In English, Single Knife Yew Wood Carvings.
It means ornaments, statues, and goods made of yew wood produced in Hida, Takayama, Gero cities in Gifu prefecture, the foot of the Japan Alps.
In Japan, yew wood is considered as one of the noble trees since 800 years ago when a shaku (ritual baton an emperor has) made of yew wood was presented then emperor. It was even given a title, Sho Ichii, and this results in its name.
The nobleness has another reason originated in its nature, growing slowly, having beautiful moire, and the color inside is, red in the core and white surrounds it.
The rings give beautiful patterns, too, and the contrast of core red “Akata”, heartwood and surrounding white “Shirota”, sap wood is just special. The artisans of Ichii Ittobori have of course utilized these characters to create sculptures, thus usually their surface are not colored.
Yew wood is also has good character to be carved. Since it grows slowly the growth rings are very compressed, and it make the wood properly soft for carving.
The production of Ichii Ittobori first began when Matsuda Sukenaga, who was a Netsuke (a carved Japanese ornament) artist, started to use yew wood to create this small sculpture in late Edo era (1603-1867).
Since then, a lot of carvers visited to have good yew trees and produced beautiful goods, such as masks for ritual ceremony, tea utensils, and statues.
In Meiji era (1868-1912), Ichii Ittobori became more popular among wealthy people in Kyoto and Osaka.
Without colorful decoration, even the finish is done by knife to show the carving lines, the art is vary plane and thus the skills of artisans clearly shown.
Ichii Ittobori was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1975.