SINGAPORE – Consisting of the eastern and southern areas of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan, Okuyamato is home to the highly regarded, centuries-old Yoshino forests. The Yoshino forests are one of the world’s oldest afforestations of a variety of woods including Cypress, Cedar, Cherry, and Horse Chestnut, and residents of the region have lived in harmony with nature long before the concept of sustainability entered the public consciousness. Hand grown in the early 16th century, the Yoshino forests continue to be nurtured and cared for with age-old traditions and techniques.
By virtue of its optimal climate and abundance of natural resources, Yoshino was developed to produce large quantities of quality. The trees are planted in a dense mass up to four times the average forest. Each tree is thinned repeatedly and tended to carefully over the course of 200 years before they are harvested, resulting in straight, uniform trunks of timber with fine wood grains, even tones and next to no knots. Nutrients from Okuyamato’s natural environment also make it a valuable area for crop farming.
Sustaining the forestry industry has been a challenge as residents move to cities and depopulation takes place rapidly. However, Okuyamato’s rich history and legacy has drawn a new generation of craftspeople and food producers to make their homes and livelihoods there in recent years. In a joint ambition to preserve inherited traditions and revitalise Okuyamato with novel, sustainable concepts and techniques, a dedicated community comprising the craftspeople, manufacturers and the local forestry industry has since been established.
The community hopes to advance Okuyamato and the industry by encouraging inter-city exchanges, developing a strong agricultural base with regional collaborations, and elevating local agriculture and livelihoods with agricultural product processing and production.
In sharing about their work and lives, the craftspeople of Okuyamato often refer fondly to their own experiences living in and with the nature of Okuyamato, and how they are regarded as blessings from the earth. They also express their hopes of imparting their culture and bringing the Okuyamato experience to us through their crafts.
INTO THE WOODS introduces the traditions of Okuyamato, the lives and aspirations of the craftspeople, and the unique stories that have been birthed from this connection. Okuyamato Craft from Nara showcases the possibilities that these makers represent, and how their stories translate into the creation of their crafts and products against the backdrop of the beautiful nature of Okuyamato.
INTO THE WOODS: Okuyamato Craft from Nara will open at LUMINE SINGAPORE on 15 January 2021, and will run through 21 February 2021, 11am to 10pm daily.
Organised by Nara Prefectural Government, Okuyamato Migration and Exchange Promotion Office
Curated by BLACK
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