Thursday, July 20, 2006


Japanese in Taiwan: hinoki

I have recently had the opportunity to travel to the east of Taiwan, more precisely to Hualien. The place is located on the center east coast of Taiwan, and is surrounded by mountains.

This place is famous for its forests of Taiwanese Cypress . The tree is of the cupressaceae familly, genus chamaecyparis. There are 5 species in that genus:
Cypress being left in water for 25yrs,
ready to be milled

The forests have been largely exploited by the japanese until 1945. The mountain of "lin tien shan" was a major center for harvesting the precious hinoki, widely used by the japanese for building their temples.
It was a moving moment to walk in the streets of this tiny village, where one can still catch a glimpse on some old face, Taiwanese workers who used to participate to the effort. Moving also to imagine those big saws taking life in the agile hands of japanese workers.

A small museum had few tools for display: big saws, few chisels,...

Tools and artifacts from japanese (estimated 1945)

Saws used for harvesting the Taiwanese cypress (hinoki)

Back in the city of Hualien, I met one of the boss of a lumber company. The company still has some 25years old trunks of Hinoki soaking in water (see also the first picture at the top of the article). Some of the trunks have vegetation on it, and how surprising it is to know that they will still yield to marvelously odorant planks of an excellent quality.

Trunk of Taiwanese Cypress soaking in water (awaiting for 25years)

I have also met a local Taiwanese indian, whose hobby, among others, is to harvest trunks of hinoki which have been uprooted after a typhoon, transported onto overflown streams, and eventually landing on the nearby beaches.

Another witness of the Japanese presence, though not related to woodworking, is this house, a place where japanese used to smoke what I understood to be opium. The house is of the Osaka style.

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