Roughly seventy per cent of Japan is forested and therefore wood has been historically tied to architecture and design since ancient times. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving wooden structure is the Horyu-ji temple that was built in the early seventh century. From the harvesting of Japanese cypress to production and restoration, numerous tools, skills and techniques have evolved alongside wood building. The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum in Kobe is the only museum in Japan dedicated to collecting and conserving these tools and techniques, curating exhibitions to pass on this cultural heritage to future generations.
The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum originally opened in 1984 in Kobe and relocated to the foot of Mt. Rokko in 2014. Despite being located close to Shin-Kobe Station, and just a short train ride from Kyoto, the building is surrounded by lush greenery. It’s subdued presence owes to the fact that its main lobby sits above ground while the two main exhibition floors remain hidden below ground.
Walled by glass and furnished with wooden tables and chairs produced by local woodworking artists, the transparent lobby serves as a space where visitors can take in all the smells of wood while enjoying the Japanese rock garden. A large courtyard below ground level allows natural light and seasonality to filter into the floors below.
Below the lobby sits the main exhibition area, which is divided into 7 sections and showcases the breadth and abundance of the world of wooden carpentry. Travel through history and observe how tools and skills evolved compared to their overseas counterparts.
“Learning from a Master Carpenter” offers a peek into the spirit of craftsmanship through the works of masters, while “Making the Most of Wood” lists the many wisdoms to get most out of timber.
If you’re interested in wooden architecture, Japanese carpentry tools and wooden joinery techniques, as well as destinations off the well-travelled road, consider adding the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum to your list.
Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 – 16:30
General admission: 700 yen