Tag Archives: childhood

Newspaper article 新聞記事: Edogoma Spin Around the World 江戸独楽 世界を回る

An automaton top of a man eating dango, by Hiroi Masaaki.

In addition to Hiroi-sensei, his brother, Hiroi Masaaki, has also appeared in newspapers as a well-known Edo top maker. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Edogoma Spin Around the World” that ran December 31, 2007 in the newspaper Nihon keizai shinbun. See the original Japanese article at the link below.


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


Nihon keizai shinbun (December 31, 2007)

Edogoma Spin Around the World

Creating automaton figures for 60 years and displaying them in 50 countries

Hiroi Masaaki

It has been over 60 years since I began creating Edo tops. My ancestor was a low-ranking court doctor in charge of the emperor’s health, but he, my great-grandfather, made his livelihood out of his hobby of making tops. I am a fourth-generation top-maker. Supposedly during the bakumatsu, the end of the Edo period, when Japan was divided into imperial loyalists and shogunate supporters, my great-grandfather and grandfather took up their swords. I was born into a top-making family, and I think that [the reason] we continued to be poor was that my relatives always fought, like everyone in that period of time. What a pain it was.

There are many kinds of tops, but Edo tops have a particular way of spinning, and there are also those that are automatons, coming to life as they spin. I don’t create just traditional forms [of tops] but also come up with new technical forms. I haven’t counted them, but I’ve probably invented around 4,000 or 5,000 types.


Hiroi Masaaki

Entertaining Oneself During the War

I was born in 1935. I lived in Oshima, Kōtō Ward (Tokyo) with my mother, father, and three siblings. However, in 1945, my mother and two of my siblings were killed in massive air raids. We were driven out of our home by the fires from air raids, first to Kuramae, then Roppongi and Shirokane, one after another, and barely escaped with our lives.

It was also because of the war that I began to make tops. My friends were all evacuated outside of the city and I had no one to spend time with. One day, my father gave me a foot-powered lathe so I could make tops and other things to play with. I liked working with my hands, so every day I worked on the lathe.

After the war, at the invitation of a toy wholesaler in Kuramae, my family moved to Shiroishi in Miyagi prefecture. In Tōhoku we were able to obtain good-quality lumber. However, because my father had lost his wife and children, his heart wasn’t in his work. So my older brother and I made tops and kendama (cup and ball toys) and sold them on the Sendai black market. It was a time when there were no toys, so they sold quite well.

I finally returned to my hometown of Tokyo at the end of my 20s. I did demonstration sales, and during this time I began to make tops while earning a living . There was a traditional arts boom at the time, which popularized Edo tops, but the production wasn’t valued at all. However, I did find working out automaton devices interesting, so I diligently produced various tops even if they didn’t sell.


There are also automaton tops where when you spin the top of the head, the dolls eat soba or sweet potatoes.

Fixated on the Mechanisms

There are no diagrams for top-making. For example, a sakadachi (“headstand”) top flips upside down while it spins, beginning to stand on its handle. When I made that, I only had the knowledge of experience that centrifugal force will make the heavy portion will face upward. After that, one makes the shape through trial and error. Brilliant people overseas seemed to understand the mathematical reasoning behind the tops flipping on their heads, but because they’re tops, they have to spin.

When I come up with an idea for an automaton, I don’t ever give up until it’s been realized. There’s one top, “Momotarō” (Momotarō the Peach Boy)—when you pull the string and make it spin, the peach part is supposed to pop open so you can see the little boy— but the peach’s mechanism doesn’t open properly. I thought about it for days on end. I made an adjustment to the placement of the elastic, and when the peach popped open smoothly a bell went off somewhere. It was New Year’s Eve of 1965.

The first of those to value the production of tops [as art] were people overseas rather than in Japan. Twenty seven years ago, I took about 70 of my works to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. I took more traditional-style tops, too, but the curator said, “I’ll only collect items that you designed yourself.”

Perhaps because I gave a dubious expression at that, he said the following: “While it’s important to pass along tradition, there’s no meaning in contemporary artists recreating, say, Greek sculptures exactly the same way they were 3000 years ago. Rather, there is value in contemporary artists creating new art.” That I am able to proudly say today that I am producing tops that are my own work is because of his words to me.

From then on, I was invited to share Japanese culture with people overseas and traveled around the world, taking my tops with me. I’ve probably been to about fifty countries by now. I think of tops as toys but to people in other countries they’re seen as art. From the perspective of a craftsman, shaking hands [with such a person] is somehow embarrassing.


The Tops in People’s Hearts

When this article is published on New Year’s, surely I’ll be in my studio  turning the lathe. For complicated mechanisms, sometimes it can take as many  as 10 days to produce them. Even though I’ve been on this path for 60 years, that’s nothing to boast about. If one cannot do their craft skillfully, that is nothing but failure.  The idea that tomorrow I will be able to make even better tops tomorrow than I did today—that is what has kept me going for such a long time.

A top that’s well-done has a vertical handle that stands up straight and doesn’t wobble in the slightest when it turns. When it [spins so well] that the top appears perfectly still while spinning, I call this “sleeping.” When I look at a “sleeping”” top, the words someone once said to me come to mind: “There is a top in our hearts. If the axis doesn’t wobble, your life is on the right track.” On New Year’s Day, I’d like to examine my own heart’s top as I see children playing with theirs.

— Hiroi Masaaki

Hiroi’s early experiences as a woodworker

In this interview segment, Hiroi-sensei describes his early experiences as a woodworker in Sendai selling kokeshi dolls before he settled on reviving his family’s tradition of making Edo-style tops. He discusses the difficulties his family had selling their goods, despite being discovered as the last surviving family in Japan that made Edo-style tops.

This clip has been slightly edited from the original interview for clarity. A transcript of this clip can be found below. And a full transcript of our interview with Hiroi can be found here [forthcoming].


