Japan House London – The Carpenters’ Line Exhibition

This exhibition focuses on Japanese craftsmanship in Hida Takayama and is currently on display at Japan House London, a center for distributing knowledge and information about Japan in the United Kingdom.

Hida Takayama is the collective name for wood craftsmen with a 1300-year history in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, where forests cover 92% of the land area. In this exhibition, visitors can see the activities of Hida Takayama, starting with the diverse tree species that grow in the forests of the Hida region. The story continues from the past to the present with tools, culture, woodworking techniques, furniture, household goods, traditional crafts, Buddhist statues, Shinto rituals, and songs. The first thing that appears on entering the exhibition hall is 90 species of tree and a simple ladle against a background of forest photographs. In this display, you will learn how trees have become tools and have helped build human life and how people’s hands have shaped and influenced the diversity of natural forests. Next, the technique of kigumi, the joining and assembling of timber without nails or hardware, surprises visitors while climbing holds that utilise the natural shape of wood suggest the future of design.

The exhibition title, The Carpenters’ Line, contains two meanings. One is the lineage of woodworking in Hida, and the other is a sumi-tsubo –a carpenters’ line– a fundamental Japanese carpentry tool for marking straight lines on wood.

Spread was in charge of everything from research to the key visual, exhibition space and communication design. The key visual for this exhibition is a photograph of a contemporary carpenter working in Hida and a photograph of the forests that support them. These two images have been cut out in the shape of the cross-section of a mountain cherry and winter-flowering cherry tree. The photographs are joined together by a butterfly-shaped piece, representing the technique known as chigiri, which uses wood to hold trees in place. For this exhibition, the key visual was developed for media announcements and use inside the gallery and online. The space is divided by curtains depicting the forests and trees of Hida, which surround the exhibits and visitors. Combined with the venue music composed of the sounds of Japanese forests and Hida craftsmanship, visitors can experience the exhibition as if wandering through the Hida forest. Hida used to be called Yamahida (mountain folds), which is why the curtains also have folds (drapes). The research involved reading and deciphering records that remain today and interviewing various people involved, which led to a process of piecing together the overall picture of Hida’s artisans, who have a long history and many facets to their work. The objects and information uncovered in the process were incorporated into the exhibition, adding depth to the viewing experience.

It is the third time Spread has designed an exhibition for Japan House London, following the success of Biology of Metal: Metal Craftsmanship in Tsubame-Sanjo and Living Colours: Kasane – the Language of Japanese Colour Combinations. This exhibition shows the charm of Hida’s 1300-year-old artisans – please come and experience it in London.

The Carpenters’ Line: Woodworking Heritage in Hida Takayama
Date: 29th of September 2022 – 29th of January 2023
Venue: Japan House London, Basement gallery / 1st-floor show windows and exhibition booths
Address: 101-111 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday / 10:00-20:00
Sundays and public holidays / 12:00-18:00
Admission: Free (advanced booking recommended).

Organised by: Japan House London / In association with Takayama City (Hida Takayama Exhibition Promotion Committee), Gifu Prefecture / Planning: Simon Wright (Director of Planning, Japan House London) / Creative direction and project management: method Inc. / Art direction, design and research: Spread / Photography and video: Ayaya Igarashi, Takeshi Kuwahara / Music: Hiromi Saito / Writer: Goaheadworks Inc. / Translation: Zachary Kaplan

Photo:©️Japan House London