Tag Archives: woodworking

Media Post メディアポスト: Hiroi’s shop 廣井先生の店舗

As a part of building the Akiu Craft Village and its community, artisans working there have each of their homes, workshops, and shops together in one building. In the following photos, we see Hiroi-sensei and Mrs. Hiroi in their shop, “Onkomaya Hiroi,” where they sell their tops, along with some photos of Hiroi-sensei’s work on display. New tops are always appearing in the shop, as Hiroi-sensei and his apprentice design new works, create seasonal tops, and recreate old favorites.

秋保工芸の里と、その里のコミュニティづくりの一部として、働く職人は工芸の里に自宅、工房、兼 販売店舗を一つの建物として所有している。つくった独楽を販売する「御独楽處 廣井」という店舗にいる廣井先生と奥様の写真や、廣井先生が陳列した独楽の写真をここで紹介したい。廣井先生とお弟子さんが新しいデザインをつくり、季節の独楽や、昔ながらのデザインをつくるたび、真新しい独楽が常に店に陳列される。


Janell’s Tops: Part 3

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.

Media Post メディアポスト: Hiroi at Work 働く廣井先生

Creating Edogoma involves careful work within the workshop. Hiroi-sensei creates his own tools and spends hours at the lathe carving and painting his tops. The following photos show Hiroi-sensei at work in his small workshop at the front of his store and home in Akiu Craft Village.


Hiroi-sensei and his apprentices

In this post, Hiroi-sensei highlights his own experiences as an apprentice and the many years he instructed others. He describes the apprenticing process and the years of dedication necessary to become a master top-maker.



Paula Curtis: And to continue, can you tell us a little about your experience as an apprentice?

Hiroi Michiaki: As an apprentice?

Paula: Yes, um, such as, when you were an Edo top apprentice and first began learning it, what was the most difficult thing, for example. Could you explain a bit about that experience?

Hiroi: Ahh… yes. The most difficult thing was whether a top would spin well or not. At the beginning I didn’t know what I should do to make it spin well. That was definitely the most difficult thing. It’s still hard now, though, it’s still difficult. How it will spin, how I should produce it to get different ways of moving; since the many ways it moves depend on the strength of the top. That foundation… making the top so that it spins, that’s the most [difficult]. A lot of years… it takes a lot of years [to learn], you know. Even now it’s the same. That’s really the most difficult thing.

Paula: Even now, um–

Hiroi: Even now.

Paula: Even now, do your apprentices think that is the most difficult thing [to learn]?

Hiroi: Ahh, I don’t know what my apprentices think. I think it’s probably the same, though. And for tops, you know right away. Whether it’s good or bad. No matter how many you make with this shape, if you spin it and watch and it goes rattling about, it’s not a good one. So that’s the most difficult part. I think my apprentices probably have that same worry, even now, worried [about how they spin].

Paula: When did you first start accepting apprentices?

Hiroi: Mm, when was my first apprentice…?  Ahh, it was after we came to Fukuhara, right. Umm it was some years ago… mm, it was some years ago so I’ve forgotten. Quite a while back. It was before we came here, so we came here at least twenty-five years ago, and it was before that, so about thirty years ago, I think.

Paula: How many apprentices do you usually have?

Hiroi: At first it was one. And I mentioned this before, but that apprentice had a lot of friends and brought seven people with him, so, yeah, it was when we were in Fukuhara, so before we came here.

Paula: Um, when Janell came here to learn about these Edo tops, did you have [other] apprentices did you have at that time?

Hiroi: At that time… ah! I already had some apprentices, seven of them. The apprentices from Shiroishi were already here at that time. And in addition to them, um, there were a number of people, umm, who like Landis-sensei came here to learn as a hobby… Amano-san, Jin-san… umm… Suzuki-san, Zanma-san… ahh, also there was Shimamura-san, Watanabe-san… who else was there… Amano-san, Jin-san… Junna-san, Suzuki-san… and… Ah! Today, err? Kyōya-san, was he around that time? When we were in Fukuhara. Kyōya-san…

Mrs. Hiroi: Also there was the Jins.

Hiroi: So, Amano-san, Jin-san, and Zanma-san, Suzuki-san, Kyōma-san…

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. That’s about it.

Hiroi: That was about all the people doing it as a hobby. Ah, and Landis-sensei, too.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. So that’s about it.

