Last August an email from a NYC-based Japanese TV production company landed in my inbox. I was being asked if I wanted to go to Japan to be on a TV show. The premise of the the show is a guest from the West with a passion for a uniquely Japanese craft or skill is invited to come to Japan. They are given the opportunity to learn the craft from one of the masters. All the while the whole trip is filmed for TV-Toyko. All my expenses are covered by the show.
We decided it was worth a try. By the end of August a film crew came by my house to shoot an intro segment. Generally they broadcast the intro and based on the audience reaction, they decide who to bring over to film a full episode. Before they aired my intro, they said they needed to come by for a little extra filming. What really happened is they had already decided to invite me and wanted to film me being given the news. I think they were a little disappointed in my reaction as I was in a state of disbelief. But it settled in and they got the reaction they were looking for.
After much work pinning down the details, on October 19th I boarded an airplane for the 13 hour flight over. Over the course of seven mostly long days, they took me around Hakone and over to the Kobe area.
While in Hakone, they arranged for me to spend a couple days working with Mr Ichiro Ishikawa to learn the secrets of Yosegizaiku. Mr Ishikawa is a seventh generation master; it was his ancestor who invented the technique.
I also got to visit the Hakone Karakuri Museum and had a wonderful conversation with Mr Ninomiya and Mr Kamei. Later on, I spent some time at the Karakuri Creation Group’s workshop and meet all the members.
The final visit was with a couple of the leading kanna makers in Japan, Chiyozuru Sadahide II and his disciple Naohide. I watched, and occasionally helped, the creation of a kanna, from a bar of wrought iron and piece of steel to the annealing and sharpening of the finished blade.
I will also write up longer entries for each of the places I visited.
It was a great journey. I met incredible craftspeople and they shared wonderful and insightful conversations with me. I’m grateful they took the time from their work to allow me to visit them at their workshops. The TV crew and show producers did a fantastic job providing me with these opportunities.
Most of all, I’m honored and humbled by Mr Ishikawa for sharing with me his skills and family’s tradition of the art of Yosegizaiku. I hope over time as I refine my technique, I pay appropriate respect to his gift by producing works of which he will approve.