There’s a gasp of surprise from onlookers when artist Masaya Hashimoto suddenly appears on a wooded slope near the Otaki-Okamoto Shrine in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture. Noticeably barefoot, he deftly weaves between trees to greet his guests below, only to surprise them further by asking them to remove their own footwear and slip on pairs of damp waraji (straw sandals).

“Dipping the waraji in water makes them more flexible,” Hashimoto says with a smile. “Or you can find the artworks barefoot if you prefer,’ he adds, gesturing to the woods behind him.

Hashimoto is one of 20 contemporary craft artists showing works at Go For Kogei, a craft-art festival taking place at three historical temples and shrines in the Hokuriku region through Oct. 23. It appears he has found an ideal home for his delicate nature-inspired sculptures on the grounds of Otaki-Okamoto Shrine. Within a copse of trees surrounding a trickling brook, his petite white gingko leaf carving sits atop a moss-covered tree stump, while an exquisite deer-antler lily seems to bloom from the inner wall of a cedar hollow.