Young Hiroi-sensei.
Young Hiroi-sensei.

Hiroi Michiaki: Hmmm. Since I first came to Sendai… mmm… there were many [moments that stay in my mind], my father worked in many woodworkers’ shops, and was an artisan. And from that he became independent, and rented a house himself and of course put a lathe in it, and worked wholesaling and subcontracting kokeshi. And, ahh around this time kokeshi, souvenir kokeshi that is, they’re different from the traditional style of kokeshi [you see] now. He was able to sell a lot of those. There was a wholesale shop, and there he subcontracted unpainted objects called shirakiji (blank wood), and worked doing that. And doing that, he said that if he was to make kokeshi he might as well do traditional kokeshi, and he became a person named Wagatsuma-san’s apprentice, and came to [make kokeshi] from the Toogatta kokeshi tradition. And then they were able to sell traditional kokeshi, and it became a kokeshi boom, and they became able to sell them. He took his lathe to Tokyo and [sold them] at performances and department stores. At first he did kokeshi, but kokeshi take a lot of time, so he did tops [instead].

Paula Curtis:   Yes.

Hiroi:   Then, in Tokyo, they said that along with Italy they were going to gather kokeshi. “Native toys” (kyōdō gangu) were [being gathered] here and there in Japan—if it’s Aizu, for example, they have the Akabeko (red cow). People came [here] that were collecting those kinds of native toys and kokeshi. Mmm I was doing tops, but at that time, since I was in Sendai I wasn’t doing Edo tops, but those called Sendai tops or Miyagi tops. Because they were [being sold] at goods shops in Sendai and Miyagi prefecture. And when I did that in Sendai [I made] Sendai tops, and when I was in Miyagi prefecture I did Miyagi ones, tops called Miyagi tops. And they were popular, since they were spinning right in front of you. The people who came to gather the native toys said something like “Where are you really from?” and I said “Actually I’m from Tokyo.” And they were like “Ahh of course!” They said, of course, we thought that in Tokyo, too, long ago there were lots of toys called “Edo tops (edogoma)” but no matter how much we looked, we couldn’t find them. When they said “Have you made them?” I said something like “My family has traditionally done them.” He said, “Ahh! I found them!!” and there was a clamor about it in Tokyo, saying they finally found Edo tops. And my younger brother went to Tokyo. My brother got married in Tokyo and has done Edo tops there ever since. When he has a chance he makes Edo tops here in Sendai. Well, in Sendai, too, to a certain extent we made Edo tops, but people here didn’t understand about them, so even if we sold them they didn’t sell well.

Paula:   Did your family expect you to continue business as a top-maker?

Hiroi:    Mm, that was the only thing to do. Somehow I sold the tops. Like in the past, I thought I might not be able to eat, and in Sendai, just like back then, I wasn’t understood, and I couldn’t sell anything. And I went to Tokyo and it was a situation like I just described, and so I was able to sell my tops there. Though, at that time, rather than Edo tops I actually was working hardest at making the traditional kokeshi.

Paula:    When did you become an independent Edo top maker?

Hiroi:   Hmm… when was it? I don’t remember exactly. Mm… I didn’t really become aware of [when I started working independently, because] I was helping my father. And at some point I started using the lathe. So I don’t exactly what year, what month, what day–it wasn’t like that.

Paula:    About how many years were you an apprentice?

Hiroi:   Mmm, I don’t really know that either… It happens before you know it. At some point I was helping my father and working with my brother, and the three of us came to work together. What year, month, day–it wasn’t set. So I don’t really know how long [I was an apprentice].

Paula:    This is a bit similar to the previous question, but when did you first come to Sendai?

Hiroi:   When I first came to Sendai… Shōwa–What year was it? Twenty-three. It must have been Shōwa 23 [1948].

Paula:    What was your life like there?

Hiroi:    Mmm that time… we rented a room in someone’s house. Rented [just] a room. So how would [you say] we lived, I wonder? Somehow it’s weird to think of it as [properly] living there, but my father was working hard. And… at any rate we went back and forth all over within Sendai. We hadn’t been there long, so [we went] here and there. So even within Sendai we lived in a number of places… One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. We moved seven times.

Paula:   That was before you were married?

Hiroi:    Before.

Paula:    And after you were married…?

Hiroi:   After I was married… umm… After I was married… Ahh. It was once or twice [that we moved]. To here. Umm… in Higashiguchi, Higashi… We got married at the town Higashi shichiban, and moved to Fukurobara, and here. It was twice [until] we were here.

Paula:    In Sendai, well, what sort of memories do you have of the various places [you lived]? Are there any that stand out?

Hiroi:    Mmm I have unpleasant memories, you know. (laughs) There were two places. Really terrible ones, two places where I was bullied, awful places I experienced. But after that, they were all enjoyable. Especially after I was independent. Umm… I had many friends, and it was nice that there were many people my age. It was really fun. In one place, for some reason in one place almost all of the kokeshi makers in Sendai gathered together, and I lived independently and felt like it was a neighborhood community, and there were lots of people doing the same work so it was nice. Even now looking back on it, it was a really a great time [in my life]. And that [time], the son of the sensei who taught kokeshi-making back then, he’s alive now, and even now he’s always saying “That was the best time, wasn’t it?” It was really great.




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Young Hiroi-sensei.