Hiroi: Six people doing it as a hobby. And other than them, there were people doing it professionally… Ah, Shinomura-san was doing it for a hobby at first, and from that beginning went pro.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.

Hiroi: So other than the seven from Shiroishi that I said before, the people who became professionals were the two from Marumori and today’s Tome. Umm, seven people plus two people, so nine.

Mrs. Hiroi: Mm.

Hiroi: Nine people, these were those aiming at being pros and who were pros. And the other six were amateurs doing it as a hobby. So in all there was ten– ah, there was also Morimoto-san.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. There was also Morimoto-san.

Hiroi: Right. In that case there was a lot. Fifteen or sixteen. Heh heh heh. So there was a turnover.


Paula: And were you apprentices usually men? Women?

Hiroi: Female apprentices. Umm with Landis-sensei as the first, then there was Jin-san’s wife. And… there was Yamada-san. Umm… female apprentices…

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah… yeah… that was about it.

Hiroi: Is that about it? I thought there was someone else…

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. There weren’t [that many] women.

Hiroi: Only three? It was three women.

Paula: Going pro…?

Hiroi: Mmm… probably…

Paula: Was there no one?

Hiroi: There was no one who went pro that was a hobbyist, but there are people above pro. But that doesn’t mean that they’re making a living from it…

Paula: About how old were people who became apprentices? At the beginning, at the beginning–

Hiroi: When they first came?

Paula: Yeah.

Hiroi: How old were they? Around that time I think everyone was in their thirties.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.

Hiroi: Yeah… it was their thirties. Yeah. Among the men, who was the oldest?

Mrs. Hiroi: Around that time wasn’t there Minoru-kun?

Hiroi: Minoru-kun was so young at that time.

Mrs. Hiroi: Was he that young?

Hiroi: He was still a child.

Mrs. Hiroi: Was he?

Hiroi: Yeah, yeah, was he in his twenties? [Or] in his thirties.

Mrs. Hiroi: Uh, who, who was?

Hiroi: Was he in his thirties? Yeah, everyone was, weren’t they?

Mrs. Hiroi: That’s how it was. Yeah.

Hiroi: The oldest person… ah, was it Watanabe-san? Mm. Watanabe-san was the oldest. He was from a place called Marumori. And he was interesting, I have a story about him. His younger sister’s husband, he was from Marumori. And this sister, the man she married, her husband, he was the chauffeur for the mayor of Marumori. And I was often told that in Marumori they didn’t have any special [local] products, so they wanted me to make something. And at that time, when they said “Let’s make something!” in Marumori, there was one person who made kokeshi, and they asked him if he’d make them something. I spoke with them about it, but ahh– “bring him along”– [no,] I think they said to bring what I’d made and show them to see what they were.

Mrs. Hiroi: Mm. Yeah.

Hiroi: Then I brought my goods, but they were the [amusing] sort you laugh at. And that guy was someone who specialized in making a new kind of kokeshi using unfinished wood; it seems that he didn’t make them himself, but he made the unfinished wood to order, and didn’t have any experience making them himself. And I brought him with me, and at the time, because they came from the town hall… did the mayor come? The mayor, and– ah, no, it was the deputy mayor.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. The deputy mayor.

Hiroi: The deputy mayor and… umm, the section chief of the commerce and industry division. I think three people came.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. Three people came.

Hiroi:  I wonder if the mayor came… In any case, three people from the town hall came to my home with his younger sister’s husband. And they came saying that they had thought about something that could be the special local product of Marumori, and [asked] whether I had anything good. At that time, uhh, and then, the thing I made was, umm, this sort of… is there a pencil? Umm, this kind of shape… [drawing]  and here there’s… this top with three [other tops] attached.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. Three [tops] attached to it.

Hiroi: It’s in this shape, one, two, three. I made this kind of top… and I made this kind of top, but they didn’t understand what it was for some reason. In Japanese, it’s “marui” (round), round and there’s three trees. There are three trees in the round place, so it becomes “Marumori.” [translator’s note: the town’s name, Marumori, is comprised of the kanji for “round” and for “forest.” The character for “forest,” mori 森,  is made up of three of the “tree” kanji (木), making this a pun on three round objects representing trees becoming a “round forest,” or “marumori,” the town name.]

