Tag Archives: Akiu

Hiroi and the Life of the Artisan

In this interview segment, Hiroi-sensei describes the life of a woodworking artisan and the difficulty of maintaining Japanese traditional arts in the modern world.

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Paula Curtis: What are some of the biggest difficulties you have encountered working as an artisan?

Hiroi Michiaki: The most difficult thing… it’s nothing but difficult things, right? (laughs) There’s nothing that’s easy. Saying which one is most difficult– it’s all difficult. On the other hand, the thing that makes me most happy is when people who buy my tops enjoy them. If they go “Woooow!” I’m so happy. Other than that, every day I’m suffering. (grins)

Paula: (laughs) Those, well, difficult things, of course you said there are a lot of them, but did they change a lot over time? What was difficult–doing business? Selling them?

Hiroi: Well, the difficulty of being an artisan, the more you do it the more difficult it becomes. Other than that, selling them, I’m bad at selling them. So, yeah, I’m always at a loss.

Paula: Do you feel that artisanal professions are in danger of dying out? Why do you think that is?

Hiroi: Ah! Yes. This is the thing that troubles me most. Umm… why it is that Japan takes artisans for granted. If there are no artisans, I don’t think that they can even established Japan’s large businesses, but for some reason artisans are looked down upon and taken for granted. Umm…  people in administration also think little of artisans and don’t support us. I’m not saying we want [more] support, but I think we want them to value us more.

But Japan right now is developing only this one [type of] skill, and maybe the bottom, you’d call it, artisans are definitely at the very bottom [of those priorities]. Artisans make things [to be used], and at this time [those things] are made in great quantities, so large companies are established. And if those artisans gradually disappear, someone will say “Let’s [make] this thing,” and they probably won’t be able to. So there are a lot of artisans of different occupations, but in any case I want those people who are artisans to be valued more. That’s my wish.

Paula: Do you have a lot of apprentices compared to the past?

Hiroi: Ahh, yeah. So, um, this is, well, as for why apprentices increased, it’s because I was doing traditional kokeshi, umm… and there were a number of people doing kokeshi. So there were a lot of people who gathered to do that. And I was painting kokeshi, and selling them, selling them to collectors, and people were saying difficult things to me like “that’s wrong,” “this is wrong,” and I was very troubled, but I did my best at it, and became able to [make them] to a certain extent.

My name was published in kokeshi books, too. And at that time, I realized, “Ahh, in my home there was something even more precious than kokeshi.” There were a lot of kokeshi makers, and they would definitely survive [in the future], but the Edo tops of my family, there was only one house [that made those] in all of Japan. All of the world. The ones who inherited that were only me and my younger brother. Kokeshi [makers] weren’t like us, who were only one family, there were had hundreds, thousands. I realized that it would be impossible to revive it and leave it behind [after we died]. So I thought to myself that I had to increase our apprentices. And young heirs to kokeshi maker families… they came to me, and those young people said “Can’t we make a living not just doing the kokeshi from before?” and “I want you to teach me other things.”

At that time, there was another person here like Maeda-kun whom I was teaching. He was the son of a kokeshi maker, someone from Obara Onsen, he was someone famous, and this was his child. He was named Yūsuke, Honda Yūsuke. That was in Shiroishi, and the young sons of the kokeshi makers of the Yajirō [style] lineage came together and I had seven [apprentices]. And since Yūsuke said “I’m learning [Edo top making] right now at this place,” everyone else said they wanted to, too. And so they [all] came saying, “Will you teach us?” It was like asking if it’s true and going “It’s true!” And he was saying “Come with me everyone!” Those seven came to Shiroishi and I ended up teaching them.

Well then, my goods are different from kokeshi, and there’s a lot of different kinds, and you have to want to enjoy yourself, so first it was like “If you come to my home, it’s not work, it’s more like fun.” And everyone was like “Whaaat!” and was really surprised. Heh heh heh. One person really took that seriously and messed around and found a girlfriend and got married. Haha.

Now, for kokeshi, the Yajirō line is the best one, but he couldn’t really make tops well. He’d been learning for almost half a year but couldn’t make them. And kokeshi, well, his parents were kokeshi makers, so, first, first it was best for him to do kokeshi [instead of tops]. So he put all his efforts into kokeshi. And everyone else was doing tops. And of course I wondered if their parents were angry, if they were complaining. I thought, “I’m teaching their precious heirs unnecessary things!” Surely they must have been mad. But their parents all came and said “Please take care of them,” and bowed their heads to me. All seven. Contrary to it all, I was the surprised one. “Ahh this is serious,” I thought, and put my all into teaching them. I think usually one person can remember about a hundred types [of tops].

Paula: Umm, about these artisanal occupations disappearing, what do you think should be done about that? So that they become more popular?

Hiroi: Ahh. Yeah.

