The Torii stool and bench use quarter-sawn timber cut from kanzai, meaning government-owned timber (Kiso Hinoki cypress provided from national forests managed by the government). Natural wood from national forests is called kanzai and wood grown by afforestation is the privately owned timber called minzai. The name Kiso Hinoki cypress is only given to Hinoki cypress 300 years or older and grown in national forests from the Kiso region to the Urakiso region (southern area of Hida region and Tono region). Kiso Hinoki cypress is famous for renovating shrine pavilions for the transfer of a deity to a new shrine once every twenty years in Ise-Jingu Shrine. The Kiso Hinoki cypress used there is grown in forests controlled by the Imperial Household Agency.
This surely indicates that the kanzai is treasured timber. The Kiso Hinoki cypress is unique to Japan. While there is Taiwan Hinoki cypress, the color differs slightly from the Hinoki cypress grown in Japan. Because of its many years of durability, as seen in one of the world’s oldest wooden structures, Horyuji Temple in Nara, which was built nearly 1,400 years ago, cypress is used as is even now. The timber is older than 2,000 years old. Compared to concrete and iron, Hinoki cypress has a long lifespan; the strength of the wood increases for nearly 1,000 years and then gradually declines after 1,000 years. Study results show that the wood will last for 2,000 years at the longest.
Despite the strength and excellent durability, its flexibility and small deviations make it easy to process. Hinoki cypress is known for its pure while color, which made it essential for the construction of shrines and temples through the ages. Kiso Hinoki cypress is also used for the tori gates leading to the Ise-Jingu Shrine and Izumo Taisha Shrine of Japan. The shape of the tori gate, which is unique to Japan, embraces one-of-a-kind sanctity and a beautiful presence. To infuse this stool and bench with such beauty, we designed the reduced outline of the tori gates found at shrines.
By inclining the small end of the seating surface toward the inside, the opening of both legs has a similar angle as the tori gate. Without using nails and metal materials, the stool and bench are assembled using the Japanese joint technique called shiguchi, a construction method that uses no nails or metal and used by carpenters who specialize in temples and shrines. The crosspieces connecting the tabletop and legs are joined with an assembly technique called double tenon to ensure strength and that the wooden parts stay in place.
Kiso Hinoki cypress, grown in the harsh natural environment of the Kiso region through the ages, is blessed with an elaborate and delicate wood grain. To maximize the beauty of the wood, our artisans carefully shave the surface using a hand planer. When coniferous wood, in particular Hinoki cypress, Thujopsis, and cedar, go through surface processing using sandpaper and sanders, the fibers are destroyed. The destroyed surface begins to rot and deteriorate. The people of long ago had the wisdom to preserve the wood’s original beauty by using a planer and other edged tools to shave the surface.
The Torii stool and the Torii bench are finished without paint to express the natural soft touch and refreshing aroma of the Kiso Hinoki cypress.