A tradition and a craft passed on to a new generation
The decision the last bogwood craftsman made to preserve the craft : to accept a young woman as an apprentice.
At his bogwood craft workshop and home in the Akiu Traditional Crafts Village near Akiu Hot Springs, Mr. Takashi Kotake continues to make bogwood crafts. Bogwood craft once flourished as one of the representative crafts of Sendai, but with the halt of lignite mining in the 1950’s, it has been more than eight years since Mr. Kotake became “the last bogwood craftsman” in Sendai.
In order to prevent the craft from being lost, in 2012, Mr. Kotake decided to take on an apprentice with financial support from Sendai City. He chose Ms. Ayano Suzuki, who had just graduated from a local women’s university. It is unusual for a woman to be apprenticed to a craftsman, but Mr. Kotake said, “If the apprentice were a man, he would have to support a family in the future. It would be very hard to become a skilled craftsman and to make enough money in such a short time. But I thought a female apprentice could always continue, through the changes in her life, to make at least small things that would be useful to people. The most important thing is that bogwood craft not be lost.”
Ms. Suzuki has loved making things since her childhood, and says she was often told by family and friends that she ought to become an artisan. “I was looking for a job as an artisan, but just before I graduated, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred . . .. Craftsmen were affected by the disaster too, and couldn’t afford to take on apprentices. It was tough,” says Ms. Suzuki. Then she was given the chance to interview at Mr. Kotake’s workshop. “I liked that he let me try carving bogwood at the job interview. Right then, I thought, ‘this is it!’”
Now she creates new objects with a feminine sensibility such as coffee spoons and small knives for Japanese sweets. “Mr. Kotake bought a smaller hatchet for me, so I’m going to challenge myself and start using it to make large trays. And I plan to enter one in an exhibition,” she says, her eyes sparkling.
“I’m still worried about letting her use a hatchet, and sometimes I feel like I can’t watch,” Mr. Kotake laughs. “But in order to improve her skills, she has to take on big and difficult projects too.”
Mr. Kotake watches over his apprentice warmly.
Mr. Kotake and Ms. Suzuki’s works
|Master and apprentice worked together on this piece, entitled “Sendai Moon Princess.”
Ms. Suzuki created the charming dolls.
|Coffee spoons are a popular original work of Ms. Suzuki’s.|
|Adorable mini spoon necklaces||Small knives for Japanese sweets (prototype)|
<Mr. Kotake’s works>
|Bogwood vase||Bogwood brooch|
|Japanese urushi lacquered box
crafted from Manchurian Ash
Mr. Kotake hollowed the wood and created these pieces using a high-level skill called kurimono.