Tag Archives: history

Hiroi-sensei and Exhibitions

In this post, Hiroi-sensei discusses his experiences on and feelings about displaying his work in public. He touches on Edogoma being shown at museums around the world and interest from international collectors.




Paula: And, um, regarding your work, do you travel within the country much for work?

Hiroi: Ahh, here–

Paula: For work.

Hiroi: Mm. For work?

Paula: Business trips, etc. Do you go on many of them? For example, well, for selling the Edo tops, doing exhibitions, for example, do you do a lot of that within Japan?

Hiroi: I see. It’s almost all within Japan. After I came here [to Akiu] I haven’t go out much for work, but before I came here, I did. At product exhibitions, here and there. Yeah. The Edo tops were actually the most popular [items] wherever I went.

Paula: About how many times a year [did you go to them]?

Hiroi: Ahh, well when there were a lot–three, four, I did them three or four times a year. Ah! Ahh, I did more than that! Ummm… among those trips, yeah, because my younger brother started going to Tokyo. Every year he put out his goods, so [my trips] were almost all-year round. Tokyo, Osaka. Because my brother went about with [his tops].

Paula: And you said that your younger brother had international exhibitions?

Hiroi: Ah, yes. My brother was called abroad, to America and Europe quite a bit. Thanks to that we were quite popular. So like I said before, he was even made an honorary citizen of Seattle in America. He was even asked if he’d become an honorary citizen in New York, too, but he said he was scared so he turned it down. Mm. That’s how much importance he’s put into [our craft].

And, umm… and he was often called to museums in Germany and France, etc., and went there. I heard they even set up some special spot [for his work there]. In Finland or somewhere he was able to [display his work] in a museum. Americans and Europeans have really appreciated [our work]. It’s a shame, really… it would be good if Japanese people had a fraction of that appreciation. But it can’t be helped.

Even our neighbors, the Koreans, have said as such. Some time ago, on Korean television there was a cultural broadcast that came to collect data. And what they said when [they came] was, “Are the people at the craft village receiving protection from the state? For example, have you been named a living national treasure?” It turns out there was a place similar to our [craft village] close to Seoul, and the artisans there were what Japan calls “living national treasures” but for Korea. They asked “Is this place the same as there?” and when I said “No, everyone here is individual. The prefecture [helped us] make the village, but everyone is individual and has debts, and set it up themselves and supports themselves,” they were shocked. “Ahh, that’s too bad!” they said. (laughs) Even though artisans are the treasures of a country. They said “Korea won!” (laughs) It was mortifying. (laughs)


Paula: This is about Sendai again, but, what are your interactions with the local community like? Do you do special activities or exhibitions?

Hiroi: Ah, in Sendai?

Paula: Yes.

Hiroi: After I came here… After I came here I didn’t really do any, but before that… before I came here… for many years, three or four, I wonder? In front of the station there was– it’s not there anymore, but– there was a Jūjiya department store, and at the department story for three or four years every year we did an New Year’s exhibition and sale. Jūjiya was a small department store and not that many people went to it, but this Edo top exhibition, it was only at New Year’s, and people lined up for them. We hung up a huge curtain and everyone was really delighted. Jūjiya was the first time I did [an exhibition] in Sendai, and to have people lined up into the night on New Year’s, it was really something.

And for three years [we did it], and the fourth year I came here, and they asked me to do it a fourth year, but I’d moved here, so I think I couldn’t do it. Then Jūjiya went bankrupt. Heh heh heh… And now… what did the store become? I think they turned it into something. Ah, it merged with Daiei… I think it merged with Daiei. Anyway, the store isn’t there anymore. The department store. Jūjiya was the one I did grand exhibitions at for three years, and after that… after that I didn’t really do any. After that there were sometimes kokeshi-maker or product exhibitions, but we always did that as a group. There weren’t many. Then I moved here, so. But even if I didn’t do that kind of thing, people who liked [the tops] requested them and lots of people came to the shop, so there was no inconvenience to selling them. And after moving here, since moving here people came steadily [to the shop].


