In this interview segment, Hiroi-sensei speaks briefly about the establishment of the Akiu Craft Park and the types of artisans who live and work there. You can visit the official webpage for Akiu at this link, which explains about the many artisans working there. The page also includes an option to translate it (via machine) into foreign languages.
Akiu Craft Park is about 35-40 minutes by bus from Sendai, Japan, located in the small town of Akiu. From Sendai station, board the bus going towards Kawasaki-machi (かわさきまち行) at the #63 bus stop, getting off at Akiu kōgei no sato (秋保工芸の里). This will be the purple Takeya tours bus, the タケヤ交通＜秋保・川崎 仙台西部ライナ＞. Some schedule changes may occur in winter months.
A scanned version of the Akiu Craft park pamphlet is uploaded in the Media section of our page.
[Segment 1, 00:30:07]
Paula Curtis: And let’s talk a little about Akiu. When did you start living at Akiu Craft Park?
Hiroi Michiaki: It was about twenty-five years ago. That was from when it opened, but some years before that, about three years, ummm about twenty–eight years ago, I guess. I was asked “We’re going to make something like a craft village in Miyagi prefecture, so won’t you join us?” And many [artisans] came together and talked, came to the prefecture and talked. In the town it had gradually become difficult to do our work, you know? Because it was loud, or the garbage would pile up, it was said to be a nuisance, and so it became difficult to do our work, and the topic came up that we wanted leave the town and make a place where no one would say anything [about it] to us. And not just people doing the same occupation, but people of many different types of work joined us. And we negotiated with the prefecture and it slowly moved along. Akiu wasn’t the city of Sendai, it was the town of Akiu. And [we negotiated with] the town of Akiu, with Akiu and the prefecture, and there was a mountain, so we made it there, and it was said that we should all move there. There were about twenty, twenty of us at the beginning. And gradually we ended up with about twelve houses in the end, I think. We had the land for twelve homes, but in the end about eight were constructed and there were four open lots. And after one more person came, and that person bought and combined two lots. Even now there’s two left. Umm… in the end, when we opened—huh? Wait. Did Tsuruko-san buy it after we opened? There were eight houses when we opened, eight people. And two or three years later another house went up and we were nine houses. And now it’s nine houses. And it’s been the same ever since.
Paula: What kind of specialties did the other artists have?
Hiroi: Umm… ah, it’s easiest to understand if you look at the pamphlet… You’ll see here. Ahh this is a kokeshi maker. The one next door to here. And this is us. And this is that one.
[Segment 2, 00:00:00]
Hiroi: These are tea ceremony utensils. He makes tea ceremony utensils. And then there’s– like the one over there, the cabinet next to the toilet– Sendai [style] cabinets. Next to [the tea ceremony person] there’s a man who does this carving. Across from him is the woman who came later [after we set up Akiu Craft village], who does textiles. She joined us after. And next to her of course is a kokeshi maker. That person is originally from Akiu and made kokeshi in Akiu. He’s the only person originally from here.
And next to him is a bogwood [carver], and he’s also now the only person in the entire country [who has that skill]. He’s called a “bogwood artisan” [umoregi saiku]. This is something particular to Sendai… there’s something called “brown coal” (lignite) that [is formed] before it becomes coal, and wood that is buried in and mixes with that brown coal– it comes from the brown coal class [of materials]– what should I call it? It’s more or less this is wood that has been buried and carbonized. If you carve it into things it’s gorgeous, so it’s a famous thing from Sendai, and there used to be a number of artisans [who carved bogwood], but now there’s only one.
And this [other] one is next to him, and he’s a, you know, sensei of traditional kokeshi. When I was taught [kokeshi making] it was Wagatsuma-san. Is he in this area now? So, for people of the same craft it’s two houses, two kokeshi makers, or is it three? Ahh. There’s three doing kokeshi. Oh, I also did it, so it’s four. Well, at any rate there’s a lot of kokeshi makers. Mm. Other than the kokeshi makers there’s one, two, three, four houses. Mm five? And there were four places that did kokeshi, but not just kokeshi but other pieces that were made using the lathe, well, including Edo tops, and there were four of them. And that’s nine.