If you are interested in Maori wood carving, or any wood carving for that matter, Inami town is definitely worth visiting. Located in the northeastern area of Nanto City, it is a compact town packed with shops specialized in wood carving on the main street leading to Zuisenji Temple and Inami Wood Carving Cooperative that includes a museum on its outskirts.
The quality and quantity of the works is mind blowing. You could spend a whole day admiring small and large-scale works on display. Most of the works are very traditional both in method and motifs, and one of the carvers told me that they still expect their offspring to succeed the family business. But you can also see a number of young carvers working, creating their own modern art pieces.
The carver I talked to showed a variety of wood he sourced from different parts of the country and some from overseas, including Indian sandalwood famous for its fragrant quality. (I love Rimu furniture, but he did not have any New Zealand wood.) Many of his works are statues of Tenjin, a scholar-turned-god of academic learning, related to the area.
You can buy a small key ring for souvenir, or order a Ranma, decorated wooden panel used traditionally between the ceiling and the beam to separate rooms. A Ranma panel could set you back a couple of million yen. I didn’t buy one, but thoroughly enjoyed appreciating them and other carvings with sophisticated yet gentle images of animals and plants.