Paula: And did you have any chances to do an international exhibition?

Hiroi: Ahh… international. I don’t really… don’t really know. Umm… there were some things. Not direct [opportunities], but people who collected [the tops], umm… where was it? Not America. Somewhere in Europe, France…? Ahh, Germany. A German museum… they said they would do an exhibition. [They asked] if I’d contribute what I had and exhibit them. Just exhibit them. After that a German person came, and it was the museum person, and they saw my works and bought a number of them.

After, the interesting thing was that in France– where was it? Uhh, the sister city with Sendai. Hm? What was it called? Umm… what was it… eh? I’ve forgotten the name. The sister city with Sendai… uhh… wait, Rennes, Rennes…? Rennes?? Rennes, I think it was called Rennes. I don’t really remember the name. It might be Rennes. He said the mayor [of Rennes] was collecting tops. And he wanted Edo tops, and for cultural exchange artisans from that city, people from Rennes, had come from Rennes to Sendai. And a number of Sendai city councillors had come with him to the craft village. And they went there and from here I could see them talking [to the artisans]. And this one red-faced, enormous man pointed at me and was saying something over and over. And everyone restrained him and kept shaking him off and he rushed off in quite a hurry, and I was really shocked and thought, wow, we’ve become important. They’d say “Ohhh!” and that they wanted my howling top, and such. And the interpreter said said that he’d come here and collected tops, and that he had a number of Edo tops, but no matter what the cost he wanted a howling top and he’d heard that they were made in Sendai, so he definitely wanted to come. But he’d tried to come here and everyone had held him back, so he had gone out of his way to go out. And did we have howling tops? And just at the time I had some howling tops, so I gave him one as a gift, and he was really happy and went back [to France]. That sort of thing happened.


Paula: And when was that story about France and Germany? What year–

Hiroi: Ahh… that was some time ago. Ten… fifteen or sixteen years ago, I think. It’s been fifteen or sixteen years. After… wait, it was early than that. Twenty years ago…? Ahh… Mm. When I did a museum exhibition was about twenty years ago.

The Sendai museum. I’ve done an exhibition of these Edo tops before. What was amazing at that time was the museum exhibited all of the tops, and we asked Landis-sensei if there was something she’d use to describe the Edo tops in one word in English, and it was the first time I’d heard her use the word unbelievable [anbiriihaburu]] And the museum wrote above its entrance “Unbelievable Edo Tops.” And before long it was on television, so at the time they started saying unbelievable. It might be because of Landis-sensei that the word unbelievable spread throughout Japan at the time. Heh heh heh. Until then no one knew about that kind of thing. It was said that that word fit Edo tops perfectly. I thought, “Yeah, that’s the sort of thing they are.” It was right about… and Landis-sensei also… ummm that time was… seventeen or eighteen years ago, after all. It was after that museum exhibition, wasn’t it? When the mayor from Rennes came. Seven, seventeen or eighteen years ago.

After that, a person who was the curator of the Mexican National Museum [also] came. She was a really high-spirited person. She was fussing was like “WOW!” [over the tops]. Always “WOW!” She was so animated. It made me so happy. It was a woman. She said was from the national, Mexican National Museum. I was so delighted. I don’t really remember what came of it. Hahaha. She made a clamor and was dancing about. Heh heh heh. I thought “Amaaaaazing!”

































仙台市の博物館、博物館でね。この江戸独楽の、展示をやったことがあるんですよ。そのときに、あとすごかったのは、あの博物館全部この江戸独楽を飾って、でそのときにランディス先生に、あの英語で、一言でこの江戸独楽を表現する、何か言葉ないかってんで、そのとき初めてランディス先生に「アンビリーバブル (unbelievable)」って言葉を聞いて。であの博物館の入口にでっかく「アンビリーバブル (unbelievable) 江戸独楽」って書いてあった。それからね、間もなくしてからテレビだのなんだので、この頃アンビリーバブルって言うようになったのね。そのときは、だから、日本でアンビリーバブルって言葉流行らしたのはランディス先生かも分かんない。へへへ。それまで、そういうこと知らなかったものね。だっけ、江戸独楽がその言葉にぴったりなんだって言われて。あぁそういうもんなだ、と思って、いたんですけどね。えぇ…ちょうど、んだから、またランディス先生が・・・うんと、あんときは…うん、やっぱり十七・八年前、前かな。その博物館で展覧会やった後だもんな、レンヌの市長が来たのは。で十、十七・八年前ですね。



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.


