Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Paulownia Wood Industry

I work at Niigata University of Management in Kamo City, a neighboring city of Sanjo City. Kamo’s artisans are famous for being the number one producers of chests of drawers made of paulownia wood.
Whenever Japanese people hear the word paulownia wood, “kiri” in Japanese, they think of the chest of drawers called “kiri dansu.” In Japan, it was a common practice for brides to bring one of these pieces of furniture to her groom’s house when they get married as part of her dowry or bridal trousseau.
Japanese people used to say, “When you have a baby girl, you should plant a paulownia tree in your garden. Then a furniture maker can produce a kiri dansu out of the tree.” Nowadays, though, it is so expensive to buy one that few people can afford to carry on the tradition.

Last week my students and I visited one of the largest and most distinguished paulownia wood furniture and craft companies in Kamo, Ishimoku Co. Ltd.
We met the president, Yohsuke Ishiyama, who kindly explained to us about the characteristics of paulownia.
Among many virtues, he mentioned that it is environmentally friendly, light, insulative, dry, stable, and sustainable. He also noted that it is physically warm to the touch and helps to create a “spiritually warm, calm and forgiving atmosphere.” It’s capacity to retain the warmth of the tree, in my opinion, is the single best feature of paulownia wood, so I bought a cushion like chair made of paulownia wood.
It feels warm when you sit on it. Also, I enjoy using a paulownia mouse pad in my office and a chopping board in my kitchen.
Mr. Ishiyama, however, stressed his concept of the “forgiving” nature of the wood. He said the combination of its soft resiliency and the rounded corners crafted by his master woodworkers create a safe environment for children and the elderly.