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.
Takefu Knife Village is a brand created in 1982 by local curter artisans in Takefu, the biggest cutlery producing district that proudly maintains over seven hundred years of history.
In 1983 with the collaboration of Kazuo Kawasaki, a design director who was born and raised locally, Takefu launched its new series of kitchen knives, ARTUS.
While using the traditional method to create the blade part and by utilizing a unique design to unify from the tip of the blade to the handle, it achieved a simple yet innovative, hygienic and highly aesthetic product.
ATRUS is made by “fire casting”, a traditional craftsman’s striking technique, which uses a three-layer structure with steel forged by hand that is inserted between stainless steel. It is this technique that enables the knife to be sharp and resistant to rust.
ATRUS was born from a great trinity: the seven policies based on the Takefu’s commitment to create wonderful hand-made products; its traditional cutlery making method; and outstanding design by Kazuo Kawasaki. Its excellence is evident as even more than 20 years after its initial introduction it is still sold without any modifications.
Designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Heritage “Chanoyugama” (Living National Treasure) in 1996. Born in 1920 in Yamagata City, Miyagi Prefecture, Keiten Takahashi succeeded the family business of foundry at the age of 19 in 1938 and studied under Tetsushi Nagano, the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Heritage “Chanoyugama.” By selecting high quality river sand and clay and persisting in continual production method from molding and casting to coloring and finishing, Takahashi creates Chagama (Metal Furo Brazier), which has an elegant shape and soft metal texture. To produce first-class product, he orders iron sand from Shimane Pref., which is said to be very difficult to obtain, and furthermore, he selects the superior ones by feeling with his own fingers. Saying that time and labor yield a good product, he is particular about every step in the making process and sometimes takes as many as 3 months to finish one work. The shape, patterns and metal texture, all perfectly harmonize in Takahashi’s Chagama. His Chagama is highly evaluated as a sharp and sophisticated art work.
This brass lamp is used in the lobby of the Hotel Claska in Meguro, Tokyo. Its design makes good use of light reflected from the brass.
This same form is also used to produce other pendent lighting and wall-mounted lighting fixtures at the hotel.
For the craftsmen, the idea of shipping their products without final coloring was like selling their products naked. There was a risk that small pinholes made by air or dust within the metal would show. But the casting techniques they used overcame such a risk.
It is a great challenge for craftsmen to try something that they would never have thought possible or to rethink their established works. But through projects like this, craftsmen could create something new that provided a stimulus to old designs.
■ＨＯＴＥＬ ＣＬＡＳＫＡ brass lamp
* Namagata casting
* brushed finish using a potter's wheel
*designed by Intentionallies
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
The making of bronze gongs was introduced to present-day Ishikawa Prefecture about 400 years ago and it has become a traditional handicraft of the prefecture since then. The origin of the instrument is said to be in the percussion instruments in the ancient southern islands of Java and Sumatra. Later the gong came to Japan through China and Korean Peninsula. In Japan, they were mainly used as the signal for a start on a voyage and the tea ceremony. In Ishikawa Prefecture, gong manufacturing developed as tea ceremony gained popularity in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598).
It was Iraku Uozumi (1886-1964) who devoted himself to gong making in Kanazawa. He got absorbed in the study on sahari (alloy of copper and tin) casting and succeeded in creating gongs with superb resonance. He was designated as a Living National Treasure.
The pivotal point of a gong is its tone quality. The material used in bronze gong is sahari, or alloy of copper and tin. Sahari is one of the most difficult metals to alloy and the balance of composition decides the resonance quality. At the present time, the 3rd Iraku Uozumi has succeeded to the traditional techniques.
The large temple bell at Ankokuji Fudoin Temple in Hiroshima City is said to have been brought from Korea by Ankokuji Ekei, who was a daimyo and priest serving for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Mori Motonari during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). It is an excellent artistic work of the early Goryeo dynasty (918-1932). The bell is 1.6 m tall and 65 cm in diameter. Beautiful arabesque designs are cast on relief on the upper and lower parts and four heavenly maidens are on the main body. The sitting image of Bosatsu is also carved in relief on the hitting mark (Tsukiza), on which the name “Soshin Bosatsu” is inscribed. The bell was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1899.
Komagata Daibutsu is a great Buddha statue located in Naganuma-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba City. It was set up in 1703 by Noda Gennai, who was a pharmacy commission merchant in Edo and developed paddy-fields in Naganuma village. He collected voluntary subscriptions from 60 nearby villages and set it up to pray for cure of illness and safe travel of the people and horses going up and down the Onari Kaido Road. It was designed and cast by Hashimoto Izaemon Fujiwara Shigehiro, a casting workman in Sanmacho, Asakusa, Edo. This 2.4 m tall statue is the image of seated Amida Nyorai making Jou-in (meditation mudra) in front of the abdomen. The head and body were separately cast and joined together. The list of donators inscribed on the back of the statue shows that this Great Buddha was worshipped by a people in a wide range of area including Matsudo and Inbanuma. The Great Buddha still gently watches over the traffic on the Naganuma Kaido Street.
Chukin is a casting technique where molten metal is poured into a mold to make a vessel or utensil.
The chukin technique dates back a long way to the Yayoi period and features a variety of casting methods: 'sogata' ('so' technique), 'rogata' (lost wax technique), 'sunagata' (with sand) and 'yakigata' (by firing).
Depending on the shape and form of the object to be cast, the correct method should be used. The casting processes invcolve great experience and advanced skill.
Living National Treasure Osawa Komin was born in 1941 in Takaoka-shi, Toyama Prefecture, an area famous for copperware. Osawa is designated as a holder of the important intangible cultural property of metal casting. Known as the master of 'yakigata' casting, Osawa researched and came up with an original technique called 'casting basis technique', in which patterns are directly impressed on the surface of the vessel.
Despite the responsibility involved in inheriting such a traditional technique, Osawa ingeniously applies the technique to meet the expectations and standards of the modern world. He always keeps in mind his original intentions, while constantly moving forward and expressing fresh, natural sensibilities and sensations. Osawa is constantly challenging himself in the world of metal casting.