Kyoto Kitayama Sugi ‘Meiboku’ Hand Carved Chopsticks

Yesterday I was back up in Kitayama, the North Mountains of Kyoto, working on my new ‘lumberjack’ project. My associate took me to meet an 8th generation ‘lumberjack’ that produces logs that sell for about $20,000! Kitayama is famous for these cedar wood logs that are used for the tokonoma decorative alcove in traditional Japanese houses and for tea houses and tea rooms. I was given a new and more moderately priced product by the owner: chopsticks. First a little about the ‘wood culture’ of Kyoto.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Kitayama Sugi Cedar Chopsticks

These cedar logs have been produced for traditional Japanese architecture for about 500 years in Kitayama and are the most sought after in Japan due to the cedar varieties, the climate and most of all, the many techniques for growing, harvesting and drying them.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Natural Shibori Kitayama 'Maruta' Logs

The Japanese cedar in Kitayama is meticulously pruned and cared for for decades to produce a log that has no visible knots. Normally the logs have a smooth surface but some naturally have a mysteriously welted and tortured surface. This surface is called shibori. Shibori, or shiboru, the verb, means to wring or squeeze. The very best natural shibori specimens can be a 1 in 10,000 tree.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Natural Shibori Kitayama Log

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Natural Shibori Kitayama Log Warehouse

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Inspecting Natural Shibori Kitayama 'Maruta' Logs

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Natural Shibori Kitayama 'Maruta' Logs

Kitayama Sugi Chopsticks
These cedar chopsticks are a new prototype product and are not for sale yet. They are hand carved in Japan. The deeper brown area is the ‘shibori’ surface of the maruta log. The lighter part is the inner wood.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Kitayama Sugi Cedar Chopsticks detail

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Kitayama Sugi Cedar Chopsticks detail

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Kitayama Sugi Cedar Chopsticks

Traditional Kitayama Cedar Forestry
There are two ways that sugi (Japanese cedar) are grown in the North Mountains. The trees in the first photo below are for making Kitayama ‘Maruta’ logs. Three can be harvested from an individual tree. The second photo below shows a daisugi. Dai means table, stand, stage, base and so on. The ‘base’ trunk of the cedar can live to be 400 years old. From one trunk up to 10 small poles can be grown. These poles are smooth and are used in roof and ceiling construction.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

Kitayama Sugi Cedar Forest

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

300 Year Old Kitayama 'Daisugi' Cedar

Kitayama Maruta Traditional Use: The Tokonoma Alcove
The tokonoma alcove is a space in a traditional Japanese interior that is used for displaying seasonal scrolls, flower arrangements and other art objects. The Kitayama ‘Maruta’ (log) is the most esteemed column.

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

'Old' Tokonoma Alcove (left column is Kitayama cedar)

Kyoto Kitayama Japanese Cedar Sugi Hand Carved Chopsticks 北山杉銘木箸

'New' Tokonoma Alcove

More Kyoto lumberjack info: Check out our Kitayama Wild Boar ‘Lumberjack’ Ramen article on KyotoFoodie.

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One Response to “Kyoto Kitayama Sugi ‘Meiboku’ Hand Carved Chopsticks”

  1. […] prized for use as a column in a traditional Japanese tokonoma alcove. (See the last two images of this article for photos of the columns.) Keihoku Meiboku-ya – Stripping […]

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