And I made this top and show it to them and the people from town hall were surprised and said, “Ohh, this is great!” So they took it and had the person I mentioned before, Watanabe-san, make it, and it’s [now] sold as Marumori’s special product. They’re [still] making it now. They’re still making it now, though I don’t know where they’re selling it, but I hear it’s still made somewhere. So a few might still be sold somewhere, but I don’t know. I don’t know how they’re selling it. But at that time, for the first time I met Watanabe-san, and the people from town hall said that they definitely wanted me to make him an apprentice and teach him. When he came, he was quite a different age than you, wasn’t he?

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.

Hiroi: He was the oldest [of the apprentices]. He also had a lot of experience. Even now there are a lot of shops that have the products he’s made. He might come here directly today. Yesterday he called and he said he might come. He was the oldest.

Paula: How many years are your apprentices apprenticed to you before they become independent top-makers?

Hiroi: Umm, in the end it takes ten years. Of course, it takes half a year or a year to learn the lathe. And then there’s a lot to remember. Even for someone like Maeda-kun, who can do it all now, it took ten years. It takes ten years.

Paula: Did you have any foreign apprentices after that?

Hiroi: No, after that, I didn’t any apprentices, but the people who came because they liked it were those that Landis-sensei introduced to me. They were her friends, and Newton-san, Landis-sensei had– what was it? Was he from Shichigahama? Takayama? After she returned to America, Newton-san joined [my workshop]. Newton-san came to my home for a while, but I think he moved somewhere before the [Tōhoku] earthquake. It was that he moved to Okayama or somewhere shortly after, right? So I think he wasn’t around for the earthquake, the tsunami.

And other than him, there was a person from Sweden, a person from Denmark, and– where was it? Was he Japanese? And there was another person. An American. Someone related to [Janell’s] church, I think. And they gave me wooden clogs or something. Clogs from Sweden or Denmark– I thought they were from Holland and they were like “No, you’re wrong!” and “Mine are the real thing.” I have the clogs somewhere, I could find them if I looked. And often when they came, they’d make me cherry-shaped [tops]. They said it was because they loved cherries, [so they made] cherry-shaped tops. If you travel to Sweden and Denmark, they have purple and yellow cherries, not just red ones. So I asked them to [make tops] in all kinds of colors. So they did, and I was delighted.

But they didn’t become apprentices. In that time, ummm… their term [of office], they had to switch jobs, so they had to go back to their countries. So both of them had to go back to their countries at the same time, and I never met them again. And one more person, who was it? Newton-san came every day, didn’t he? Until he moved to Okayama. He came until the earthquake happened. So he must have moved to Okayama just before that. And Landis-sensei brought him. Yeah, and Landis-sensei told him to become an apprentice, and he half-wanted to, but it was impossible for me [to make him do it]. Heh heh heh. He didn’t become an apprentice. He was a handsome person. Heh heh heh. When you met him you were like “Whoooa.” Hahahaha.
















































































ジャネルの独楽: Part 1








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














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



Hiroi and Janell’s First Meeting and Apprenticeship

In this interview segment, Hiroi-sensei describes his first time meeting Janell on a New Year’s television broadcast in Sendai. He discusses the beginning of their friendship and the start of her training with him as a top-making apprentice.



Paula: Was the attitude towards America and the West different in Sendai than in Tokyo?

Hiroi: No, in Tokyo, Americans… well, in Tokyo I didn’t meet any Americans. It was after I came to Sendai [that I did]. Because it was after the war. Like I said before, because I was living in the mountains without knowing the war ended. So I didn’t meet any Americans in Tokyo, and after the war, I was in Sendai. And in particular, [it was only] after I met Landis-sensei that I became close to Americans.

Paula: Why was it that your experience getting to know Americans—well, was that the first time? Or, did you have other American friends?

Hiroi: Ahh… there weren’t any others. I had met a few [Americans]. Umm… to make something for them, that is. Mm, that was about it, and I can’t really say that I became close to them. Even if I wanted to become friends with them I couldn’t. And also, at that time I was still poor, and I was putting all my effort into making a living. Mm, Americans were like an unattainable goal, hahaha. They’d do something and I’d be like “Whoaaa, amazing!” And when I met Landis-sensei, it was because we had a chance [to meet] on a television [show].

Photo - 016-01 [edit 1]
Hiroi and Janell on a television broadcast together.
Paula: Did you often introduce those Edo tops on that television program?