[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。



[Segment 1, 00:30:07]





[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、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。


Janell’s Life of Entertainment

In this post, Janell describes how her gift for impersonation and desire to entertain led to her meeting Hiroi in Sendai.


Janell LandisYou see, it all comes down to my puppets. And you haven’t gotten–[47:27]

Malina Suity [47:30] I was going to ask you about your puppets. You mentioned working with puppets in America, as well. When did you start–

Janell [47:45] Well I started when my brother went–and my family–I was working in the summer camp, cooking, and helping to clean up and stuff. And my brother and sister and my mother and father went to New York City to visit my older sister who was working for Exxon, or Esso at that time, in the Rockefeller Center area. In the basement there, in one of those malls, he found little monkey puppets. And so he bought two and he gave me one. And that’s what started me with the puppetry. That was back in, hmm, ‘40– see, I graduated from college in ‘48, and this was before college. So around ‘45, ‘46 I started. I used to do imitations and impersonations.

One time I heard on the radio, Fred Waring had one [a comedy bit] where you push buttons and change the stations and then you get a funny connection. And I had a routine using spoons pushing the button and going from one to the other and I had ZaSu Pitts and Bette Davis and roosters and all kinds of stuff.

So that was what started me, and then, when I got the puppet I started with puppets then. And I have them [still], they’re getting ready, I’m going to have a little show coming up next month. But, I have them separated as to the ones that I started with, and then, when I was in Japan I met a wonderful woman who was really creative and she made me twenty-four puppets. Rabbits, and a bear, and an octopus. All kinds.

Malina [49:50] What was her name?

Janell [49:51] Her name was Michii Sato. And she’s gone now, but she was a wonderful friend. One of the teachers at Miyagi, Mr. Ishii, he was a teacher of Japanese and at one time the head of his department there too. He introduced me to her when I first went to Sendai after language study. And she made me a grandma and a grandpa, wonderful puppets uh, and started with that.

And when I was on a TV show for a year, teaching homemakers English with Mrs. Amano’s help, uh, I had three other puppets she made me. A boy and a girl and a mother. And after every show, thirty minute show, at the close we would review what we went through with these puppets so the children would talk to their mother and answer.  So, then I was asked by a man in our church in America if I could use puppets and do a Sunday school program, you know for a yearly program, but anyway at that time Michii Sato made me twenty four puppets. And I never got to use them to make that.


Malina [55:45]: And you mentioned doing a TV show? How did you get into that?

Janell: That was through the man that later, after that, he’s the one that got into contact with my top teacher. But when I was teaching at Miyagi in the college, I would have juniors and seniors taking a course, not compulsory. What’s the word I’m searching for? A course that elect–you elect. This one–that year I had a woman named uh, what was her name before marriage? After she graduated from Miyagi she married Mr. Amano who was working for the TBS radio and television station. And um, they asked me, they asked me to have this program for housewives. It was half an hour everyday, Monday through Friday, and Amano-san’s wife, my former student, was my associate. She would use the Japanese to translate and I would always be speaking in English. And she could use English too. So, it was funny, they asked me…they set, up until they set a date and then I thought I was finished, but um, they wanted to keep it on. And I had only gotten permission for one year from my school representative. I said, I couldn’t continue that program more than one year. But the way they had said it sounded, to them it sounded, like forever, but to me it sounded like the end.

It was at that time then, that Amano-san, Mr. Amano, and his associate at TBS asked me to do this program for New Year’s with Mr. Hiroi the top maker. And that was 1981, we taped it and then it was broadcast on the 3rd of January 1982. And then I was accepted by Mr. Hiroi as an apprentice. And from that time I worked first in his home on the lathe, and then he got me in contact with a man who made a lathe for me.

