On the floor of an eight-tatami workshop sits master craftsman Yoshio Inoue in a spot he has occupied for decades. His atedai, the long, low slab of wood that serves as a workbench, is in front of him, and within easy reach are scores of tools — chisels, planes, hammers, saws, clamps and other implements of the Edo sashimono.

Born in the old Tokyo town of Asakusa, Inoue learned sashimono — wood joinery — from his father, who learned it from another master in a line of artisans stretching back hundreds of years. Inoue has been building cabinets, chests, boxes, desks, low tables, free-standing screens and other traditional products for more than 50 years. His quick smile, though, and unlined face belie his 71 years.

His workshop is in Uguisudani, a slow-paced neighborhood near Ueno. To his right sits son and successor, Takeshi, 41. To his left sits Motoko Kawauchi, 35, a woman who has been his apprentice for the past 12 years.