Put your scissor and glue skills to the test in making this interesting Japanese craft!

Article by Kacey Whitteaker

Just two pieces of wood, yet it opens vertically and horizontally. How?

It doesn't look like it can open more than one way, but with some clever folding and cutting (and the teacher's help, of course) you can produce your very own Karakuri Byobu at Yamashita Hyoguten.

KARAKURI?

Karakuri is a Japanese word that essentially means "mechanism" or "trick," while byobu means "folding screen." A variety of karakuri exist, and their history is long and rich. First mentioned in 658 AD in the Nihon Shoki, one of Japan's oldest documents, karakuri exploded in popularity almost a thousand years later in the 17th century, and soon everything from karakuri furniture to toys were being made. The introduction of western technology, mechanical clocks in particular, influenced the development and trendiness of karakuri.

What, not up to snuff on your clock-making? Fret not! This fun and altogether mysterious craft takes about an hour and a half to make, and it requires no technical knowledge beyond the safe use of scissors and the proper application of glue. It's fun for the whole family!

CRAFTIN' TIME

Choose whatever paper and color scheme you like.

You will be greeted with typical Japanese hospitality as you enter before being guided into a tatami room decorated in traditional Japanese style. Sliding doors, wall hangings, and other handicrafts adorn the work space, as well as finished versions of the karakuri you'll soon be making.

Yamashita-san can provide instruction in English and Japanese.

First you'll choose the colors and paper you'll use to make your karakuri. Next, glue on the front and back covers. Yamashita-san will then guide you through a few steps of cutting, folding, and gluing the paper strips to the wood. She can explain the process in both English and Japanese.

Carefully apply the trim.

Simple as it is, care should still be taken throughout the process. A poor fold or unglued section could result in the karakuri not working as desired.

FINISHING UP

You'll have made your very own karakuri byobu in what will feel like no time at all. It can be used as a photo stand or for some other imaginative purpose, and it makes a great present or souvenir through which you can remember your time in Matsumoto.

Voila!

Our finished products.

After wrapping up and taking a few photos, Yamashita-san was kind enough to treat us to tea and other snacks. Take this time to relax and indulge in some Japanese confections while you admire your beautiful yet puzzling creation.

Sweet treats and tea.

The store's namesake – Hyoguten – means something like "scroll mounter" or "wall hanging." It's a difficult word to translate, but miniature handmade versions of hanging scrolls known as kakejiku are also available to buy. They go for 5,000 yen each and make wonderful souvenirs or mementos.

Yamashita-san's husband also spends his time making wooden sliding panels decorated with paper that are known as shoji and fusuma. If time allows you may be able to watch him at work after your session has ended. Be sure to take advantage of this uniquely Japanese experience!

Pick up a wall hanging to add a subtle yet beautiful decoration to your home.

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