Hiroi: Yes, yes. I often did it.

Paula: Was that an NHK program?

Hiroi: I did it on NHK, too, and all of the Sendai broadcasting stations. I did all of them. I did broadcasts for the entire country on NHK and also local ones. I’ve done a lot of local shows and NHK shows, too. Also Tohoku Broadcasting. Mmm, even now I’m doing Miyagi Television’s OH! Bandesu program. They let me do that TV show a number of times. Even now I’m good friends with a man named Wakigaya-san from Miyagi Television, and Amano-san from Tohoku Broadcasting, he was a producer, I think. And Amano’s wife was a student of Landis-sensei. That was the relationship. And he said, “Next time I’ll introduce you to an American.” And then because there was free time, on a New Year’s TV program, this was a New Year’s TV program. And [Landis-sensei] and I did it together, and they told us they’d introduce us. Did we meet before that? Before the television show… hmmm… before the television show… ah, I had heard of her. Because they said they would introduce us, and we didn’t have a chance [before that]. And [they said] they’d have us do [the TV show] together. Mm, it was from that time.


Paula: What sort of television show was it?

Hiroi: It was a New Year’s show, and, err… what kind of things did we do? In any case it was things that were good luck for the New Year, and it was a show that also did Edo tops… I think. I don’t remember in detail what we did. What I remember is that the announcer kept getting things wrong and was corrected a lot. (laughs) I think Landis-sensei knew the whole time. Heh heh. We talked about it a lot.

Paula: This will go into [the topic of] Landis-san [again], but could you talk a bit about the first time you met her?

Hiroi: I think the first time I met Landis-sensei was when [we] were on television. I feel like I might have met her before that, but maybe I didn’t. I don’t remember that time well. The first… thing I remember is that time on TV, I think. But I might have met her before that. I don’t remember when that television show aired.

Anyway, she was a teacher at Miyagi Gakuin, and an American who was fluent in Japanese. And she had an interest in [things like tops], so [Amano-san] said he’d bring her next time. I heard this from the show’s producer, Amano-san. After that we met on the television show, which I saw in a photograph first. I feel like we met before that, but probably that was our first meeting. I don’t clearly remember that time. Anyway, it was around that time. And she came to my home, and was really happy [to see the tops]. And that was the first time she said she wanted to make them herself. She said “Please teach me,” so I taught her. Umm yeah that’s about right. It’s hard to remember. But she really made a lot of things, Landis-sensei did.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah. That wagon, she made that wagon thing.

Hiroi: Yeah. What was interesting at that time was–

Mrs. Hiroi: The wagon.

Hiroi: Umm, yeah. It was a wagon, a covered wagon from the pioneering times like those you see in Western films. But attached to the wagon, I thought they were horses, but Landis-sensei put oxen. I said “Shouldn’t they be horses, not oxen?” and she said, “No, they’re really oxen.” When I said “Why?”, and she said that horses can go far but they get tired easily. Oxen were slow, but they had stamina for no matter how far they go, and so for going [that far], actually it’s not a carriage but an ox cart. And so she attached oxen to the covered wagon. Mm, even now, it’s amazing. That she made that. She made so many things. Later she used the lathe by herself, and that was Karahiro-chō, right?

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.

Hiroi: There we made a cabin, a little cabin where we worked, and [made tops] there for a while. I think she [made tops] until she went back to America.

Mrs. Hiroi: Yeah.

Hiroi: Yeah, that’s it. She returned to America and sent her lathe there. And she said, “After I return to America I’ll [make tops] there, too,” and I said “No, you won’t remember the way to make the tools, won’t it be impossible?” and she said “No, I’ll be fine, I have friends who are skilled with machinery and cutlery, so if I ask them [when I have a problem,] I’ll get by somehow and it’ll be fine.” And she sent her lathe to America. When I asked some time ago that was the case.

