Kezuroukai 2014 Odawara, Japan

Odawara Arena main floor.
The Kezuroukai (essentially a planing contest with shaving thicknesses measured in microns) takes place roughly once a year at a different host city in Japan. The 2014 event, the 30th, took place November 7 and 8 in Odawara Japan - a bit south of Tokyo. This is a national contest that draws hundreds of competitors from across Japan - and even a few foreigners. It is not sponsored by large machine tool manufacturers and bears little resemblance to the commercialized shows in the US. Organized by woodworkers and crafts people for woodworkers and crafts people who love their trades - and a bit of friendly competition.

Opening ceremony on Day 1.
Competitors are grouped into male, female, and student classes. Many of the competitors are shokunin (professionals), although there are plenty of amateurs giving it their best effort. For the top performers in each class there are prizes that look better than any trophy. 
This year's prize table.
But producing competitive shavings demands excellence in many areas of kanna (plane) preparation and technique. Anyone can make a .001" shaving. That is 25.4 microns. But making complete shavings that are 3 or 4 microns thick (0.00015") and 2 meters long is in another class entirely. For finalists there are also subjective measures of shaving beauty and apparent blade sharpness. The top 3 student entries were below 10 microns, so the bar is quite high. 

Here is what the leader board looks like during the preliminary competition, just to be clear:

And it is only the last shaving measured that counts. If your prior was better, too bad. You do get 3 tries. You decide when to stop. No pressure. Has to be a complete shaving, no tears or gaps. The judges measure the shaving in 3 places so it needs to be a consistent thickness over the length of it.  

Everyone gets a similar planing beam (attached to a stand or "bench") to work on but people bring their own boards to plane - or you can buy one from the organizers. Bei-hiba (Alaskan) yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) is popular among those who bring their own because has very straight, fine grain that yields good shavings. There are 2 beams to a bench, so things can get busy if two teams are active on a bench. And mostly it is teams from what I could tell. There were about 84 benches according to the official floorplan. 

Judging by the parking lot, many competitors haul their gear (and special planing woods) by car or truck. A license plate survey says some drove great distances and likely paid hefty tolls to get to Odawara. People spare no expense and make considerable effort to get to this event. They also arrive fully prepared. 

Preparation often includes wrapping kanna in plastic wrap between uses to minimize dai distortion due to humidity changes. Planing woods are often wrapped and are carefully tended between competitions. Dai tuning and sharpening was taking place continuously during the competition. Many competitors had their own thickness gages with .001mm resolution (Mitutoyo model 547-401 is what judges were using. In US we can get 547-400s but verify specs carefully). So you can see that there is a definite level of dedication required to compete. Here is the sharpening corral out back - at a quiet moment...

But the Kezuroukai is not only about the competition. Education is a cornerstone of the Kezuroukai organization and introducing people to woodworking is paramount to all members. It shows. Take a look at these demonstrations that went on regularly over the 2 days:

O-ganna demo and hands-on. There were at least a half dozen to examine and a few to try out. 

This dai is wood covered granite - and heavy.
Even the local politicians gave it a try.

Yariganna sharpening and use:

Ongoing: Dai maker Watanabe was churning out product:

Plane sharpening (a number of demos on this topic):

Planing figured wood - sharpening and planing technique:

An exceptional tool collection was displayed, staffed with experts to answer questions, show you the tools close up. Stuff like this tamahagane kataba from the Meiji era. There were many such masterpieces displayed. :


  • Miya-daiku-san answering questions relating to temple and structure detailed drawings they had brought along.
  • Shaving-art tables - sorry, no pics but people were busy creating art from the shavings.
  • An ongoing live demonstration of traditional timber squaring and preparation (outside the arena).  
  • Chainsaw sculpture demo (outside, no spectators for some reason).
  • Newsletter and Kezuroukai club display.
  • Beginners planing benches with helpful coaches standing by. 
  • And more stuff I missed. 

For many, the toolmakers, tool vendors, and stone vendors were a draw in themselves. It is rare to have so many in a single place. Here are but a few of the dozens:

Funahiro (Funatsu-san present)
Tasai (Akio and Michio present)
Keizaburo (Uchihashi Keisuke present)
Mitsukawa (Juntaro present)
Ouchi (Ouchi-san present) 

Kyoto area toishi vendors:

Tool shops and vendors:
Hida Tool from Berkeley, CA was there but not with their tool inventory.
and many others representing a wide range of makers and prices. 

So overall, for us woodworkers, this makes for a very interesting and informative visit. Worth the effort if you can swing it. Correspondence with the Kezuroukai organization is all in Japanese. Here is their website:


Siavosh said…
This is fascinating, thanks for sharing.