These are photos of Hiroi-sensei taken by ariTV, a high-quality internet-based television station supporting the promotion of events and cultural traditions of the Sendai area.
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.
While Janell was an apprentice to Hiroi-sensei, he encouraged her to produce tops that dealt with themes related to American folk culture and lore that reflected both her background and the art and culture of her new home through traditional Japanese crafts. The photos below show tops Janell made in the 1980s. There are both western-themed tops and traditional Japanese tops.
Hiroi-sensei has appeared many times in Japanese newspapers. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Professionals with a Skilled Touch: Whittling – Edogoma Artisan, Hiroi Michiaki” that ran January 1, 2003 in the newspaper Kahoku shinpō. See the original Japanese article at the link below.
Click here for the original article: 記事はこちら。
Kahoku shinpō (January 1, 2003)
Professionals with a Skilled Touch: Whittling – Edogoma Artisan, Hiroi Michiaki
Surely there isn’t a single person who doesn’t touch objects during the course of their job. However, there are those who notably work by cultivating years and years of experience and expertise, polishing the instincts of their fingers and hands. Are they somehow different from those of us with “normal” senses, or is their sense of touch something cultivated through their work? We look at the secrets behind three “professionals of the sense of touch”: a sushi chef, a physician, and an Edogoma (Edo top) artisan.
In harmony with the tools, the object’s form is freed
He inserts a pre-sized piece of dogwood (mizuki) onto the lathe and whittles it. Hiroi Michiaki, a fourth-generation Edogoma artisan (age 69, Sendai, Taihaku ward), says without hesitation, “I couldn’t do anything without my sense of touch.”
While Hiroi-san switches between his tools like the plane and rasp, and when they touch the top, he knows how they change its smoothness. Bit by bit, without even touching [the top directly] with his hands,he feels how much he should shave off and if there are any nicks in the wood from the vibrations transmitted through the edges of his tools. Hiroi-san experienced the family business of making Edogoma from when he was young. “Before you know it,” he said, “you’re feeling it unconsciously.”
One characteristic of the brightly colored Edogoma is the sheer number of different types of tops,from simple tops to ones delightfully brimming with trick mechanisms to enjoy, like leaping tops (tobigoma) or chasing tops (oikakegoma). Only Hiroi-san and his little brother Masaaki, who lives in Tokyo, have inherited the skill of Edogoma-making. Other than them, [Hiroi-san] has two apprentices.
“You know, even among apprentices, they quickly grasp and remember how to feel for the quality of the top and its spin, and they improve fast, too,” Hiroi remarked. “Whether whittling or polishing [the top], you can be certain [it’s good] by touching it, rather than looking with your eyes.”
The following materials are from an exhibition Hiroi-sensei described in his earlier interviews. The exhibition occurred from June to August 1993 at the Sendai City Museum. The materials included an image guide to tops in the exhibition and an informational page on the history of tops. Regarding this exhibition, Hiroi-sensei said:
“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.” “
See the interview here: Hiroi-sensei and Exhibitions
See the catalog here: Exhibition_Catalog
「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。」