Paula: Do you think there’s anything that can be done?

Hiroi: I think it would be really good if they were popular. It’s regrettable that in Japan there’s not a system for that. Like I said before, if important people would take note of us artisans, wouldn’t a bit more traditional things and skills survive? And young people becoming artisans–you know there’s quite a lot of young people who want to become artisans But the world of artisans is difficult. And artisans are quite stubborn. And people are scared of that popular image, that they can’t get used to that [sort of life]. Heh heh heh. there are quite a lot of people who say “I really want to do that…” So I thought [it would be good if] it was easier for those people to become accustomed to it. I thought [to myself] “I want to teach them.” Umm… last year, a year and a half ago, in Sendai, our Craft Village, we wanted to do successor training, so the city gave us money. And five young people came.

And, ah– the city gave us wages. And we got quite a bit of money as an honorarium, too. It went on for a year and a half and it ended in March of this year. In the end those who stayed on were one person with Kotake-san, and Maeda-kun here with me, and another person, Misa-chan, a girl. Three of them were left. I think that if something like that [program] went on a little longer we’d have more young people come. And if they did it without such strict conditions. This time around, the conditions weren’t so tough, and that was good. Five people came and three stayed. I think that’s a huge success.

And doing something like that again, not just with the city, but with the prefecture, the country, if they did that, I think the number of young successors really go up. And, well, among the same artisans, places with money, they can steadily support young people themselves. Places like mine that don’t have any money, because of that people like Maeda-kun are doing part-time jobs but also want to learn, so they come [to us]. I think people like that can become the real thing. So I think that if [the government] extended its hand more to places like that, more young people could be trained, and I feel like Japan, too, would be a richer place for it.

廣井先生と職人としての生き方

廣井先生が木工職人の生活と現代社会で日本の伝統工芸や芸術を伝え守っていくことの難しさを語っている。

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ポーラ・カーティス:あのう、そしてまぁ職人としての生活にはあのう、一番難しいことが何だと思いますでしょうか。

廣井道顕:一番難しいこと・・・難しいことばっかりだな。(laughs)簡単なのっつうのはないですね。どれが一番難しいって言われると、全部難しいね。一番、逆に嬉しいのが、お客さんとか、買ってもらった人が喜んでくれる。ワァァってやってくれっと、ものすごく嬉しい。後は毎日苦しんでいます。(grins)

ポーラ:(laughs) その、まぁあの難しいことが、もちろん、多いと、おっしゃいましたが、まぁあの時間とともに、ま、多少変化しましたか。何が難しいか、あのその、ビジネスとか、売るのとか。

廣井:まぁ職人として難しさは、やればやるほど難しくなってくのね。あと、売る、売るのは苦手なんだよね。だからね、うん、損ばっかりしてんのね。

ポーラ:で、あの職人の、あの職業がだんだん消えつつあると思いますでしょうか。それはなぜだと思いますか。

廣井:あぁ!そう。これが一番、あのう困ったことだなと思って、あのう・・・なぜか日本は職人て言うと軽く見られるんですよね。で職人がいないと、あのう、日本の大企業だって成り立たないはずなんだけども、なぜか職人は、馬鹿にされるしね、軽く見られるし。あのう・・・行政の方でも職人は軽く見て、何の援助もしてくれないしね。援助が欲しくて言うんではないけど、もっと大事にして欲しいなと思うのね。

だって日本が今こんだけ技術が発達してんだってその底辺ていうか、一番下には職人が必ずいるんですよね。職人がモノを作って、それを今度機会で大量に作ってって。であの、大企業が成り立って。で、その職人がだんだんいなくなってくれば、あのう何か今度やろうつったって何もたぶんできなくなると思うんですよね。だから、職業は、色々職人もあるけども、もうとにかくその職人っていう人をもっと大事にしてほしいなあと。まぁ希望ですけどね。

ポーラ:ではあのう、現在は、昔と比べると、弟子が多かったですか。

廣井:あぁ、うん。だからね。あのう、これはね、なんで弟子を多くしたかというと、あのう伝統こけしをやって、うんん・・・あの、こけしやっている人も何人もいたし。だからそれを集めてる人もいっぱいいたんですけれども。で、こけし描いてて、で売って、あのう収集している人に売って、どうのこうの、あれがダメだの、これがダメだのと、難しいこと言われて、うんと悩んで、でも一生懸命やって、ある程度できるようになって。まぁ本なんかでも、