廣井道顕: うんとね。はじめは仙台に来てからー・・・あのう・・・いろんな、あの、木地屋さんの所で親父が働いていて、職人やってて。であのう、そのうちにね、この独立って、自分で、あのう、うち借りて、でやっぱ轆轤をつけて、で問屋に行って、こけしの下請け、をやってたんですよ。で、あーその頃もこけしを、お土産のこけしね、今の伝統のこけしと違うやつ。それがいっぱい売れて。で問屋があって、そこで、その「しらきじ」っていう絵の描かない、しらきじを請け負って仕事をやってたんですけども。そのうちにあのう、同じこけしやるんならば伝統こけしをやったほうがいいって言われて、そこにいる我妻さんっていう人の弟子にしてもらって、遠刈田系の伝統こけしっていうのをやるようになったんですよ。であのう、伝統こけしが今度う売れ、いっぱいブームになって、売れるようになって、であのう、東京へ、轆轤持って実演に、デパートに行って。で最初こけしをしてたんですけど、こけしだと時間がかかるから、あのう、独楽を、やったのね。


ポーラ・カーティス: はい。

廣井: そしたら、東京であのう、こけし集めるってイタリアと。郷土玩具っていうのが日本にあちこちにあのう会津だったらあの赤べこってありますよね。あぁいう郷土玩具をや、こけしを集めてる人たちが来て。えぇぇ独楽やってるけど、あの時はね、あのう、江戸独楽でなくて仙台だからっていうことで、仙台、ま、仙台独楽とか宮城の独楽とかって名前で。というのはあの、仙台市の物産店とか、宮城県の物産店で行ってたんもんですから。で仙台で行った時は仙台の独楽、宮城県で行った時は宮城、宮城の独楽っていうことで、やって。で人気があって、目の前ですぐできて回りますからね。で、それ見てた人が郷土玩具を集める人が、『お前、生まれ本当はどこだ』なんて言われて「いや東京です」と。「やっぱりな」っていうことになって。ほんであの、東京にも確か昔、江戸独楽って独楽の玩具がいっぱいあったはずなんだけど、いくら探しても、見つからない。って居たんだけど。「お前んとこでやってたことあるか」って言うから、「うちは代々、やってた」っつったっけ。「あぁ!見つけたー!」っていうことになって、そしてあのう東京で大騒ぎになって、江戸独楽見つかったっていうことで。であのー弟が東京へ行くことになって。で弟は東京で結婚して、でずうっとあのう、江戸独楽づくり。それがキッカケでこっちもこっちで仙台で、江戸独楽づくり。まぁ仙台でも江戸独楽、ある程度作ったんですけど、こっちの人にや分らないから、売っても売れなかったんですよね。


ポーラ: で、ご家族は先生が江戸独楽の職業を継いで続けることを思っていらっしゃったのですか。

廣井: うん、それしかなかったからね。えぇ・・・。だその、なんとか売って、昔通りに、食えないかなぁと思っていたんだけど、仙台では全然その通りで、あのう理解されなくて、売れなくて、で東京行って今言ったような状態で、それから売れるようになったんですけども。でその時あのう、江戸独楽よりもむしろそのこけし、伝統こけしの方一生懸命やってたんですけどね。

ポーラ 独立の江戸独楽の職人になった時はいつでしたか。

廣井: えぇぇ・・・いつだった。はっきり覚えってないよね。うん・・・。いつの間にかだからね、親手伝ってて。でいつの間にか轆轤のるようになってて。だからはっきりいつ何月何日何年のっていう、そいつはないんだね。


ポーラ: 弟子としての、ま、それは何年間ぐらいだったと思いますか。

廣井: んーそれも分んないなぁ。いつの間にかだからね。いつの間にか親手伝って親と一緒に、ま弟も一緒に、三人して仕事しているようになったかな。それが何月何日何年のなにって・・・決まりないからね。だからちょっと分らないよね、それはね。言われても。

ポーラ: これはあのう前の質問とあのう、少し同じところありますが、はじめて仙台にいらっしゃったのはいつでしたか。

廣井: 初めて仙台に来たのはね。ええと。昭和・・・何年だ。二十三年・・・。昭和二十三年だな、確かな。

ポーラ: で、どのような生活されましたか。

廣井: んーその時は・・・人の家に間借りっていうのしてたの。部屋、借りて。だからどういう風に暮らしたのかなぁ・・・。となんとなく暮らしてたって言うと変だけれども、親父が一生懸命なんか、仕事をやってたんですね。んで・・・とにかく転々と歩いたから仙台市内をね。長くいなかったから、あっちこっち。だから仙台だけでも、何か所くらい行ったんだろう・・・一か所、二か所、三、四、五、六、七。七回場所変え。

ポーラ: それは結婚する前でしたか。

廣井: 前。

ポーラ: 結婚してから・・・

廣井: 結婚してからは・・・ええと・・・結婚してからは・・・。あぁ、一回、二回だね。ここよ。ええと・・・東口んとこに、東えー東七番町で結婚して、袋原に移って、それからここだから、二度目ですねここ。

ポーラ: あの、仙台の、ま、色々なお住まいについてどのような思い出がありますか。特に目立つのはありますか。

廣井: うんと嫌な思いしたのはね。(laughs) 二箇所あるね。ものすごく嫌な、いじめられて、とんでもない目にあった場所が、二箇所あるね。後はみんな楽しかったですね。で特に独立してからは。あのう・・・仲間がいっぱいいたし、同じ年代の人たちが、いっぱいいてね。ほんと楽しかったの。一箇所なぜか一箇所、仙台中のこけし屋さんのほとんどが集まっている場所に、あのう独立して住んでいて、で隣近所って感じで、同業者の人がいっぱいいて。あーその時は今でも楽しいですね、思い出すと。でそこの、だからその、こけし教わった先生の息子さん、今、いるんですけど、この間も「あの頃が一番楽しかったなぁ」なんて、つくづく言ってたから。楽しかったですね。

The Hiroi Family during WWII

Originally from Tokyo, Hiroi’s family suffered great loss as a result of the air raids that destroyed the city and killed hundreds of thousands of people during World War II. Listen as he describes how his family fled Tokyo to start a new life in Tōhoku, his first impressions of American soldiers, and his feelings about the war.

This clip has been slightly edited from the original interview for clarity. A transcript of this clip can be found below. And a full transcript of our interview with Hiroi can be found here[forthcoming].


