Shouemon Kotabe was born in the Ibaragi Prefecture in 1971.
Mr. Kotabe is the 37th successor to his family’s foundry business which has been handed down for over 800 years.
Since his childhood, Mr. Kotabe helped his father make temple bells. After graduating with a Metal Engineering degree from National Takaoka College (now Toyama University), he went into training at an iron kettle studio in Morioka. He then, returned to the Kotabe Foundry run by his father and took charge of it at the age of 25.
At the foundry, on the foot of Tsukuba Mountain, Mr. Kotabe makes temple bells, fire bells and rainwater bowls. Orders come from all over Japan as well as from other countries.
After consulting about letters and patterns, he creates a mold with local sand and clay and then pours copper and tin heated to 1200 ºC into the mold. Because he doesn’t color the bells, he takes considerable time to create an elaborate mold. It takes four to six months and occasionally as long as one year to make one temple bell. A bell newly taken out from a mold is orange-brown in color. Its tone gradually changes to red, then purple and finally to blue-green. As time passes, the local air makes the bell change its color.
Wanting the sound of his bells to resonate in people’s hearts, Mr. Kotabe continues his quest for the perfect bell-tone.
These illumination lamps can be seen at the HOTEL CLASKA, in Meguro district, Tokyo. The ceiling lamp on the left-hand side is made of tin. The design emphasizes the characteristics of tin, transforming it into a drum shape, and using it as a chandelier. Tin is one of the most stable of metals, and because the chandelier is 100% tin, it will not change color. Moreover, the inside of the chandelier gives out a clear luminous color. The lamp on the right-hand side creates a strange impression, because the light reflected by the brass plate seems to be floating. Brass is formed by the synthesis of copper and zinc. The color, the degree of hardness and the durability of the brass changes with the proportion of zinc added to it.
■ HOTEL CLASKA tin chandelier (left) ・ Wire foil lacquering ■ Illumination lamp (right) ・ Brass, glass, lighting apparatus ・ Size W×D×H (mm) 135mm×135mm×300mm ・ Designed (both) by Intentionars
Gold foil, which is pure gold, is mixed with small amounts of silver or copper, so its color may change through years.
The square corners of the photo are where water vapor from the hot springs has bubbled over and they are continuously exposed to water. Moreover, because some of the water comes from the ‘natural hot spring’, the material is corroded easily. So, gold foil was applied to the back of the acrylic board to protect the surface.
You cannot find any spot of attachment glue on the gold foil.
Even though the foil is exposed to water, it has a beautiful gloss.
Seen from the lobby of the hotel, it seems as if a hot spring were bubbling up from a gold ingot.
■ Dormy Inn Kanazawa courtyard
* gold foil applied to the back of clear acrylic board with silicon coating
*size w55×d55×h45 cm
*designed by n.o.a
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Hamana Shosha Shinmeigu Shrine is located in Mikkabi-cho, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. The enshrined deity is Amaterasu Sume Omikami. The time of the foundation is unknown. It is said that the shrine was originally founded by Agatanushi (a provincial chief) of Hamana to enshrine his ancestral deity, Ohta no Mikoto. In 940, when the area around the shrine was dedicated to Ise Shrine, the enshrined deity was changed to Amaterasu Sume Omikami and Ota no Mikoto was moved to a sessha (an attached shrine) in the precinct.
Honden (the main hall) is an old-styled Itakura-zukuri (the style used for a log storage house), or generally called Seiro-zukuri, the same style used for the original main halls of Ise Jingu Shrine and Atsuta Jingu Shrine. It was originally use for storing the offerings from a mountain village of Hamana Kanbe. The thatched roof of Honden bears the crest of Mitsudomoe made of copper, which has become coated with verdigris and the entire hall is covered with a net to keep away birds. Honden Hall was designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1993.
Mt. Bandai erupted in 1888 and caused extensive damage to the surrounding areas. The northern side of the mountain collapsed by the eruption and the avalanche of rocks and earth dammed the river to form the 3 Lakes of Bandai (Lake Hibara, Lake Onogawa, and Lake Akimoto) and many other nameless lakes and ponds in Bandai Highland, which is a beautiful highland where about 300 lakes and ponds scattered around. Goshiki-numa, or Five Colored Lakes, is a cluster of approximately 40 large and small volcanic ponds including Bishamon-muna, Aka-numa, Midoro-numa, Ryu-numa, Benten-numa, Ruri-numa, Ao-numa, and Yanagi-numa, all of which are located among the 3 Lakes of Bandai at the northern foot of Mt. Bandai. The 3-km walking trail, by which visitors can see around more than ten ponds, is very popular. Changing their colors from cobalt blue to indigo blue or copper brown, those mysterious ponds are called “Witches’ Eyes.”
Owari cloisonne is a traditional handicraft in Aichi Pref. The art made its start in the 1800s, when the local samurai, Tsunekichi Kaji found a plate in a ship from Holland and analyzed how it was made. He broke the plate into pieces, learned that it had a copper basis with glazed motifs outlined by inlayed metal wires, and finally succeeded in reproducing it. The technique he mastered had been first handed down to Shogoro Hayashi, a workman living in the present “Shippo-cho (cloisonne town).” Since then it has been handed down from generation to generation until the present time. The name “Shippo-cho” seems to represent the workmen’s passion for cloisonne. In cloisonne, copper instead of clay is used as the base material. The general method of making cloisonne involves first making a body with a copper plate and painting a pattern, then, soldering silver wires along the lines of the pattern. Next, colored enamels were filled in the cells partitioned by the wires, and finally it is fired. The main products are flower vases, photo frames, and ornament plates, each of which can be a collector’s item with elegance and gorgeousness.
The Takaoka Giant Buddha Statue is a symbol of Takaoka city, Toyama prefecture. For material it uses bronze, a major industry in Takaoka. It has a height of 15.58m and is counted as one of the three largest Buddha statues in Japan (the others being in Nara and Kamakura).
The first statue here was erected in 1221. Minamoto-no-Yoshikatsu, the Lord of the Settsu provinces, went to Etchū Province and initiated construction of a wooden statue about 5m high on Nijyo Mountain. Later the 2nd Lord of Kaga, Maeda Toshinaga transferred it here to Takaoka.
However, the statues were destroyed by fire several times and consequently, the citizens decided to create a fire-proof monument. As a result, starting from 1907, construction began and was finished by 1933. Bronze craftsmen from Takaoka created it by hand, and it has become the pride of Takaoka.
Osaka copper ware is a prefecture’s designated Traditional Craft Product. Various items including tea utensil or cake bowls are made carefully by hand. This handicraft dates back to the 16th Century, when a smelting technology called “Nanbanshibori (cupellation),” which involves the extraction of gold and silver from crude copper, was introduced into Japan. At its peak, there were more than 10,000 workmen in Osaka district. In the Edo period, all the copper excavated from the mines was purchased by Doza (a government copper administration agency) in Osaka, and Osaka thrived as the center of copperware production. The traditional techniques in metal carving, molding, and forging are applied to the present production processes. The various items from Buddhist altar decorations to daily commodities are produced now. Osaka copperware is distinctive not only in its durability but in its design as well. The beautiful curved and folded lines are unique to copper boards, and the style is very solid and sober.