こけしの本とか必ず名前が載るようになって。でそん時にね、気が付いたんですよ。『あぁ、うちにはこけしよりもっと大事なものがあった』って。こけしはいっぱいこけし屋さんがいて、完全に残っているけど、うちの江戸独楽はうち一軒なんですよね。日本中で。ということは世界中で。それを引き継いだのは俺と弟の二人だけで。日本では、でうちの場合は、あの、こけしみたく一つだけではなくて、何百何千って数があるものですから。一人でそれを再現して残しておくっていうことが不可能だなってのが気付いて。これは弟子をいっぱい増やさなきゃならないと思って。そんであのう、こけし屋さんの、若い跡取りを・・・あのううちに来たんですよ、あのう、これから先こけしだけでは、生活していかれなくなるんでねえかっていうことで他のことも覚えたいんだって、若いのが。

あの時ね、うちであのう、一人、あのう今の前田くんみたく一人あのう、教えてやってたのがいたのね。それがあのこけし屋さんの息子で、あの小原温泉の、人なんですけど、これも有名な人なんですけど、その人の子供で。雄介、本多雄介っていう。それがあのう、白石で、あのう、弥治郎系のこけし屋さんの息子たちの、子供たちの若い人の集まり、で七人いるんだって。で、その雄介が『今自分はこういう所でこういうもの習ってんだ』っていう話をしたらば、みんなそういうの覚えたいなっていうことになったって。で『教えてくれるか』って来たから。本当かってったら『本当だ』って言うのね。で、『みんな連れて来い』っつって。でそん時七人、白石から来たんですよ。では、教えてやったっていうことになって。

でまぁ、うちの品物はこけしと違って、種類がいっぱいあるし、遊び心がいっぱいなきゃならないので、まず『うちに来るんだったら真面目になってないで遊びな』っつったの。したっけ『えええ!』なんてみんなビックリして。へへへ。で、一人、本気になって遊んで、彼女見つけて結婚して。へへ。

今、こけしでは弥治郎で一番ぐらいになってるね。でそいつ、こ、独楽できなかったのね。まだあのう習い始めて半年だかって言うんで、ほとんど独楽できなくて。ほんで、こけし、ま親がこけし屋さんだから、で、まず、でまずこけしやったらいいでねえかっつうことで。で、こけし一生懸命やって。他の人たちはみんな独楽やって。したらみんな親たちにてっきり『怒られるかな、文句言われっかなあ』と思って『大事な、跡取り息子に余計なこと教えた!』なんて怒られるんじゃないかと思ってたら、みんな親たちが来て「宜しくお願いします」ってここでね、みんな頭ついてったね。七人とも。これには、逆にこっちの方でビックリしちゃって。『あぁこれ本気なんだな』と思って、ほんで一生懸命教えてやって。で、大体一人でもう百種類ぐらいは覚えたんのじゃないのかなと思うんですけどね。

ポーラ:あのう、まぁこの職人の職業がその、あのう消えつつある問題についてですが、どうすればいいと思いますでしょうか。あのう、そのまあ、人気があるように。

廣井:あぁ。そうね。

ポーラ:何かできますか。

廣井: そういうのがあると本当いいんですけどねえ。残念なことに日本にはまだそういう制度ないし。もうちょっと、偉い人がさっきも言ったように職人に、えぇ、こう、目を向けてくれれば、少しは、伝統的なものとか、技術が、残るんじゃないかな。で、若い人も、職人に、結構職人になりたい若い人いるんですよね。でも、職人の世界って難しい。で職人っていうのは頑固でなかなか。こう、馴染めないっていう、そっちのイメージの方が多くて恐ろしがってね、へへへ。なかなか『やりたくてもなぁ・・・』っていう人結構多いんですよね。だから、そういう人たちにね、もっとこう、スムーズに馴染んでもらって。育てたいな、と思っていたんですけど。ええと、去年ね、ええと一年半、仙台市で、この工芸の里で、後継者の育成をしようっていうことで市の、市がお金を出してくれて。で五人、入れたんですね若い人を。

で、あー、市で給料を出してくれて。ほんで教える方も、謝礼金として結構なお金、もらったんですけど。一年半続けて、で今年の三月でそれ終了したんですけど。んで結果的に残ったのが、うんと、小竹さんのとこに一人、うちに前田くんいるし、もう一人あのう、みさちゃんって女の子がいるんですけど。三人残ったんですけど。で、そういうことをもう少し続けてやってくれれば、もっと若い人が来ると思うんですけどね。で、あまりこう難しい条件、つけないでやってくれって言うんですけど。で今回はね、そんな難しい条件でなくても良かったし。で五人来て、ま結果三人残ることになったんですけど。大成功でないかなと思うんですけどね。

でこういうことを、こう繰り返し、市ばかりでなくてね、県とか国で、やってくれれば、若い後継者が日本中で結構増えると思うんですけどね。でまあ、同じ職人でもほら、うんとお金のある、所はね、自分の所でどんどん若手を育てることできるけど。我々みたいにお金のないのはね、それこそ前田くんでもみたくアルバイトをしながら、でも習いたいっつうんで来てた。そういう人たちあの、ホンモノになれると思うんですよね。だから、そういうところにね、もうちょっとこう、手を差し出てくれれば、もっと若手育てられて、日本も、もうちょっと豊かになれるような気がするんですけどね。

About Akiu Craft Park


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.