Paula Curtis:  If it’s alright, I’d like to talk a little bit about the war time, but, about that time, what kind of memories do you have?

Hiroi Michiaki:   What…

PC:         The war time.

Hiroi:   What time?

PC:         The war time. War.

HM:       Ahh when we were at war. The war time. Of course I didn’t do any of that. War. I was absolutely against it. Mm. But even so, everyone was killed. Not one of my classmates is alive. Everyone was killed in the air raids. And the people of my neighborhood, too, all of them, there’s no one left.

PC:   And your family, at that time…?

HM:         My younger brother and mother, even now their whereabouts are unknown, but I think they died. When a notice came, it was said you [could] confirm [a death], you know. But I can’t confirm theirs. In the air raids, everyone had burned to death, and it was impossible to tell what was what, whom was whom…. And since it was said that since their death couldn’t be actually confirmed, we couldn’t get a notice. It was said they were missing (lit. “whereabouts unknown”)… And even now their whereabouts are, well, unknown.


PC:         Where was your home at that time?

HM:       Mmm, properly speaking, in Tokyo, Kōtō ward, Ooshima. It was a place called Ooshima, but it was “Ooshima-machi 3-chōme, #400.” That was our permanent residence.

PC:         And what kind of life did you have?

HM:       The same. The same as now.

PC:         Which is to say…?

HM:       Mm. My father, well, he made many things.

PC:         Then, at that time [he made] Edo-style tops, um—

HM:       Yeah. During the war, things that “unnecessary”, so-called “luxuries,” were forbidden. And, hmm, we received this sheet, like a label. If you didn’t post that, you couldn’t sell [anything]. And they were allotted, how many [you received] per month. So you couldn’t [sell] anything more than that, and furthermore, as if that weren’t bad enough, we were required to make–what do you call them?– military supplies, for use during the war.


PC:         Ohh…  Did you or your family contribute in some way to the war?

HM:       Not really effort, but everyone, mm, at that time we couldn’t say anything. If we did, the military police would come and we’d be arrested, and if we did something bad it was terrible. And everyone, well, it was that way for all Japanese people. Everyone would say “We’ll win! We’ll win!” and be happy. But there were a number of people who said that there was no way that Japan could win, and they’d be arrested. So no one could say anything, and in their hearts absolutely hated war. And family, workers, everyone who felt that way withered away, and most died, and there was no compensation. In my home, too, even though everything–my parents and siblings, our property–was lost in the raids, there was no compensation. Not a single word of apology. I want the emperor to apologize, you know. And, at Yasukuni Shrine, you know, why does the Japanese Prime Minister visit it? It’s strange, but nothing can be done. I feel a great sense of discomfort about that. More than the people of Korea and China, I get angry [about that].

PC:         And just after the war, what were your neighbors’ impression towards America and Americans where you lived?

HM:       Mmm. At first… it was the first time I’d seen them, so. Hahaha. Americans… Umm… We didn’t know that Japan had lost the war. That is, our home  [in Tokyo] was burned down in the air raids, so we came here, deep into Shiroishi mountain, mmm there’s a place called Kamasaki hot springs, [famous for] Yajirō kokeshi, there’s a place called Kokeshi village, but, on the other side of that mountain, there was a small cabin, a small mountain cabin, and we lived there. It was a place without electricity or water. Umm… We were there not knowing at all that the war was lost. And when my father went to the town of Shiroishi, somehow the atmosphere of the town had changed, and when he asked, they said Japan had lost. And there, he said that we couldn’t pass the winter in that mountain cabin, and so we came down and moved to the town of Shiroishi, but that time was the first time I saw American soldiers, and man, their Jeeps…! They rode them in and I was like “Ooooh!” and was so surprised. Hahaha. “What is this?” I wondered.


PC:         The attitude [towards them], what kind of attitude was it? For example, towards the Americans driving the Jeep.

HM:       Ahh… rather than what kind [of attitude]… We were surprised. We were shocked. And when I thought, “These were the people we fought with?” I also thought, “We couldn’t have beaten them, could we?” [laughs] I wondered why we did something so senseless. Rather, I was angry at the top people [in Japan]. Even though they were the elite, even though they should have understood us, why did they do something so absurd, so unreasonable, and kill Japanese people? Well… my home had done that and become the sacrifice, and no one, not the government, not the people connected to that government, no one said  a word in apology; they didn’t compensate us for anything. Rather [than the Americans], I was mad at them.

PC:         And your impression was what?

HM:       To the Americans?

PC:         Yes.

HM:       Ahh, I thought they were incredible. Really, umm… these people who were until yesterday enemies, I [didn’t think] they would be such kind people. And I couldn’t understand why we had gone to war. And um, at that time, in Shiroishi, along the national highway, we had rented the home of a farming family, and there we had set up a lathe, and the American soldiers had pipes, those sailor pipes, and smoked tobacco. We were asked to do those repairs, and my father often fixed them.


PC:         And after the war, um, how did your life change?

HM:       It entirely changed, and it was a terrible time. As I said just now, you know, there was no compensation, and we were, should I say, without means; we had no money, and even though we came here it didn’t mean we knew anyone, and we didn’t know the dialect here either. And there were many [troubles], and there were a lot of issues with the local people and we hadn’t made friends with them, but now I get along with them and they’re very kind. And I was really helped by them. In any case, there were terrible hardships [at the time]. There was nothing to eat, nothing to wear, the winter was cold. Often I thought I was going to die. Heh heh…

Postcard photograph of a soldier with Japanese children published Kinouya postcard archive, retrieved from Kinouya Postcard Collection.




テーマを明確にするためオリジナルのインタビューを少し編集したクリップとなります。このクリップを文字に起こしたファイルはこのページの下にあります。廣井のインタビュー全文はこちらにあります [ 準備中  ]。



ポーラ・カーティス:     よろしければ、あのう少し戦時についてお話したいと思いますが、あのう、その時についてどのような思い出がありますでしょうか。

廣井道顕:      何・・・

ポーラ:              戦時の時。

廣井:    何の時?

