Carpentry Header Image
Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan

On View Through July 11

July Reservations


Corporate Members: Please email the Box Office at to reserve tickets.

As its first exhibition upon reopening to the public, Japan Society is pleased to present When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. Opening on the tenth anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the exhibition celebrates the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship through woodworking tools, architectural patterns, and models. Featuring a variety of hand tools and wooden models reflecting joinery techniques that have been used for hundreds of years to build Japan’s wooden architectural masterpieces (from temples and shrines to bridges), the exhibition unpacks the intangible qualities of craftsmanship, such as consummate experience, expertise, and the honed skills of master carpenters in Japanese architecture.

A diverse array of tools—planes, chisels, saws—have played an important role in the development of architecture in Japan, and this philosophy extends to Japan’s cultural heritage today. Integral to the processes of master carpenters (tōryo) is their extensive knowledge of the local environment and of wood as a material. Using natural resources and learning from their predecessors’ practices, they construct buildings using a refined methodology. Their philosophy of sustainability—for example, joinery can be restored or repaired as needed by future craftspeople—has been handed down over generations. The site-specific exhibition design, conceived by the esteemed architect Sou Fujimoto in collaboration with Brooklyn-based Popular Architecture, introduces major themes from the exhibition and is in dialogue with the gallery’s spaces, highlighting an enduring connection between traditional Japanese wooden construction and modern architecture.

View our visitor guidelines and safety protocols here.

Admission: $12/$10 students and seniors.

Exhibition-Related Programming

Exhibition Preview

Virtual Exploration with Sou Fujimoto

Digital Catalogue - Carpentry Tools


A complimentary downloadable digital publication with full color images, and commissioned drawings and design by artist Nathan Antolik, with a supplemental coloring book of tools also available. Download the publication.

Selected Works

Sawyer's Saws: Wide-blade Rip Saw (Maebiki-oga), Angle Type. Collection of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum Tools for Logging: Broadaxes. Collection of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum Ink Pot. Collection of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum Notebooks with Technical Notes, 1970s. Written by Tsunekazu Nishioka. Private Collection Interlocking parts for model of Engaku-ji Temple Shariden Interlocking Bracket Complex, 2019 Hinoki cypress. Courtesy of Ikaruga-Kōsha.Interlocking parts for model of Engaku-ji Temple Shariden Interlocking Bracket Complex, 2019 Hinoki cypress. Courtesy of Ikaruga-Kōsha Lapped Gooseneck Mortise (Koshikake-kama tsugi). Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum Model of Yakushi-ji Temple, Tōindō Hall, 2014. Courtesy of Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
Visitor Information
Gallery Hours:
Thursday—Sunday, 11 AM—5 PM, with timed tickets
Closed Monday—Wednesday and on major holidays, including Sunday, July 4.

Please Note: 11 AM—12 PM on Thursdays and Fridays are reserved for members and high-risk vulnerable populations only.

Timed Tickets:
$12/$10 students and seniors
Free Admission from March 11—March 28, courtesy of the Takenaka Corporation - first come, first serve, with advance timed ticket reservations
Free Admission always for members, patrons with disabilities and an accompanying Personal Care Assistant
  Private Virtual Tours:
Upon request
Take an immersive, multimedia tour of the exhibition led by a Japan Society docent. Two weeks advance request recommended.
Pricing: flat rate (up to 40 people) for adults ($150); University students and seniors ($100)

Student Group Tours:
K-12 school groups can schedule virtual gallery tours for an interactive art experience led by trained museum educators, who incorporate close-looking, personal connections, inquiry, and related activities for K-12 students. Two weeks advance request recommended.

When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan is supported by Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum, Japan; TAKENAKA CORPORATION, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

TCTM     Takenaka

This exhibition is made possible in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


Exhibitions and Arts & Culture Lecture Programs at Japan Society are made possible, in part, by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund, the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Masako H. Shinn, Peggy and Dick Danziger, Raphael and Jane Bernstein, Friends of the Gallery, and an anonymous donor. Support for Arts & Culture Lecture Programs is provided, in part, by the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund. Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the exclusive Japanese airline sponsor of Gallery.

Catalogue image © Nathan Antolik, 2021.