Jan’s Cultural References:

See ZaSu Pitts in action: view a video of her singing “Your Mother!” in 1934’s RKO Sing and Like It

See Bette Davis in one of her iconic roles, as Julie in William Wyler’s 1938 Jezebel, a Warner Brothers film. 

Listen to Fred Waring introduce the song “Buckle Down, Winsocki” from the musical Best Foot Forward on Command Performance in 1942, right around the time Jan would have been listening. 

Photographs of Janell and her puppets via Janell Landis.













ジャネル:それは、あとで、ある男性を通じてなんだけどね、うちの学校の校長と知り合いだった人なんだけど。宮城の大学で私が教えていたときに、3,4年生のクラスを教えていたの。必修ではないけど。何というの?自由クラス。自分で決めてやるクラスよ。[選択科目。] あの年の女生徒で、えーとあの人の旧姓って何だったかしら?宮城大を出た後、その子はTBSラジオ・テレビ局に勤めていたアマノさんと結婚したの。それで、そう、訊かれたのよね、主婦向けの番組をやらないかと訊かれたの。30分の番組を土日以外毎日、アマノさんの奥さんは私の元生徒なのだけど、彼女が番組助手で。アマノさんは日本語で訳したりして、私はずっと英語で話すの。アマノさんも英語が話せるし。おかしな話なんだけどね…番組が終了する日を決めて、それまでやったら 私はもう終わりにすると思ってた、でも、アマノさん達は番組を終わりにしないで続けて欲しいと思ってたの。1年だけって約束で番組をやらせてもらえるように学校に許可を取っていたから。私言ったのよ、1年以上は続けられませんって。でもアマノさんたちの言い方だと番組は永遠に続くって感じの言い方で、私にとっては終了するって響きだったのよ。

ちょうどその時期に、アマノさんのご主人とTBSにいる彼の助手が、廣井先生という独楽職人と一緒に新年の特番に出て欲しいって頼んできたの。あれは1981年だったわね、撮影しておいたものを1982年の1月3日に放送したの。それから廣井先生が私を弟子にしてくれたのよ。それからは、廣井先生の家にある旋盤を使って習い始めたけど、その後 私用の旋盤を作ってくれる人を紹介してくれたの。


ゼイスー・ピッツ:1934年の RKO Sing and Like Itで“Your Mother!” という歌を歌っているヴィデオ

ベティ・デイヴィスの最も有名な役:『黒蘭の女』のジュリー、 ワーナー・ブラザーズ、1938年

フレッド・ウェアリングが『Best Foot Forward 』というミュージカルの歌「Buckle Down, Winsocki」を「Command Performance」(1942年)のラジオ番組で紹介する。これはジャネルが聞いているころからのもの。

Photographs of Janell and her puppets via Janell Landis.

Jan, the Feminist

In this post, Jan discusses how she developed as a feminist, her desire to share her point of view with her students, and her unique position as an unmarried American woman in Japan.


Malina Suity: [1:00:42]: When you were working as a teacher at Miyagi, what were your–did you have any particular duties other than just teaching classes? What were your classes like?

Janell Landis: Um, well. The classes were, as I said, were sometimes with junior high school girls. And that was about fifty kids in one room and reviewing the English studies that they had with their Japanese teachers. They had me twice a week and the other teachers every day. And so it was back up for the Japanese teachers, and then that was true in senior high too. In college, I was given an opportunity with the juniors and seniors to have these elective courses. And then I attempted to really concentrate on some of the issues that women would face. And that’s when my feminist years developed. And I saw some of the girls develop too. And one of them ended up being, working on the wonderful program north of Tokyo that was involved with educating workers from other Asian countries and for commuting to work and so on. [1:02:09]


Malina [1:09:50] You mentioned your development as a feminist and working with women’s issues. Can you describe your experience as a woman in postwar Japan?

Janell: Yes. Uh, it was, my own conversion was when I was going with a group of people from New Jersey to what they called the God Box. To a Riverside area where the national church of these mainline denominations was located. And I went into a drug store while we were waiting for the car and I bought the first magazine of Ms. and that changed my life. And I didn’t see…what was your question again?

