Newspaper article 新聞記事: Setting out to restore traditional wooden toys 伝統の木地がん具復元にかける

Hiroi-sensei has also appeared in newspapers as a well-known Edo top maker. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Setting out to restore traditional wooden toys” that ran the newspaper Asahi Shinbun on January 14, 1982See the original Japanese article at the link below.

廣井先生はよく知られている江戸独楽の職人として新聞記事で特集されています。1982年1月14日、「朝日新聞」が廣井先生についての記事を掲載しました。以下のリンクでアクセスできます。

Click here for the original article: 歴史記事はこちら

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Setting out to restore traditional wooden toys

In Sendai, there is an artisan whose work appeals to people who love toys made from wood; he continues the restoration of these traditional objects. An artisan turning pulpwood on the lathe and making toys, Hiroi Michiaki (48) is a specialist* even among woodworkers. At the New Year, his “sulking dog (sune inu)” top was brought back.

Hiroi was born in Tokyo’s shitamachi in Honjo Fukagawa. Hiroi is a third-generation [woodworking] specialist ; his grandfather did [woodworking] as a pastime and quit his job as a doctor to become a specialist. Hiroi is an artisan who inherited the tradition of Edo-style wooden toys. He was evacuated [during WWII] to Sendai.

The world of making wooden toys on lathes is vast. Many of the items that Hiroi produces are technically difficult and take a great deal of labor to make. In the time that he could make three kokeshi, he often can only make a single [wooden top]. It takes a month and a half to make about one hundred tops. “I’m deprived of free time,” he laughed. He recalls how to make many of the toys by muscle memory. There are no diagrams or exemplars. One by one, the toys are resurrected from what the body remembers. Asked by a Tokyo-based admirer [to make them], Hiroi began to create the wooden tops with the goal of restoring one hundred types over fifty years. “When the lathe spins, your hands naturally begin to move, and the shape [of the top] appears.”

“The  first dream of the new year (hatsuyume)” is [a top with] a falcon spinning at the summit of Mt. Fuji. “Monster (obake)” is one where a monster leaps from a well when the top stops spinning. There are many stylish, refined tops that seem to embody Edo toys. On the stand of the “sulking dog” top for the New Year there is a pattern of a tengu with his [elongated] nose and an okame with her [open] mouth, designed to complement one another. The dog is sulking about their good relationship.

Hiroi’s admirers come to his shop to receive his toys and enjoy conversation with him while playing with the tops. “Everyone is carefree and cheerful.”

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* The term used in the article is 紅物師, which is slightly unusual. The 紅 character refers to a deep red color, and akamonoshi 赤物師 (赤 meaning red) is another word for a kokeshi maker. So here the use of 紅 might be a play on characters to mean a much deeper talent.

Media Post: Photographs of Hiroi by AriTV メディアポスト:AriTV撮影の廣井先生

These are photos of Hiroi-sensei taken by ariTV, a high-quality internet-based television station supporting the promotion of events and cultural traditions of the Sendai area. 

仙台地域での伝統文化やイベントを紹介するインターネット配信をベースとする放送局であるariTVが撮影した廣井先生の写真

Newspaper article 新聞記事: Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki 仙台あの人この人ー廣井道顕

Hiroi-sensei has also appeared in newspapers as a well-known Edo top maker. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki” that ran May 14, 1982 in the newspaper Shūkan Sendai. See the original Japanese article at the link below.

廣井先生はよく知られている江戸独楽の職人として新聞記事で特集されています。1982年5月14日、「週刊仙台」が廣井先生についての記事を掲載しました。以下のリンクでアクセスできます。

Click here for the original article: 歴史記事はこちら

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Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki

A woodworker who makes Edogoma

Gifts for Children

May is the season of children who sprout up like bamboo shoots. It seems impossible that the main event of the month,  Children’s Day (May 5), has passed. But as luck would have it, the Museum of History and Folklore of Tsutsujigaoka opened the exhibit “The Production and Performance of Tops,” and the air is full of excitement from the invading children. Even though the exhibit is titled “production and performance,” the children have lined up to turn the lathe and paint the tops. That said, the children are engrossed and soon the husband and wife instructors have no spare time tmo rest. Hiroi Michiaki (48) and his wife, Kyōko, who set up a workshop in Fukurohara, Sendai, are the instructors. “What? A workshop? It’s not really that kind of thing, it’s a shabby old house,” Hiroi said. At the Citizens Festival in Nishikoen last fall Hiroi’s craft demonstrations were .

“I think it’s been about a year since I started the workshop. As for apprentices, right now I have seven pros and six amateurs. Among them is an assistant professor from Miyagi Women’s University, Landis-san, an American, and there are only two women. There are lots of top (koma) experts within the prefecture, but my [workshop] is Edo-style tops. And of course, my wife is helping, too.”

A tradition spanning three generations

Tops date back as far as 1,000 years ago

Koma (top)” is written in kanji as 独楽. They’re exclusively thought of as children’s toys, but there are also high-quality tops that [spin] along a drawn sword or the edge of a fan, or which, when rotating at great speed, have the legendary figure Ishikawa Goemon [appear to] leap out of an iron pot. These trick tops are generally the traditional “Edo-style” tops. Flashy tops are characteristic of the Genroku period (1688-1704), but among  historic tops, recently excavated ancient and medieval tops have been in the news lately.