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[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.

秋保工芸の里について

今回のインタビューでは、廣井先生が秋保工芸の里ができた経緯や工芸の里に住みモノづくりをしている職人たちについて触れている。秋保工芸の里の公式ウェブサイトはこちらのリンクから。ウェブサイトは(機械による)翻訳機能もついており各言語での閲覧も可能。

秋保工芸の里は宮城県の仙台市からバスで35〜40分ほど離れた小さな町、秋保にある。仙台駅からは63番のバス停で、かわさきまち行に乗り、秋保工芸の里で下車。タケヤ交通<秋保・川崎 仙台西部ライナー> 冬季に関しては時刻表に変動あり。

秋保工芸の里のパンフレットはメディアのページで閲覧できる。

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[Segment 1, 00:30:07]

ポーラ・カーティス:では、少し、あのう、秋保についての、あのう、話に入りますが、あのう、いつ秋保工芸の里に住むことになりましたか。

廣井道顕:ちょうど二十五年前。ここが、オープンしたですけど、その何年前、三年ぐらい前だから、うんんと今から二十、八ヵ年前、八年ぐらい前かな。あの今度うんと、宮城、県で、あのう、こういう工芸の里みたいなのを作るから、一緒に行かないかって声をかけてもらって。で色々集まって話して、で県に行って話して。であのう街中でだんだんあのう、仕事がやりにくくなってきたんですよね。あのう、うるさいとか、ゴミが立つからとかって、公害だ何だって言われて、仕事がだんだんやりにくくなってて、何とかこう、そういう街中から出て、誰にも何も言われない場所を作りたいなっていう話で。であのう、同じ同業ばかりでなくて、色んな異業種の人たちとも一緒になって。ほんで県に交渉して、ではっていうことで、この秋保、まだ仙台市でなかったんですね、秋保は秋保で、秋保町だったんですけど。で秋保町、秋保と、それから県の、山があるから、でそこを、作って、そこにあのうみんな移るように、したらいいんじゃないかっていうことで。最初二十、二十人ぐらいいたんですよ。で、だんだんだんだん煮詰まってって、最終的に、ええ十二件になったのかな。で順で十二ヶ所土地作ったんけど、結果、入ったのが、うーんと八軒。で空いている場所が四ヶ所あって、で後から、一人、入ってきて、その一人の人が二ヶ所まとめて買って。で今も二ヶ所残ってるんですけど。うーん、で結果的に、オープンした時は、うん?待てよ。オープンの後でツルコさんが買ったのか。オープンした時は八軒だったんですね、八人だったのね。それから二年か、三年ぐらいして一軒入って九軒になった。今九軒で。そのままずっと今も続いてるんですけど。

ポーラ:どのような専門ですか。

廣井:ええと、うんだから、あれ、パンフレット見ると一番分かりいい・・・ここで分る。あぁこれがこけし屋さん。こっちの隣。で、ここはうちね。でこれがそっちの。

[Segment 2, 00:00:00]

廣井:これはあのお茶の道具。茶道具を作っている人なんですけど。あとそれからそっちの向かいの・・・トイレの脇が箪笥、仙台箪笥。で、その隣がこの彫刻、やっている人で。その向かいっ側の人がこれ後から入ってきた織物をやってる人。この人が後から入ってきたんですけど。でその隣がやっぱりこけし屋さん。この人は元々 秋保の人で。で秋保でこけしを作って、いた人なんですよね。で地元の人、ただ一人なんですけど。

で後はその隣がこれ埋もれ木って、これもあの、もう全国でただ一人になっちゃったんです。埋もれ木細工っていうの、やっている人なんですけど。これ仙台独特のもので、あのう・・・石炭になる前に亜炭というのがあって、その亜炭にまざって埋もれ木っていう、亜炭層から出てきた、あのう、なんというかな。炭化したような、要するに埋もれている木なんですけど。それ削ってこうやるとすごく素晴らしいのができるので。で仙台の名物で、何人も職人さんいたんですけど今たった一人になっちゃってんの。

で、これ、これがその隣で、これがほら、あのう、伝統こけしの先生。私が教わった先生のところ、我妻さんってね。でこの近辺なのか、今。だからあのう、同業の方は二軒、こけし屋さん・・・あ二軒、三軒か。あぁ。こけしやってた人は三軒、あぁ俺もやってたから四軒か。ま、こけし屋さんが多いね。うん。こけし屋さん以外が一店、二店、三軒、四軒。んー五軒か。でこけしやってた 、こけしばかりでなく、こういう轆轤っていうんで色々、ま江戸独楽も含めてですけど、そういうのが四軒で。で九軒ですね。