Malina: Um

Janell: I’m ready to get off of it.

Malina: It’s uh, being a woman in Japan.

Janell [1:10:58]: Oh, a woman in Japan. Well, because of that conversion in the States when I went back. I had the privilege in some of these elective classes to show what women were doing in other countries or so on. So, I myself branched out. But I had a reaction of one of my female Japanese teachers, she thought I was degrading the men. And uh, like I was anti-man. And that really hurt me in a way. I didn’t ever feel like I would, that I would, ever degrade my fellow men that were working on the faculty. I was cautioned then, to be careful not to be too demanding.

But um, like I said, being a single woman. I was my own self and I think I got a little bit different treatment than a wife would. And she would have opportunities that I didn’t have. But I never begrudged the difference. Each of us is given a walk and we have to walk our walk, own walk. We can’t imitate somebody else’s trot, but uh. I never felt…well let’s see I can’t say never. There were times when being a woman in postwar Japan might have been more difficult. But, being an American woman, being a single woman. [laughs] I had some freedoms that my Japanese women didn’t have. I was always–In the first years when things weren’t as progressive, I never got invited to the weddings. But after how many years there, it was like, if they had the American teacher there that was a real special thing. I got took to so many weddings and their parties. But, it was rarely that we were in the weddings. Many of them were held in a Shinto temple, but we were having the wedding parties in these big hotels or these big wedding parlors. And they’d spend a fortune and give everyone a present and so on. But I, in the latter years, I was one of the people they called. [1:14:02]

For more information on Ms. Magazine and the impact it had on women like Jan, read this oral history from New York Magazine.

Photograph of Janell and English Department staff at Miyagi Gakuin via Janell Landis.









ジャネル:いいわよ。そう、あれは、ニュージャージー州から来た人たちとニューヨークのゴッド・ボックス※を何て呼ぶかってことについて話していたときだったわ。主だった宗派の教会があるリバーサイド地域へ向かったときね。 車を待っている間に私は薬屋さんに寄って、初出版の『Ms.』という雑誌を買ったのだけど、それが私の人生を変えたの。当時は分からなかったけど…質問はなんだったかしら?





でもそうね、さっき言ったけど、独身女性として。私は私自身でいることができたし、誰かの奥さんっていうのとはちょっと違った扱いをされたわね。きっと誰かの奥さんだったら独身の私が得られなかった経験があったんでしょうね。でもその違いを嫉ましく思ったことはなかった。人はそれぞれの道が用意されてて、自分自身の道を歩まないといけないんだもの。他の人の道を真似して歩んだりできないんだから。でも、まぁ。私は絶対に…まぁ、絶対になんて言えないのよね。戦後の日本で女性として生きることは時に困難なことだったかもしれないわ。でも、アメリカ人女性として、独身女性として。私は日本人の女友達よりも自由だったわね。私はいつも– まだ世の中が積極的に進歩しているとは言えなかった最初の数年間、誰も私を結婚式に招待しなかった。でも歳月が過ぎれば、アメリカ人の先生がいることがすごく特別なことみたいな扱いになった。結婚式やらパーティーにたくさん呼ばれるようになった。でも、結婚式自体に行くことは滅多になかった。ほとんどが神道の寺社で執り行われたけど、結婚式のパーティーは大きなホテルとか式場でやってたから。大枚をはたいて披露宴をして、みんなにプレゼントを配ったりしてた。でも私は、何年経っても、呼ばれる側の人間だった。

※ゴッド・ボックス: ニューヨーク州、マンハッタンのリバーサイド通りにある19階建てのオフィスビルで、アメリカにある主だった教会や宗教関連の非営利団体がオフィスを置いているため通称ゴッド・ボックスと呼ばれている


ジャネルのようなアメリカの女性たちに大きな影響を与えたMs.誌の誕生についてはこちらのNew York Magazineに載るオーラルヒストリーの特集をご覧ください。


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.




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  ]。


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。