【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ～Nibutani Ita (Hokkaido)～
2022.11.22 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Nibutani Ita】
Biratori Town, Saru District, Hokkaido
※The origin of the name of Biratori comes from the Ainu language “Pirauturu” (meaning between cliffs).
【What is Nibutani Ita?】
“Wood carving tray” made in Biratori-cho, Saru-gun, Hokkaido.
In March 2013, it was designated as a traditional craft for the first time in Hokkaido.
【Features of Nibutani Ita】
A major feature is the traditional Ainu pattern.
By artistically combining the swirl pattern “Moreunoka”, the spine pattern “Aiu”, and the eye-like pattern “Shinonoka”, a beautiful pattern unique to the Ainu style is created.
Actually, there is a trick to determine whether it is Nibutani Ita.
It is to check whether there is a scale carving called “Rarumunoka”.
This is because the Nibutani Ita is always engraved with rarunoka to fill in the gaps between each pattern.
The Ainu people made Nibutani Ita as a daily necessities.
Today, however, they entertain us as “crafts” made by artists with precise techniques.
【History of Nibutani Ita】
Nibutani Ita was first introduced as a “Wood carving tray”.
However, in a folktale (Uwepekere) that has been handed down among the Ainu people for a long time, it is sung that they were used as “plates” instead of trays, and that food was served directly on them.
Knives are an essential part of Ainu life, and for men in particular, knowing how to use knives well was a big weapon in appealing to women.
There is an episode that speaks for itself.
It is said that when the man reached the marriageable age, he carved a piece of wood with great care and presented it to the woman he admired.
Due to this historical background, Ainu wood carvings such as Nibutani Ita have long been highly valued for “gifts,” “business,” and “bartering.”
According to historical records, the Matsumae Domain (present-day Matsumae-cho, Matsumae-gun, Hokkaido) once presented ita as a gift to the Tokugawa shogunate in the late Edo period (1854-1859).
It was also exhibited at the 1873 Vienna World Exposition.
In the Meiji era, renowned craftsmen such as Utorentoku Kaizawa and Uesanashi Kaizawa began producing and selling small items such as ita.
These traditional techniques have been handed down from generation to generation.
【Production process of Nibutani Ita】
・Hokkaido board (Katsura, walnut, etc.) dried for 3 years
Roughly carve the material and adjust the depth of the tray to some extent.
For round ita, craftsman use a machine called a “lathe” that carves while rotating.
However, since a square ita cannot be used with a lathe, it takes longer to manufacture than a round ita.
Carefully engraving the inside of the rough-engraved material with a special knife to make the depth of the surface uniform and smooth.
※ Dedicated knife = leather cutting knife
②Back surface finish
Not only the front side, but also the back side is chamfered by dropping the corners neatly.
By performing this process, the feel of Nibutani Ita, which is a wooden product, is improved.
A pattern is designed on the surface by combining the three characteristics of Nibutani Ita, “Moreunoka”, “Aiuunoka” and “Shinonoka”.
Various designs are possible depending on the size, balance, and arrangement of each pattern.
Once the design is complete, proceed with the process of “Draw out the outline of the pattern with a triangular knife, and dig in with a circular chisel to create a three-dimensional effect.”
In the days of the Ainu, all work was done with a single dagger called a “makiri”, so the ita at that time was carved with powerful lines.
Today, craftsmen use carving knives, so they are very delicate.
④double line engraving
When using “Aiu-no-ka” for the design, it is the process of carving the inside by slightly carving it.
Since “Aiu-no-ka” is the central pattern of Nibutani Ita, it is often carved with double lines.
By doing this work, the ita will have a three-dimensional effect, and it will be possible to express the appearance richly.
⑤Line drawing of Rarunoka (scale carving)
This is a process for carving scales called “Rarumunoka”.
Using a carving knife (= stamping knife) used to make a seal, draw a line while keeping the wood grain vertical.
⑥Raise of Rarunoka (scale carving)
Raise the squares made in ⑤ one by one in a scale shape.
There is a specific carving method, and craftsmen have to face each other from left to right toward the center.
Nibutani Ita often uses “Rarunoka” to create a unique atmosphere.
Once the craftsmen have finished the work up to this point, they will carefully adjust the details, such as the points that they are concerned about, and it will be completed.