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  • Writer's picture三重県剪定伐採お庭のお手入れ専門店 剪定屋空

Woodsman KIZISHI, a drifter in the forest

A woodworker is a craftsman who cuts down hardwoods, mainly tochigi, beech, and zelkova, and uses a tool called a potter's wheel to make circular wooden forms such as bowls and trays.



Woodsman KIZISHI, a drifter in the forest


Most kijishi were "drifters" who went into deep mountains far from human habitation in search of good lumber, lived and worked in the mountains while it was available, and moved to new mountains with their entire families when the lumber was no longer available.



When we look into the history of the woodcutters, the legend of Prince Koretaka Shin'o is the first to come up.


Prince Koretaka was the first child of the 55th Emperor Montoku, and was loved by many. Later, he became a monk due to illness and went into hiding in Ono, Kyoto, where he is said to have died at the age of 54.


However, there is a different story about the latter half of Prince Tadakyo's life.


According to the legend, after losing his throne, Prince Tadakyo left the capital and lived for 19 years in Ogura-tani, Shiga Prefecture, with a number of his entourage until his death. During this time, he invented the potter's wheel, which he taught to the local people.


Later, the woodcutters who were taught the technique cut down all the trees in the area and scattered in small groups all over the country in search of good wood. We do not know the details of when this legend began to be told among the woodcutters, but it seems that at least in the Edo period, woodcutters all over Japan recognized that Prince Tadakyo was the founder of their profession and that the Ogura valley in Okueigenji was the site of their distant ancestors.


In Oguraya, there were Tsutsui Hachimangu Shrine (now Tsutsui Shrine) in Hirutani-machi and Daio no Omyo Myojin (now Daio no Kiki Jisho Shrine) in Kimigahata-machi, both dedicated to Prince Tadakyo, and they became part of the ruling offices of woodworkers, called Tsutsui Kobunsho and Takamatsu Gosho respectively, and became sacred places for the worship of woodworkers.


In return, after confirming that all Kijishi under their control had been accepted, they would give them a kami-fuda, a kune-fuda (business license), and an endorsement that they could go anywhere they wished. In return, the ruling office would distribute documents such as kamifuda (sacred cards), kunefuda (business licenses), and the Emperor's imperial decree authorizing passage through the forest. These documents were "passports" and "family registers" for those who were drifting in the forests, so it seems that a relationship of mutual interest was established and the ruling organization of the largest group of woodworkers in Japan was established until the Meiji era.


This legend seems to be a mixture of fact and fiction, and there is a theory that the person who brought the potter's wheel to this country was not Prince Tadakyo, who the Kijishi say was their ancestor, but a group of foreigners, including the Hata clan. I would like to continue reading "Kijiya Fantasy" written by Eiichiro Kirimura and "Kijishi: Their Tradition and Work" published by the Kumano City Museum of History and Folklore, as well as other books on Kijishi, to think about the drifters in the forest and look for hints to improve our forests today.

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