ポーラ:    戦時の時。戦争。

廣井:    あぁ。戦争中。戦争の時ね。あんなことするもんじゃないやね。戦争はね。絶対反対だよね。うん。だって、みんな殺されたんだもん。同級生一人もいないんですよ。みんな死んじゃったの空襲で。で隣近所の人も全部、誰もいない。

ポーラ:              で、ご家族はその時・・・

廣井:    弟と母親が、未だに行方知れず。死んでると思うんですけど。あのう、届けに行ったら、確認したかったって言われたのね。確認できないんですよね。もう空襲でみんな焼けて、どれがどれだか、誰なんだか・・・。で確認はできないって言ったら死亡届けはダメだ、行方不明だって言われて・・・で今でも行方不明のまま。

ポーラ:              お住まいはどちらでしたか、その時。

廣井:    うんとね、正式に言うと、東京都、江東区、大島町。大島っていう所なんですけど、大島町三丁目、の四百十番地、これが本籍地です。

ポーラ:   で、どのような生活をされていましたか。

廣井:    同じ、今と同じ。

ポーラ:    と言えば・・・

廣井:   うん、親父がこう、まぁ、色々な物を作って。

ポーラ:   じゃ、その時は江戸独楽の、あのう―、

廣井:   うん。戦争中でしたから、そんなに余計は、あのう、贅沢だっていうことで、あのう売ることを禁じられてて。で、あの、なんかね、こういう、ラベルみたいなシートみたいなものをもらうんですよ。それを張ったんじゃないと、売れなかった。で割り当てられて、月に何枚って。だから、それ以上のものできない状態で、あとはあのう、軍需品っていうか、戦争で使う道具の一部分を作らされてた。

ポーラ:              へ・・・ 先生かご家族はなにか戦争に対して努力しましたか。

廣井:   努力どころかみんな、もう、そのころは何も言えなったしね。言うと、すぐにあの憲兵が来て捕まえに来られるし、悪い癖なんかやったら大変だったんだよ。でみんな、まぁ日本人全部そうだったんですけど。みんな「勝つんだ・勝つんだ」って言われて喜んで、いたんですけど。であのう一部の人は絶対日本なんか勝つは 勝てる訳がないなんていう人結構いて、そうするとみんな捕まっちゃうんですよね。だから皆何も言えなくて、心の中ではもう絶対戦争なんか嫌なのね。だって家族、働き手 みんなと、も、持ってかれちゃって、ほんで亡くなって、何の補償もないし。うち辺りも親兄弟、家財産、空襲でみんななくなっても、何の補償もない。一言の謝罪もない。天皇陛下に謝ってもらいたいのね。で、あの、靖国神社で、あのほら、日本の総理大臣がなぜお参りに行くか。ほんと不思議でしょうがない。すごい違和感を感じますね。あのう、韓国とか中国の人たちが怒る、以上に、腹が立つのね。


ポーラ:   で、あのう、戦後の直後、お住まいは、あ、お住まいの住民はアメリカやアメリカ人に対する感想がどの感じでしたか。アメリカとアメリカ人に対する。

廣井:   ううん。最初ね初めて見たから。へへへ。アメリカの人ってね。であのう、日本が戦争負けたこと知らなかったんですよ。というのは、あのう、空襲で焼け出されてからこっち来て、あのう白石の山の奥、うーんと鎌先温泉ていう所がある、弥治郎こけしっていう、こけし村っての今ありますけど、その陰の山の中に、あのー、小屋があって、小さな山小屋があって、そこに、住んでて、電気も水道何も何もないとこだったんですけど。あのう・・・戦争に負けたっつうことを全然知らないでいて。うんで親父が白石の町に行ったらなんだか、町の様子が変だっていうことで、で聞いてみたら日本負けたんだって。であのう、そこで、山小屋では冬は越せないからって言うんで、下に降りて白石の町の中へ移ったんですけど、その時はじめてアメリカの兵隊さんを見て、あの、ジープ、ねぇ!乗ってきて「オホ―」とビックリして。へへへ。何だこれはと思って。

ポーラ:   態度が、あのう、どのような態度でしたか。その、あの例えばジープを運転しているアメリカ人に対して。

廣井:   いやぁ・・・どんなっていうよりね。びっくりして。たた、たまげてたね。で、この人たちと戦ってたんだぁと思うと、勝ってるわけないのになぁと思ったもんね。(笑)なんであんなめちゃくちゃなことやったのかなと思って。むしろ、当時の、偉い人たちの方に、腹が立ったもんね。偉い人なのに分かりそうもんなのに、なんでこんなむちゃくちゃな、訳の分かんないことして、日本人殺して。まぁ、うちだって、そうやって犠牲になったって、誰も、その、政府、の関係者の人、一言の謝罪もないし、何の補償もないし。むしろそっちの方に、腹が立ったのね。

ポーラ:   先生の感想は何でしたか。

廣井:   アメリカの人に?

ポーラ:   はい。

廣井:   いやあ、素晴らしいと思ったね。いや本っ当にあのう・・・きのうまで敵だった人が、あんなに優しい人たちだとは。それでなんで戦争しちゃったのか、理解できなかったし。それであのう、あの時は白石の、国道沿いの、農家の家 借りてて、そこでやっぱりろくろを回してたんですけど、アメリカの兵隊さんが、あのうパイプ、あのマドロスパイプって、あの、タバコを吸う。それを修理を、あのう頼まれて、よく親父直してたけどね。


ポーラ:   で、あのう戦後になって、あのう先生の生活がどのように変化されましたか。

廣井:   もうガラリと変わって、えらい目にあったね。今言ったように、ほら、なんの補償もないんで、裸一貫っていうか金も何もないし、こっち来たって知り合いがいる訳じゃないし、で言葉もこっちの方言が全然、分からなくて。で色々あって、地元の人たちとなかなか、こうなんつうの、仲良くなれなくて、でもいざ仲良くなったら地元の人たちはすごく親切でねぇ。それで助かったんですけども。とにかく、えらい苦労したっていうか。食べるものもないし、着るものもないし、冬は寒いし。よく死ななかったなぁと思ったね。ふふふふ・・・。

Postcard photograph of a soldier with Japanese children published Kinouya postcard archive, retrieved from Kinouya Postcard Collection.


