Traditional Crafts of TokyoTraditional Crafts of Tokyo 東京の伝統工芸品

Edo Hyogu

(Scroll Mountings)

Edo Hyogu Photo

The reason Japanese paintings as old as several hundred years remain beautiful tile today.
Paintings and calligraphic works of several hundred years back remain beautiful even now because Honshi (paintings and calligraphic works) themselves and their edges have been reinforced and repaired with Hyogu (scroll mountings) using fabrics and washi (Japanese paper). After accepting an order from a calligrapher or painter, a Hyogu-shi (picture framer) intuitively makes a plan for combination of colors and patterns. Kireji fabric is a key factor to enhance the atmosphere of the work but a wrong choice will destroy it. A craftsman determines the quality and coloring for the fabric through several interactions with clients about their taste or lifestyle. In a backing process to prevent the degradation of Honshi, special Washi preserved for 5 to 10 years for gentle softening is pasted on the work. Of course, each work is unique and no failure is allowed. Craftsmen use the word “Nige (excuse) Efor any negligences in invisible parts and hate them, and they never allow others to touch their tools which are the most important things after their life. Such craftsmen’s dignity is firm, and through their life they place importance to having whole knowledge of Japanese paintings, calligraphy, printing, tea and others. Recently, they accepted the works with predetermined frame combination and the works sent from abroad, but they never loose the belief of taking care of interactions, to enhance the work, and to increase the preservation of properties.
Main Areas of Manufacture Ota Ward, Koto Ward, Taito Ward
Designation/ Certification Date July 26th, 1989 (Tokyo Certification)
Traditionally Used Raw Materials Fabric, mounting paper, lining paper, surface paper, backing paper, ribbing and frames, starch paste

Traditional Technologies and Techniques
(Scrolls: hanging scrolls, rolled scrolls)

  1. Materials are selected and arranged in order to suitably bring out the characteristics of the works to be mounted.
  2. Application of the first layer of mounting material is called hada-urauchi. When applied, care must be taken to prevent wrinkling. The next mounting layer is called mashi-urauchi. It increases thickness and uniformity of the mount. It also provides firmness and resilience to it. The final layer of mounting material is called age-urauchi. In this process, a nade-bake brush is used to brush pieces of mounting material into place as they are applied. The uchi-bake brush is then used to damp the material down using a pounding motion. Finally, the mounting material applied is then thoroughly brushed again with a nade-bake brush.
  3. During the kiritsugi process, the mounting material is trimmed to an appropriate size and adhesive paste is applied to the edges. The elements are then pasted on in sequence with the work to be displayed situated in the center of the mount.

Traditional Technologies and Techniques
(Framework underlayers: folding screens,
wagaku [Japanese picture frames], fusuma [paper sliding doors])

  1. When attaching layers of paper to framework underlayers, an adhesive paste is used (this is a process called hone-shibari). Paper is overlapped to prevent transparency (the ribs of the framework showing through the paper). The overlapping of paper also strengthens the hone-shibari further (called uchitsuke). Several layers of paper are added to the mounting to provide a cushioning effect (called mino-bari). Additional pieces of paper are added on top of previous layers in order to affix them in place (called mino-osae). Paper is attached with paste applied only on its edges (called fukuro-bari). Finally, the finishing paper is applied to the mounting (called uwa-bari).
  2. Trimming is carried out parallel with the framework.
  3. Strong washi (traditional Japanese paper) is used for the hanetsuke (the connecting portions between sections of a folding screen). A thin layer of paper known as an aisa is placed between section pairs of a folding screen to add a bit of looseness.

History and Characteristics

Through agencies such as the Tang Missions, the Hyogu (scroll mounting) craft said to have been born during China's Tang Dynasty (618-907), arrived on Japanese shores approximately 1,000 years ago. Over time, this craft has evolved along with lifestyle and architectural changes in Japan. It has become something unique to the nation via both its refinement, and via the deep involvement with the flourishing of the tea ceremony which spanned across the Muromachi, Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo Periods (1333-1868).

The technological underpinnings of the Hyogu craft were initially developed in Kyoto, a city in which many shrines and temples congregated. It might be assumed that this was because the city generated great demand for scroll mountings that were capable of displaying Buddhist scriptures and religious pictures.

Initially, such craftsmen were generally referred to as kyoji (picture framers). However, the content of their work evolved and became more diversified with the passage of time. By the Edo Period (1603-1868), in that such craftsmen were handling kakejiku (hanging scroll),byobu (folding screen) and fusuma (sliding door) tasks, there were no longer distinctions between those who were still referred to as kyoji (picture framers) and those who were considered hyogushi (scroll mounters).

With the construction of daimyo residences in Edo during the Genroku Era (1688-1704), many craftsmen indentured to the daimyo also settled themselves in the city. With the flowering of culture among the townspeople, the Edo Hyogu industry flourished as both calligraphy and art became pastimes that the general public began to appreciate.

A reverse of fortunes was experienced as demand for Hyogu declined with the coming of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). This development was in line with wider trends that sought to discard traditions in favor of westernization and modernization. While demand for the Hyogu craft was increased during the Taisho (1912-1926) and pre-war Showa Eras, the industry again experienced great difficulty after the Second World War. Currently, we are carving out a new path for ourselves.

Although the materials used in Hyogu such as Japanese paper, fabric, water and paste, seem to be very simple, it takes many years of training to expertly use the different types of paper and brushes. In this respect, Hyogu is referred to "as an art resulting from water and brushes."

In that very few names are listed in the records as masters of Hyogu, it can be understood that such craftsmen prefer to ply their trade away from the spotlight.

Contact Details

Manufacturing Area Cooperative Name Tokyo Scroll Mounts Interior Association
Address Room 402, Dai 2 Higashi Building, 4-10-14 Higashi-Ueno, Taito Ward, Tokyo 110-0015
TEL 03-5826-1773