Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sanuki Branding Iron in Kagawa

I was visiting the large beautiful Japanese circuit style garden in Takamatsu City in Kagawa called Ritsurin Park.  Inside the park, there is a folk art museum called Sanuki Mingei-kan.  I visited there to see an exhibition of old 'yaki-in', which is a stamp made from iron between 17th and 21st century.

There are so many beautiful designs of hundreds years old!  They are all handmade and were often used to stamp Japanese sweets, or people stamped a company logo or a symbol on various objects.  The iron was heated in charcoal and the heat burns the surface of the object. 

All the motifs are so lovely - the line of design is round and gives a warm impression.  The designs are often about nature that stands for the seasons or a letter that means auspiciousness at the occasion of a celebration.  It is amazing to think that the detailed patterns were handcrafted hundreds years ago.

This stamp is the picture of swallows returning to their home.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Magewappa Master 2 - Interaction with the heart

This is the continuation of Magewappa Master Part 1.

Yoshinobu Shibata shows up in his daily uniform: traditional Japanese sandals and the toolbox that he has used for his entire life.  He sets up his 'studio' in a small area at a fancy department store and starts making a Magewappa box quietly.

Shoppers notice his presence, look at what he is doing and ask questions.  He loves to talk to people, and once he gets the opportunity, he happily starts describing his work in the tone of an old 'granpa'.

In today's Japan, this is often how people in cities encounter Japanese traditional crafts and arts.  They learn of the skill and of the value of the fine handmade art in Japanese culture, which is not easily found in city life.  His easy manner makes people feel like listening to him and they are drawn into his world.

When Japan grew rapidly in 60's and 70's, a lot of Japanese people left their rural homes and moved to big cities for work.  Many of us who were born after that were cut off from the local craft culture, and handmade crafts were replaced by plastics.

He talks not just about his products, but also stories of old Japan, culture and how to have a happy family life.

He asks whether you eat with your family everyday, talks about how rice put in a Magewappa is so delicious that family members will come home early to eat it in time.  Having a family meal everyday should be a fundamental thing, but sadly, a lot of Japanese people cannot have this in their busy lives.  It's not just a product demo - People feel uplifted after watching and listening to him to speak.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Magewappa Master 1 - Constant Invention

Magewappa master, Yoshinobu Shibata, having run his company, Shibata-Yoshinobu-Shouten (shouten means store in Japanese), has now left day-to-day work, after having made Magewappa since the 60's

Now the company is taken care of by his son, Yoshimasa Shibata, but he is still active.  He is constantly inventing new Magewappa products and travels to exhibit them in Japan and the wider world.  In the last few years, he had exhibitions in Japan, flying from Odate in Akita to many other cities in Japan quite frequently.  In addition, he has had major exhibitions in Paris and Helsinki.

This has been his regular work since the 70's.  His purpose is to demonstrate Magewappa making at department stores.

His recent work is a box to keep the umbilical cord of a newborn baby.  In Japan, this is a traditional keep-sake and families normally keep this in a high quality wooden box.  It is believed that an umbilical cord has the special power to protect the growth of a child, as it did when he/she was in the mother's belly.  The lid is marked with the Asian year animal of the year the child was born.

In part 2, I will describe his typical scene at one of his demonstrations.