The Early History of the Hiroi Family

On May 19th, 2014, we sat down with Hiroi Michiaki in Akiu, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, to begin our oral history interview. We began with Hiroi’s early life as a child in Tokyo. In this audio clip Hiroi describes his childhood days, family members, and the historical origins of the Hiroi family.

This clip has been slightly edited from the original interview for clarity. A transcript of this clip can be found below. And a full transcript of our interview with Hiroi can be found here [forthcoming].


Paula Curtis: Sensei, when and where were you born? Where are you from?

Hiroi Michiaki:  Tokyo.

PC:     Which part of Tokyo?

HM:    Ah. In Tokyo, um, today it’s a place called Kōtō.

PC:     Could you talk a little bit about your life as a child and your family?

HM:    Mm when I was a child. It was fun, when I was a child. Ha ha ha.

PC:     Why is that?

HM:     It was that I had a lot of friends, and there were a lot of places to play in my neighborhood. Because it was Tokyo’s shitamachi. *

[Tokyo’s shitamachi was known in the Edo period (1600-1868) as an area in which commoners lived, full of business districts, known for a kind of “downtown” atmosphere, and which was in popular imagination the originating place of “true” Edo culture.]


PC:      Could you explain a bit about your family’s history?

HM:   Ah, family. The Hiroi family?

PC:     Yes.

HM:    The family of the Hiroi… Family… Well, if it’s family, I have parents and siblings, but… [do you mean] the history of the Hiroi?

PC:     Yes.

HM:     Or…

PC:      Well, is okay [to talk about] both?

HM:     Well, my family was my father, my mother, and also I had two brothers and a younger sister. My mother and my sister,* in the war, they went missing in air raids. Even today their whereabouts are unknown. Right now my younger brother is in Yokohama, and my sister went to Osaka to get married, but she died, died of illness. Now, my younger brother is running around the world… In America… he’s an honorary citizen of Seattle, and it seems he has his own corners in museums in France and Germany. And also in Finland… it seems my younger brother has made it in museums and art museums. But I haven’t gone so I don’t know.

[* Here Hiroi mistakenly says ‘sister,’ and later corrects himself to say “younger brother” in another part of the interview.]


PC:      And the Hiroi family [line]?

HM:    The Hiroi family, it was something. Edo… err… it was the Sengoku period. Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Battle of Sekigahara… Tokugawa Ieyasu won, and when he moved to Edo, on the way from Sekigahara returning to Edo, the descendants of the Hiroi family… Mmm. I’ve forgotten where the place was, but in the old days there was a family called “Watanabe,” and they lived in a village called “Hiroi,” and there they were doctors. And Tokugawa Ieyasu won and returned to his castle, or I should say he was returning to Edo and on the way [Hiroi] made his acquaintance. I don’t know why he made his acquaintance, but [the Hiroi descendant] was invited to come with him to Edo, and it’s said that because he was from that Hiroi village he was called Hiroi and not Watanabe. And he was employed by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grandson… was it Iemitsu? And for generations he was, what should I call him, the private doctor of the bakufu, in the private residence, he held the highest rank of a doctor. That’s the story. There’s a book published, but, shall I show you the book?

PC:     Ahh, that’s right. Is it alright to look at it later?

HM:   Yeah.

PC:     Okay. Thank you very much.

HM:    Umm records… there’s a book of them. It’s the Kan’ei or Kansei period… a reference book. In there [the history] of my family is written. Yeah.


PC:     Well then, about your family now—are you married? Do you have children?

HM:    I’m married, but for some reason we couldn’t have children. Mm.

PC:     And your time as a child. What school did you go to? Could you [talk a bit] about your academic background…

HM:      School, hm… We were dragged into the war, so I didn’t go properly.

PC:     Where was it?

HM:     Umm. The last [school I went to was] Ooshima daini elementary school, wasn’t it. Before that… in Yonezawa there were mass evacuations and school evacuations, so I was in Yonezawa for half a year. I think it was half a year. And I returned to Tokyo and at that time when I returned immediately there were air raids, and families were scattered, and people across the country and walked about from place to place, and I couldn’t go to school properly. Mm.

PC:     Well, when you were in school, did you have a course or subject you were particularly interested in?

HM:    Ahh, I hated studying. Ha ha ha. I only liked gym.

PC:      Well, work, about work, before you became an Edo-style top artisan, what kind of work had you done?

HM:    Ahh… come to think of it, I did a lot of different kinds, but not for long. What did I do? I did many things. That is, rather than “doing” them, it’s better to say I helped. I worked but I didn’t receive any money.

PC:     Was there, umm, a work that you particularly liked to do? You did a lot, but was there one you really liked?

HM:    Ahh, in the end the work my family was doing was the best. I didn’t really have another that I liked. Mm.

Photograph of Monzen-nakacho, in 1935 from the”Archives for the Tokyo downtown area 100 years” published by Life Information Center and is under public domain license, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.



