JAPANESE PRECIOUS WOOD AND THE PARADOXES OF ADDED VALUE*

Authors


  • *

    We thank the referees for their constructive comments on this article and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council for supporting our research.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. Japanese precious wood — meiboku — is cherished for its grain, color, and other characteristics. The value of meiboku is augmented in finding and selecting the wood; in specialized silviculture; in the aging, treatment, and fashioning of the wood; in distribution, display, and consultation; and, especially, in its integration into the design of Japanese-style rooms. Historically, forest communities embraced a labor-intensive tradition of meiboku silviculture and processing, but modern technology has reduced the labor required, the cost of meiboku, and, potentially, the rarity and value of the wood. In explaining paradoxes of value creation, Thorstein Veblen's institutionalism illuminates an iterative interplay between a changing culture of demand and divisions of labor, alternately traditional and rationalized, in meiboku.

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