Tag Archives: Sendai

Newspaper article 新聞記事: Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki 仙台あの人この人ー廣井道顕

Hiroi-sensei has also appeared in newspapers as a well-known Edo top maker. Below is a translation of an article entitled “Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki” that ran May 14, 1982 in the newspaper Shūkan Sendai. See the original Japanese article at the link below.

廣井先生はよく知られている江戸独楽の職人として新聞記事で特集されています。1982年5月14日、「週刊仙台」が廣井先生についての記事を掲載しました。以下のリンクでアクセスできます。

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

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Sendai: This Person and That Person – Hiroi Michiaki

A woodworker who makes Edogoma

Gifts for Children

May is the season of children who sprout up like bamboo shoots. It seems impossible that the main event of the month,  Children’s Day (May 5), has passed. But as luck would have it, the Museum of History and Folklore of Tsutsujigaoka opened the exhibit “The Production and Performance of Tops,” and the air is full of excitement from the invading children. Even though the exhibit is titled “production and performance,” the children have lined up to turn the lathe and paint the tops. That said, the children are engrossed and soon the husband and wife instructors have no spare time tmo rest. Hiroi Michiaki (48) and his wife, Kyōko, who set up a workshop in Fukurohara, Sendai, are the instructors. “What? A workshop? It’s not really that kind of thing, it’s a shabby old house,” Hiroi said. At the Citizens Festival in Nishikoen last fall Hiroi’s craft demonstrations were .

“I think it’s been about a year since I started the workshop. As for apprentices, right now I have seven pros and six amateurs. Among them is an assistant professor from Miyagi Women’s University, Landis-san, an American, and there are only two women. There are lots of top (koma) experts within the prefecture, but my [workshop] is Edo-style tops. And of course, my wife is helping, too.”

A tradition spanning three generations

Tops date back as far as 1,000 years ago

Koma (top)” is written in kanji as 独楽. They’re exclusively thought of as children’s toys, but there are also high-quality tops that [spin] along a drawn sword or the edge of a fan, or which, when rotating at great speed, have the legendary figure Ishikawa Goemon [appear to] leap out of an iron pot. These trick tops are generally the traditional “Edo-style” tops. Flashy tops are characteristic of the Genroku period (1688-1704), but among  historic tops, recently excavated ancient and medieval tops have been in the news lately.

“We know from written records that, since ancient times, tops were playthings, and this is substantiated by the actual items having been unearthed. If you divide them up into two [categories], there are ‘outside tops’ and ‘inside tops.’ Outside tops are like Sendai tops, tops used on the ground and that were exclusively used by boys, and inside tops were used by people of all ages and genders on tatami mats. If you divide them into types of play, there are those you spin using both hands, rubbing tops (momigoma), twisting tops (hinerigoma) spun with the tips of the fingers, and string-release tops (itobikigoma).”

Hiroi has Foreign Apprentices in his Workshop, too

Enjoying playing with tops

“If you divvy up tops even further, there’s flower tops (hanagoma), sumō tops (sumōgoma), vegetable tops (yasaigoma) like eggplants or cucumbers, spousal tops (meotogoma), roulette tops (ategoma), buzzing tops (unarigoma), howling tops (narigoma), two-tier tops (nidangoma), three-tier tops (sandangoma), throwing tops (nagegoma), fighting tops (kenkagoma), gambling tops (bakuchigoma) umbrella tops (kasagoma), chasing tops (okkakegoma), etc.”

According to records, there are over 200 types of Edo-style tops. According to Hiroi, among the string-release tops, there are some that look like they lift people up and spin. He deftly spins a spousal top made by one of his apprentices. Pinching the shaft of the top on the second tier and spinning it, the wife [seems to convey], “Well, honey, I’m going out!”

And if you [place] the tops onto each other again, they spin well together, and it looks like he’s going, “Yes, honey, have good evening!” and goofing around. There are also tops that are specifically meant for gambling, and these are often called by the kanji for koma. In an age of parody, when these tops are spun, it’s for the enjoyment of adults.

[Many of] these historic Edo-style tops were destroyed in the Taishō earthquake of 1923 and the air raids of 1943-1945, and the woodworkers scattered in all directions. Hiroi Michiaki is one of those people.

According to the Traditional Kokeshi Artisan Register, Hiroi was taught by his father Kenjirō and Agatsuma Kichisuke.From a young age he learned woodworking from his father, androm 1955, he learned painting from Kichisuke. During the Tokyo air raids, he relied upon his artisan colleagues and evacuated to Miyagi Prefecture, and after that set up a workshop in Sendai. [Today], he devotes himself in earnest to creating tops rather than kokeshi.

One family of wooden-toy artisans

Though slightly old, there are several features on the Hiroi artisan family, including the Bunka Publishing Bureau’s Japan’s Wooden Toys, edited by Kan’o Shinichi, and the special issue “Tokyo’s nostalgic wooden toys” in (銀花)Quarterly 30. The former was published in 1976, and the latter in 1977.

Hiroi Michiaki’s younger brother, Masaaki (44), is also who active in making traditional Edo-style tops in Ebina, Kanagawa. The writing in the article by  Hosoi Tokiko from Ginka’s editorial department and their regular female reporter is beautiful.

Putting together Hiroi’s story and what the reporter has written, the Hiroi family is one family that has continued for over two hundred years and three generations throughAsaaki, Kenjirō, Michiaki. Hiroi Michiaki’s grandfather, Asaaki, was employed as the doctor of a Tokugawa shogun, and after the Meiji Restoration, their family “took the pulse of their esteemed [employers].”  That they enthusiastically became Edo-style top makers for generations is interesting.

Now, let’s spin some tops.

Media Post: Janell at Miyagi Gakuin

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

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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].

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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.

 

若い木工職人だった頃の廣井先生

廣井家の伝統的な江戸独楽づくりを復活させるに至る前に、木工職人として仙台でこけしをつくり売っていた廣井先生の経験についてインタビューの中で触れている。日本で江戸独楽を受け継ぎ、つくることのできる唯一の家系であるにも関わらず、つくった工芸品を売ることが難しかった当時の状況についても語っている。

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  ]。

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Young Hiroi-sensei.
若い廣井先生。

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。

[00:18:40]

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。

[00:20:40]

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。

[21:45]

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。