2014年5月19日 日本の宮城県秋保にある廣井道顕氏の自宅にて、口述歴史インタビューを行った。まず廣井氏が東京で過ごした幼少期について聞き取りを始めた。この音声クリップでは廣井氏が自身の子どもの頃の話、家族のこと、そして廣井家の家系的歴史について述べている。

テーマを明確にするためオリジナルのインタビューを少し編集したクリップとなります。このクリップを文字に起こしたファイルはこのページの下にあります。廣井のインタビュー全文はこちらにあります [ 準備中  ]。


ポーラ・カーティス:         先生はいつ、どちらで生まれましたか。ご出身はどちらですか。

廣井道顕:      東京。

ポーラ:          東京の・・・

廣井:  うん、東京のね。えと今、江東区っていう所ね。

ポーラ:          あのう、子供の時の生活とご家族について少し、あのう、お話してくださいませんか。

廣井:  子供の頃ねぇ。楽しかったね、子供の頃。へへへ。

ポーラ:          なぜでしたか。

廣井:  やっぱ友達もいっぱいいたし、近所に遊ぶ所もいっぱいあったしね。東京の下町だから。あー、近所の人もみんな、なん、なんって言ったらのかな、親しいっていうか・・・可愛がってもらったって言ったほうがいいのかな。


ポーラ:          ご家族の歴史について少し説明してくださいませんか。

廣井:  あぁ、家族。うちの廣井家の?

ポーラ:          えぇ。

廣井:  廣井家の家族・・・家族・・・。ま、家族だったら、両親と兄弟なんですけど、廣井家についての歴史、ですか。

ポーラ:          はい。

廣井:  それとも・・・

ポーラ:          ま、どちらもよろしいですか。

廣井:  まぁ、家族は、父親と母親と、あと弟が二人と妹*が一人いたんですけど。母親と妹一人が、戦争で、空襲で、行方不明。今でも行方知れずなんですけども。今現在は弟が横浜に、妹が大阪に嫁に行ったんですけど、これが亡くなって。病気で亡くなったんですけど、弟の方はもう、今世界中駆けずり回って、アメリカ・・・シアトルの名誉市民になっているし、あと、フランス、ドイツの博物館に自分のコーナーもあるみたいだし。あとフィンランドだかで、弟のやっぱ博物館だか美術館ができているんだそうですけど。ただ行ったことがないから分からないけどね。

* [ ここでは誤って『妹』と言っているが、インタビューの別の部分で『弟』であった、と訂正している。]


ポーラ:          そして廣井家は?

廣井:  廣井家はね、大変なんですよ。江戸・・・えーとね、戦国時代だ。徳川家康の関ヶ原って、あのう徳川家康が勝って江戸に移った時に、途中関ヶ原から江戸へ戻る途中で、あのう、廣井家の先祖が、うーんと、あそこはどこだか場所ちょっと忘れてるんですけど、昔はあのう渡邊っていう姓だったんだそうですけど、廣井村っていう所に住んで、そこで医者をやてたんです。で、徳川家康が勝って江戸に入城というか、こう勝って江戸に戻る時  途中で知り合って、どういうわけで知り合ったかは分からないけれども、で江戸に一緒に来ないかって誘われて、それであの、廣井村だから渡邊じゃなくて廣井って名乗れって言われて。で、徳川家康の孫の・・・家光かな、に仕えて代々あの幕府の奥医者って言うか、奥医法眼って、最高の医者の位を持ってた。っていう話で、それはあの本にも載っているんですけど、その本見せますか。

ポーラ:          あぁそうです。後で見てもよろしいですか。

廣井:  うん。

ポーラ:          はい。本当にありがとうございます。

廣井:  あのう記録・・・の本があるんですよ。寛永だか寛政・・・何とか図鑑っつうんだな。それにうちのこと載ってるんですけど。ええ。


ポーラ:          では、今の、あのう、ご家族なんですが、ご結婚されていますか。お子さんはいらっしゃいますか。

廣井: 結婚はしたんだけど、なぜか子供ができなくて、ええ。

ポーラ:      で、あのう、子供の時なんですが、どちらの学校を卒業しましたか。学歴について少し―、

廣井:              学校ねぇ。あのう戦争に巻き込まれちゃったから、ろくに行っていないんだよね。

ポーラ:          どこでしたか。

廣井:  うんとね。大島第二小学校っていうのが最後だったな。その前あのう、米沢に集団疎開って学童疎開ってのでやった米沢に半年ぐらい、半年くらいいたかな。また東京に帰ってきてから今度、戻るとすぐに空襲で、で家族散り散りになっちゃって、全国あちこち転々と歩いたらから、ろくに学校は行ってなかったですね。ええ。


ポーラ:          ま、学校の時は、特に何か教科や科目に興味がありましたか。

廣井:  あぁ、勉強きらいでね。へへへ。体育だけが大好きだったの。

ポーラ:          あのう、仕事、お仕事なんですが、江戸独楽の職人になる前、どのような仕事をすることがありましたか。

廣井:  あぁ・・・。そう言えば、色々なことをやりましたけど、長続きはしなかったですね。何やった?色々なことやったの。やったというか、手伝ったって言ったほうがいいのかな。働きに行ってお金をもらったことはなかったですね。

ポーラ:          ま、特に好きな、あのう仕事はありましたか。その色々しましたが、特に好きなのはありましたか。

廣井:  いやぁ、結局うちの今やっている仕事が一番よくて。他はあんまり好きなのはなかったですね。えぇ。

Photograph of Monzen-nakacho, in 1935 from the”Archives for the Tokyo downtown area 100 years” published by Life Information Center and is under public domain license, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.





