pushes Japanese woodworkers to work with, rather than against, nature.

From respecting the natural curvature and anomalies of wood to using wood that’s died of natural causes, these are just some ways Japanese woodworkers show their respect for nature.

This animistic belief in the ‘spirit of wood’ extends to the handicraft, furniture or building made by crafts men and women. Similarly, a belief exists in the ‘spirit’ of a tool, often that of it’s late owner, passed down from generation to generation.

Here are some of our favourite excerpts which highlight spiritual importance within Japanese woodworking.


“When I look at Chiyozuru-Sadahide’s plane blade I can see Awaji island in my mind’s eye. Little waves are washing the shore on which Chiyozuru-Sadahide stands in cool, white sand. Perhaps he is fishing, watching the line of his fishing rod. This is a very peaceful moment for him, his mind serene. I hear the sea gull cry overhead.”

Toshio Odate | Master Craftsman and Author

I grew up in a wooden Japanese house from the late 1920s, a structure teeming with unique individuality. The war took a noticeable toll on the house, but it still saw me through my youngest, most formative years; I still relish my fun-filled memories of playing there, always trying to spot zashiki-warashi (mischievous, childlike house spirits) in my youthful innocence.”

Makoto Fukada | Master Carpenter | Seyseysha

Back To Traditions Menu