Visiting Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum – Kobe, Japan
In the past few years, Kevin has explored the art of wood working and he has completed some impressive projects with an interest that continues to grow. Japan has an extensive wood working history and art form that is admired around the world. While apprenticeships were easy to find, we did not have six weeks for Kevin to do an immersive wood working experience – maybe next trip – so the next best thing was looking for wood working shops which were difficult to find or at least not advertised to the public. Kevin found the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum but it was located in Kobe which was not a stop on our trip. However, due to the magic of Shinkansen bullet trains, getting to Kobe would be a breeze. We had a free day while in Kyoto so we took the opportunity to visit the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum.
Opened in 1984, the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum was established to collect, conserve, and educate on the traditional hand tools used to make the beautiful buildings and crafts that were all done with nails or moderns tools. What the Japanese were able to achieve without those modern tools is simply incredible and unbelievable at times. This museum ‘s purpose is to preserve those ways of building and wood working. There are more than 35,000 pieces on display throughout the museum over seven exhibits. Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum also holds workshops in a studio on-site where people can get hands-on experience with these hand tools for basic wood working projects.
We arrived a few minutes before the museum opened at 930AM when the doors promptly opened. It is 700 yen per person for admission. There are seven exhibits that feature interactive components including videos and hands-on activities to provide an immersive and educational experience.
A Journey through History
The first section of the museum focus on the history of the carpentry tools, the ways they were used, and the different architecture that was created.
Learning from a Master Carpenter
The master carpenter was an integral part to passing the wealth of information and skills to others. This section featured a book that had models, drawings, measurements, procedures, and more that documented how things were made.
Tools and Handwork
This exhibit is definitely where we spent the most time and had the most fun. Here all the different tools are displayed and many have a hands-on experience that demonstrates the functionality. I had no idea how many different chisels and planers even existed. You know those wooden puzzle blocks that lock together without any nails, pins, or adhesive? That you need to manipulate to undo the puzzle? Those are all Japanese wood working techniques to make joints without the use of those “modern” advances – interlocking wood joints is how they stay together and they are super strong. There was an entire wall showcasing the different interlocking joints and allowed us to try and undo them and put them back together.
Tools Around the World
Here the tools from areas such as China and Europe were displayed and showed the different ways wood working was used and translated by cultural influence in their architecture.
Exquisite Works of Master Craftsmen
This section on blacksmiths was so interesting and focused on how wood working required the chisel to be successful. There was also an appreciation for the carpenter – blacksmith relationship and how important this was for the success of the art overall .
Making the Most of Wood
Beautiful trees filled this space to examine the different characteristics of all the wood types that are found in Japan and used in wood working. Depending on the project, different wood would be selected and bring a personality to the project. From grain to density and much more, wood selection is a vital component to the wood working process. One craft that is offered at the museum are hand crafted wooden eggs made from all the different tree types so you can really examine the differences up close, include the weight. Kevin purchased the sakura and it is a wonderful souvenir.
The Traditional Beauty of Japanese Wa
The final area we explored featured kumiko art with a full scale tearoom with woven bamboo and other matreials to construct the model – you could even walk inside.
We had the best time visiting Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum – both from someone who is totally into wood working and someone who appreciates it. We spent an hour and a half total exploring the museum and at our arrival for the museum opening, we had no issue with crowds though as we left there was definitely an increase in that.If you are visiting Kobe on your trip, I would absolutely recommend this museum and if you are into wood working and are nearby on your trip, I would also recommend making the journey to Kobe for this museum like we did. Also, check out the bathrooms – it was one of the coolest bathroom experiences we had in Japan.