テーマを明確にするためオリジナルのインタビューを少し編集したクリップとなります。このクリップを文字に起こしたファイルはこのページの下にあります。ジャネルのインタビュー全文はこちらにあります [ 準備中  ]。



マリナ・スーティ [1:05]:ご家族について少し伺えますか。

ジャネル:そうね、あの頃 父と母には娘が一人、私の姉のロアがいた。私は二人目の子どもでね。すごく素敵な二世帯住宅に住んでいたの。私が生涯に家族と住んだ家の中で一番いい家だった。私が3歳か4歳か5歳くらいになるまでそこに住んでいたと思うけど、そうだわ、あれは幼稚園に入る前だったもの。家に帰って勝手口に行ったら差し押さえの貼り紙がしてあったのよ、私たち家族は家を失った。それから別の家に引っ越した、そこにはまだ室内にお手洗いが付いていたわね、2、3年くらいそこに住んだわ。1か月10ドルの家賃で住めるアパートを食料雑貨店の裏手に見つけたこともあったっけ、あははは。 もちろん父は当時政府の元で働いていた。しばらくの間はWPA(Works Project Administration)※に勤めていたわ。


そして、そうね、幼少時代は本当に良かった。7年後に母が女の子を授かって、その一年後にはもう一人、男の子が生まれたの。4人姉弟になったわ。でも私と姉 二人だけの姉妹だったときは世界大恐慌の中でも一番不景気の頃だった。それから景気が少し上向いてきたから、家族を増やしたのね。


ジャネル:ええ。そう。私はドイツ改革派 の出なの、そこはグッド・シェパード教会だったわ。ボイヤータウンにはルター派と改革派の二つの大きな教会があった。子どもの頃、小学校3学年の担任の先生がライト・ブリゲード※に連れて行ってくれたの、月一でね…そしたら誰が先生のカバンを持つかで子ども同士もめて言い合いになってね、ほら、その集会へ向かうときのカバン持ちよ。ルーテル教会の牧師の息子さんとケンカしたのを覚えているわ、たしか私が勝ったと思う。私がカバンを持ったもの。

※light brigade – 教会が開いた子ども達向けの集まり


ジャネル:WPAは、あの頃、町で路面電車の線路を取り外していたわ。ボイヤータウンを通って、どこか南の方へ行く路面電車があったの、どこまで遠くに行ったのか私も定かじゃないわね、おそらくはポッツタウンの近くまでじゃないかと思うのだけど、でも とにかくWPAは路面電車の線路を外していた。私が覚えているWPAの仕事はそれね。そのこと以外で父が何をしていたかは知らないの。

Janell001マリナ[3:32]: お母様はお仕事を?

ジャネル:  えぇ、していたわ。母は13、14人兄妹の一人だったの。だから私には いとこが山ほどいてね。当時は私が親戚の子どもの中で最年少だった。いとこたち、おばたち、おじたちがいた。楽しかったわ。 それに父にも男兄弟2人と女兄弟が一人いて、違ったわ、女3人男3人の兄弟だったわね。でも父の両親や親戚もいて。父は母の体調が思わしくなくて私たち子どもの面倒を見られないと思ったから、父方のおば がこの小さな町に来て私たちの面倒を見ることにしたの。私たちの絆は強くなった、本当にたくさんのいとこ、おば、おじに恵まれて、愛情に飢えることなんてなかったわ。

Photograph of Boyertown, PA by Skabat169 published under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons. Photograph of Janell as a toddler via Janell Landis.


Janell in Boyertown

On October 13th, 2013, we sat down with Janell at her home in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee to begin our oral history interview. We started with Janell’s early life, growing up in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. In this audio clip you’ll hear Janell describing her family, her parents occupation, hard times they went through, and an early memory of her church.

This clip has been slightly edited from the original interview for clarity and theme. A transcript of this clip can be found below. And a full transcript of our interview with Janell can be found here [forthcoming].


Janell Landis:  I was born in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Actually a little village next to Boyertown, but I don’t remember (laughs). But uh, I grew up in Boyertown. It’s about forty miles north of Philly. Had my high school, all of my education up through high school in Boyertown. Anything else?

Malina Suity [1:05]: Tell us a little bit about your family.

Janell: Well, at that time my father, mother had one daughter, my sister Loah. And I was the second child. They were living in a very nice double home. It was the nicest home we had in all my life. And I remember coming home–I guess we lived there until I was maybe three or four or five, yeah cause, before kindergarten. I remember coming home and we went in the back door and there was a foreclosure sign that we lost the house. Then we moved to another place which still had indoor plumbing and we lived there about two years or so. I think we found a place in an apartment behind a grocery store and it was ten dollars a month rent (laughs). And of course my father was employed by the government.  Worked on the WPA for some time.

And um, I had a very good childhood. Seven years later my mother had a baby girl and then a year after that another child, a boy. There were four of us. But it was in the height of the Depression when my older sister and I were the only children. Then when there was a little upturn, we had a larger family.

Malina [10:38]: And did you attend church?

Janell: Yes. Yes. I came out of the German Reform Church and that was the Good Shepherd Church. We had two big churches in Boyertown, the Lutheran Church and the Reform Church. And as a child, my third grade teacher would take me to a [light brigade], that meant monthly… and we’d quarrel with each other to ‘fess who was going to carry the teachers satchel, you know, to the meeting. I remember fighting with a Lutheran Church pastor’s son, and I think I won. I could carry the bag.

Malina [3:02]: What did your father do for the WPA?

Janell: They were, at that time, the town was removing the trolley tracks.  We had a trolley going through Boyertown and all the way down to uh, I don’t know how far it went, I think probably to the nearby Pottstown, but anyway they took out the trolley tracks. And that was the work that I remember them doing. Otherwise I don’t remember what he was doing.

Malina [3:32]: Did your mother work?Janell001

Janell: No. She did… she was one of about thirteen or fourteen children. So I had a whole lot of cousins. I was the youngest cousin at that time. I had cousins and aunts and uncles. It was neat. And my father had a couple brothers and one sister, no three sisters and three brothers. But his parents and relatives too, he thought my mother wasn’t well and couldn’t take care of us one of my father’s aunts would come and look at after us in this small town. So we were a close knit group and I really was so blessed with many cousins and aunts and uncles, so I never starved for affection.

Photograph of Boyertown, PA by Skabat169 published under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons. Photograph of Janell as a toddler via Janell Landis.

Next time– “Janell at School”