Category Archives: biography

メディ・ポスト:ジャネルのインタビュー(2013年)

Janell and her collection at home in 2013.

2013年4月、テネシー州プレザント・ヒルに住むジャネル・ランディスの友人、ジェーン・ヘラルドは日本のアートについてGoogleで検索した。たまたま見つけたのが、ミシガン大学の大学院博士課程に在籍し中世日本の職人の歴史について研究している学生、ポーラ・カーティスが運営するブログ ”What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies? (日本研究の学位があると何ができますか?)”※だった。「日本の江戸独楽のコレクションを安心して預けられる場所を探すのを手伝ってくれないかしら?」ジェーンからの最初のメールだった。

ジェーンの隣人であり友人でもあるジャネル (88歳)が日本の宮城県仙台市にある宮城学院女子大学で(1953年から)30年以上教師をしていたこと、その間に江戸独楽を専門とする工芸職人、廣井道顕氏に弟子入りしていたことをジェーンは説明した。江戸独楽は独特な様式の伝統的な木製の独楽で、日本で歴史が長い。 ジャネルは日本で生活していた歳月の中で廣井氏の作品である独楽を100個以上も集めていた、どこか独楽を寄贈できる博物館を見つけたいと思っていたのだが、どこも見つからない。『どこかジャネルのコレクションを引き取ってくれる博物館を紹介してくれないかしら?それか、何かほかにできることがあれば教えてくれない?こんなに綺麗なものを物置に押し込むようなことしたくないのよ』

その意見に賛同したポーラは、何人か知り合いにあたってみたが、独楽の寄贈を受け入れてくれる博物館を探すのは骨が折れるかもしれないと気がかりであった。そこでポーラはパブリック・ヒストリー※研究者マリナ・ローズ・スーティに連絡を取り、口述歴史記録プロジェクトとして、珍しい例であるジャネルとコレクションの経緯について取り上げ、見込みのありそうな博物館に独楽の受け入れを働きかけることができないか話し合った。2013年10月、ポーラとマリナはプレザント・ヒルにあるジャネルの家に招かれ、3日間にわたりジャネルにインタビューし、美しい独楽のコレクションを見せてもらった。

ジャネルの家を訪ねた際の写真です。ポーラとマリナに自分のコレクションや独楽を回して見せてくれました。

※”What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?”(日本研究の学位があると何ができますか?)は日本研究をしている学生や日本研究に関わったことのある人たちが、留学・研究・仕事などを通して経験したこと、日本の文化や習慣なども含め、あらゆる情報の交換を目的として記事を提供しているブログ。

※パブリック・ヒストリーはアカデミックな歴史とは逆に、実生活における応用の歴史を保存、博物館展示、口述歴史として記録する分野の学問。

 

Media post: Interviewing Janell in 2013

Janell and her collection at home in 2013.

In April of 2013, Jane Heald, a resident of Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, and friend of Janell Landis, took to Google for help on information about Japanese art. By chance, she stumbled across What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?, a blog run by Paula R. Curtis, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan working on the history of medieval Japanese artisans. “Can you help us find a home for a beautiful collection of Japanese Edo Tops?” her email began.

Jane explained that her neighbor and friend Janell (88) taught at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University in Sendai, Japan for over thirty years (beginning in 1953), and during that time was apprenticed to Mr. Michiaki Hiroi, an artisan who specialized in Edogoma 江戸独楽. Edogoma, a particular style of traditional wooden spinning top, have a long tradition in Japan. As it happened, Janell collected over a hundred of Hiroi’s tops over the course of her time in Japan, and though she hoped to find a museum to donate her collection to, thus far they had no luck. “Could you recommend another museum that would like to receive her donation? Or advise us another way to proceed? These beautiful objects shouldn’t be suddenly shoved into storage on short notice,” Jane wrote.

In full agreement, Paula contacted several colleagues, but worried about the time it might take to find a museum willing to accept the donation. She then contacted public historian Malina Rose Suity to discuss the possibility of an oral history project that would both preserve Janell’s unique history with the collection and promote it to potential museums. In October of 2013, Paula and Malina were invited to Janell’s home in Pleasant Hill, where they conducted interviews with Janell over the course of three days and were introduced to her beautiful top collection.

These are photos of the interview trip at Janell’s home, where she showed Paula and Malina her collection and how to spin her tops.

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.

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.

Newspaper article 新聞記事:Seven Artisans Compete with New “Sendai Fortune” Products

Hiroi-sensei has appeared many times in Japanese newspapers. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Seven Artisans Compete with New “Sendai Fortune” Products” that ran December 27, 2008 in the newspaper Kahoku shinpō. See the original Japanese article at the link below.

廣井先生は多数の新聞記事で特集されています。2008年12月27日、河北新報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: 記事はこちら

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Kahoku shinpō (December 27, 2008)

The new character of Akiu Craft Village: “Sendai Fortune” kokeshi

Nice to meet you. I’m a kokeshi who is proud of my smile.

Akiu Craft Village

Seven Artisans Compete with New  “Sendai Fortune” Products

The Akiu Craft Village of Akiu, Taihaku Ward, Sendai City will begin selling a new kokeshi this January called “Sendai Fortune.” It was so-named by the seven artisans of Akiu, who made it in the image of a woman calling upon luck. It is being sold as a new character made with a modern twist on traditional arts. The Sendai Luck ranges in size up to about 10 cm tall. They have kokeshi in the shape of smiling girls and based on the zodiac ox. Hiroi Michiaki (75) and the other artisans of the Craft Village made the doll to invite luck, modeling it on the wife of Fukusuke (god of luck).

When kokeshi-making began to feel as though it had hit a slump, Hiroi called on his artisan colleagues. By challenging one another, they aim to increase their technical skills and imbue their wooden products with a new appeal.

The Sendai Fortune kokeshi cost around 2,000-3,000 yen. This time they’ve made about 100 kokeshi, and the Craft Village opens up for sales from January 1-4, 10AM-4PM. In addition, there will be bamboo stilts (takeuma), wooden paddle games (hagoita), and traditional kites (surume tenbata) on sale.

According to Hiroi, “We want to create products that make people excited, and in the future, too, have the luck of Sendai active in many places through the Craft Village’s original character.” Hiroi’s contact information is 022 (398) 2770.

Media Post: Janell at Miyagi Gakuin

These photos show Janell at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, where she taught for many years. The first photo shows Janell with three of her English Department staff in front of their old administration building at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University. The second is Janell speaking to the junior-high students in the chapel of Miyagi Gakuin’s old campus. The black and white photo is Janell taking part in a ceremony after she donated hand bells to the junior and senior high school from America.

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メディアポスト:宮城学院女子大学でのジャネル

ジャネル、何年も教鞭をとった宮城学院女子大学で。1枚目:旧校舎の事務所で英語学部のスタッフ3人と。2枚目:宮城学院の旧キャンパス内のチャペルで中学生に話をするジャネル。白黒写真:アメリカから宮城学院へ、ハンド・ベルを寄付した後、式典に参加した際のジャネル

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