“We know from written records that, since ancient times, tops were playthings, and this is substantiated by the actual items having been unearthed. If you divide them up into two [categories], there are ‘outside tops’ and ‘inside tops.’ Outside tops are like Sendai tops, tops used on the ground and that were exclusively used by boys, and inside tops were used by people of all ages and genders on tatami mats. If you divide them into types of play, there are those you spin using both hands, rubbing tops (momigoma), twisting tops (hinerigoma) spun with the tips of the fingers, and string-release tops (itobikigoma).”

Hiroi has Foreign Apprentices in his Workshop, too

Enjoying playing with tops

“If you divvy up tops even further, there’s flower tops (hanagoma), sumō tops (sumōgoma), vegetable tops (yasaigoma) like eggplants or cucumbers, spousal tops (meotogoma), roulette tops (ategoma), buzzing tops (unarigoma), howling tops (narigoma), two-tier tops (nidangoma), three-tier tops (sandangoma), throwing tops (nagegoma), fighting tops (kenkagoma), gambling tops (bakuchigoma) umbrella tops (kasagoma), chasing tops (okkakegoma), etc.”

According to records, there are over 200 types of Edo-style tops. According to Hiroi, among the string-release tops, there are some that look like they lift people up and spin. He deftly spins a spousal top made by one of his apprentices. Pinching the shaft of the top on the second tier and spinning it, the wife [seems to convey], “Well, honey, I’m going out!”

And if you [place] the tops onto each other again, they spin well together, and it looks like he’s going, “Yes, honey, have good evening!” and goofing around. There are also tops that are specifically meant for gambling, and these are often called by the kanji for koma. In an age of parody, when these tops are spun, it’s for the enjoyment of adults.

[Many of] these historic Edo-style tops were destroyed in the Taishō earthquake of 1923 and the air raids of 1943-1945, and the woodworkers scattered in all directions. Hiroi Michiaki is one of those people.

According to the Traditional Kokeshi Artisan Register, Hiroi was taught by his father Kenjirō and Agatsuma Kichisuke.From a young age he learned woodworking from his father, androm 1955, he learned painting from Kichisuke. During the Tokyo air raids, he relied upon his artisan colleagues and evacuated to Miyagi Prefecture, and after that set up a workshop in Sendai. [Today], he devotes himself in earnest to creating tops rather than kokeshi.

One family of wooden-toy artisans

Though slightly old, there are several features on the Hiroi artisan family, including the Bunka Publishing Bureau’s Japan’s Wooden Toys, edited by Kan’o Shinichi, and the special issue “Tokyo’s nostalgic wooden toys” in (銀花)Quarterly 30. The former was published in 1976, and the latter in 1977.

Hiroi Michiaki’s younger brother, Masaaki (44), is also who active in making traditional Edo-style tops in Ebina, Kanagawa. The writing in the article by  Hosoi Tokiko from Ginka’s editorial department and their regular female reporter is beautiful.

Putting together Hiroi’s story and what the reporter has written, the Hiroi family is one family that has continued for over two hundred years and three generations throughAsaaki, Kenjirō, Michiaki. Hiroi Michiaki’s grandfather, Asaaki, was employed as the doctor of a Tokugawa shogun, and after the Meiji Restoration, their family “took the pulse of their esteemed [employers].”  That they enthusiastically became Edo-style top makers for generations is interesting.

Now, let’s spin some tops.

Media Post メディアポスト: Photographs of tops by AriTV (AriTV撮影の独楽)

These are photos of Hiroi-sensei’s tops taken by ariTV, an internet-based television station supporting the promotion of events and cultural traditions of the Sendai area.

ariTVが撮影した廣井先生の独楽。ariTVは仙台地域の伝統文化やイベントを紹介するインターネット配信をベースとする放送局

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Media Post メディアポスト: Photographs of tops by AriTV (AriTV撮影の独楽)

These are photos of Hiroi-sensei’s tops taken by ariTV, an internet-based television station supporting the promotion of events and cultural traditions of the Sendai area. 

ariTVが撮影した廣井先生の独楽。ariTVは仙台地域の伝統文化やイベントを紹介するインターネット配信をベースとする放送局

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箱庭

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

タイトル:

箱庭 (hakoniwa)
miniature garden

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箱庭がテーマの独楽。廣井先生は木に囲まれた小さな家を作った。それぞれ取り外すと独楽になって回すことができるようになっている。

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廣井道顕:でこれは、ううんと、あぁ、箱庭だ。これはあの、うちを箱庭っつってね、あのう、箱の中に色々やるんですよ。それを独楽でやって。これがうちで、いろんな木がこう立ってて、これが全部、外して独楽になるんです。

 

箱庭 (miniature garden)

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Title:

箱庭 (hakoniwa)
miniature garden

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These tops depict a miniature garden. Hiroi-sensei has created a small house surrounded by trees, and each individual piece can be removed to become a top.

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Hiroi Michiaki: And this is, umm, ah, a miniature garden. This is called making a miniature garden, you create lots of them in boxes. This one is done with tops. This is a house, and there are lots of trees around it, and all of these can be taken off and become tops.

Media post メディアポスト: Janell’s Collection (Now) ジャネルとランディスー廣井コレクション(現在)

These photos show Janell’s collection of tops in the display case she kept in her home in Tennessee for many years. These photos were taken in 2013 when Janell was interviewed for the Carving Community project, and the tops are now held by the Morikami Museum.

長年テネシー州の自宅でケースに保管していたジャネルの独楽のコレクション。2013年Carving Communityプロジェクトのインタビューの際の写真。独楽はモリカミ博物館・日本庭園に保存されている

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メディアポスト:廣井先生、ジャネルとランディスー廣井コレクション(当時)

ジャネルと廣井先生。ジャネルが弟子として付いている間に集め始めた独楽と一緒に

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