Paula: Umm–

Hiroi: And– huh? I think she [worked on the lathe] a little in America. There are lathes in America, too, but they work a little different. And Americans find Japan’s lathes unusual, so they come to see them. Umm, actually in America, there’s a lathe association of some kind, something like a world lathe association. And there’s number of members and an association. And the president… she’s in a group that makes naruko kokeshi, and I invited the American lathe association president and her husband, the couple, and they came here. I think the wife was the president and her husband was the vice president. And there was a [cultural] exchange with the artisans who made naruko kokeshi. On their way back they stopped by here. And at that time they made these teeny tiny tops. They were tops about this big, they had become their specialty. And I thought “Man, I’ve been defeated!” and made even smaller ones. Ones this small. And I showed them to them and they said “Nope, I’ve lost!” Heh heh heh heh heh. I was like, “I wonnnnn!” Hahahaha. They burst out laughing and we shook hands. It was great fun to experience.


Paula: Were you hesitant to take on Janell as an apprentice? Did you have any concerns?

Hiroi: No, I didn’t really have any concerns. Mm. Actually, I thought, she’s not Japanese, and it would be wonderful if an American learned [how to make tops]. And Landis-sensei was the one. And she carved a kokeshi by hand herself, and showed me that, too. And said that she definitely wanted to carve using a lathe. And right away, on that very day, she used the lathe. And she learned a lot of things carving, but, we didn’t understand each other here and there. And it was funny, when it was a problem she’d go, “I don’t understand because I’m an American.” Heh heh heh heh. Everyone would give big belly laughs. Heh heh heh.

Paula: Was that the first time you had a foreign apprentice?

Hiroi: Yeah, that was the first time. Heh heh heh. Yeah.


廣井先生とジャネルの出会い, そして弟子入り







廣井: あーそいつはいなかったですね。少し会った程度ですね、みんなね。あのう・・・何かやっぱり頼まれて作ってやったり。うーんそんな程度で、あまり親しくっていうことは、言葉がほら通じないから。あの親しくなりたくてもなれなかったっていうか。でこっちもまだ、その頃うんと貧しくて、その日、生きてくのが精一杯な状態で。うん、なかなかもうアメリカの人は高嶺の花で、えへへ。もうこうやって「わーすげー」って見てる程度だったの。ほんであのう、ランディス先生と知り合ったのは、ほらこのテレビ、がキッカケ、だったんですね。








廣井:だからお正月の番組で、えー内容どうだったのかな。とにかくあのーお正月の縁起のいいものっていうことで、この江戸独楽の紹介を兼ねて・・・の番組だったのかな。ちょっと内容までは、あまり詳しく覚えてないんですけど。覚えてんのはこのアナウンサーの人が間違えて何度もやり直しさせられたっていう。(laughs) ずっとねランディス先生も分かってると思うけどね。へへ。よく話しているね。

[Segment 3, 20:21]











廣井:そうだね。でアメリカに帰るんでその轆轤はアメリカへもう送って。で『アメリカに帰ってからもやるんだ』なんて言うから 「いや、道具つくりだのも覚えてないからちょっと無理でねえの?」ったけど、『いや、大丈夫だ』なんて言って。 『友達で機械に詳しい人いるし。刃物に詳しい人もいるから、その人たちに頼めば、何とかなるから大丈夫だから』っていうことで。で轆轤アメリカに送ったんですけど。さっき聞いたらあるって言ってましたよね。


廣井:で、うん?アメリカで少しやってた、みたいですけどね。なんか、アメリカにも轆轤はあるんですけど、あのやり方がちょっと違うんですよね。で日本の轆轤のあのやり方は、アメリカの人たち、珍しいからって前はよく、見学に来たりしてたみたいですけどね。であのう、アメリカの、やっぱりあの、こう、轆轤協会っていうのがあって、世界轆轤協会って言ったけな。でアメリカにもなんか、何人かで、協会があって。でその会長さんが・・・鳴子、のこけし組合で、アメリカのその轆轤協会の会長さんご夫妻、ご夫婦を呼んだんですよね。で来たことがあるんですけど。で奥さんが会長で、旦那が副会長っつったかな。そして鳴子のこけし工人の人たちと交流して。でその帰りに、ここへ来たんですよね。でそのときに、その・・・人が作った、こう、こんなちっちゃな独楽作ってきたのね。このくらいの大きさの独楽を作って、得意になって来たわけ。で「こんな、負けてらんないな」と思って、もっとちっちゃいの作ったのね。このくらいのやつを。で、見したっけ 『いや、参りました』なんて言って。へへへへへ。こっち「勝ったー!」なんて、へへへへへ。大笑いしてね。握手してね。えらい喜んでもらったことはありますね。