Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -2-

 

– An interview with Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, The director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum –

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.

 


The crafts found in different parts of Japan are deeply connected to the daimyos who ruled the land during the Edo period. It is therefore not possible to learn about Kanazawa’s crafts without mentioning them in relation to the Maeda family/lords of the Kaga clan. The successive lords enjoyed taking part in Japanesetea ceremonies, and this is a factor in the development of craft activities in this place.

On this occasion, we interviewed Mr. Tomoyuki Yamamoto, Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum, known as the “museum of tea ceremony utensils and crafts.”

 

― In areas of Japan where the tea ceremony is flourishing, arts and crafts are also popular, but why is this?

Director Yamamoto: Tea ceremony utensils, such as tea bowls and pots, are made using different craft techniques, including pottery, metalwork, lacquer, wood and bamboo, dyeing fabrics, etc.

For the Maeda family, Sen no Rikyu, who is referred to as the “tea saint,” coached both the first lord, Toshiie, and the second lord, Toshinaga. From that point successive lords also interacted with renowned tea experts. These tea experts created a variety of utensils based on their sense of beauty, which had a strong influence on those engaged in craftwork production in Kanazawa.

Such utensils are used in the special space of a tea ceremony, as opposed to crafts, which are meant to be used in our everyday life, such as to “eat, drink, love, or wear.” The creator’s sense of beauty and the techniques used to embody this provide added value as a characteristic not seen in mass-produced items.

 

―What do you consider to be the charm of the tea ceremony?

―Director Yamamoto: Prior to the appearance of Sen no Rikyu, tea ceremonies were held as social occasions at which the upper classes would compete with each other over the luxury of their tea ceremony utensils. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16th century), Sen no Rikyu established the simple “wabi-cha” style, which went on to become the basis of the current tea ceremony. It is said that the spirituality of the Japanese, who find beauty in simple or incomplete things, is condensed in the teaceremony.

In fact, the matcha drunk at tea ceremonies is also appealing in terms of its medicinal effects. English tea, Chinese tea, and Japanese tea in generalhave their substances extracted; in the case of matcha, however, powdered tea leaves are dissolved in hot water to be consumed. This means that you ingest all of the nutrients contained in the tea leaves, such as catechins and vitamins. It is thereforea good idea to casually take part in a teaceremonyto benefit your health.

 

― How do you appreciate tea ceremony utensils?

―Director Yamamoto:  I am frequently asked that question while working at the museum, along with “Which is the most expensive item?” However, would an expensive item be something good?

For example, when you choose clothes in a shop, you may not necessarily like the expensive items. Even if they’re expensive, things that don’t suit you are not good for you.

We should apply the same type of judgment when viewing artworks at a museum. What you like or are interested in is the best for you,so take a moment to consider why you like it. Each piece has captions accompanying it to help you with this, with the information provided including the title, the year it was created, the techniques used, its historicalbackground, and any points to be noted.

 

― What do you recommend doing to try and use crafts?

―Director Yamamoto: We serve tea at a tearoom in our museum. You can use your hands and put a bowl to your lips to feel its shape that has been designed to allow you to experience the delicious taste of matcha. As well as our museum, there are many other facilities in Kanazawa City where you can enjoy hands-on experience ofhandicrafts and craft techniques; they are definitely worth a visit. New thingsflock to Tokyo and old culture is accumulated in Kyoto. In Kanazawa, new things are created on topof the old culture. I am confident that the city is worth a visit for tourists.

Some people will want to buy handicrafts, as well as wishing to see how they work out. If you obtain an item of your choice, you use it carefully in your everyday life, which I believe is the most ideal and original way of interacting with handicrafts. Some people think they are way too good to use and simply cherish them without putting them to use. But please leave the preservation work to museums and use them in your everyday life.Using things that are filled with the creator’s or your sense of beauty willenhanceyour life, sharpen your senses, and lead to a prosperous life.

 


 

Tomoyuki Yamamoto

Director of Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum. Born in Kanazawa City in 1965. After graduating from the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University, began working in the Culture Section, Cityof Kanazawa in 1990. Following long-term training at the Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto,began serving as a curator for Izumi Kyoka Memorial Museum in 1999. Has served in the current position since 2016.

 

 

Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum

  • Open: 9:30 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30 pm)
  • Closed: Exhibit changes from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
  • Admission fee: 300 yen
  • Address: 3-2-29 Honda-machi
  • Contact: Tel. 076-221-0751
  • WEB: http://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/nakamura/english/

Beauty and techniques of handicraft inherited in Kanazawa -1-

– the “Saikusho” that produced samurai furnishings –

In Kanazawa, a variety of traditional handicrafts still remain and are rooted in everyday life, helping to boost the cultural and artistic level of the city. We will explore the beauty and roots of the handicrafts that have been passed down in this city.

 


Kanazawa’s roots as a city of traditional handicrafts date back to the Edo period (1603–1868), a time when the samurai reigned.

 

During the Edo period, the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords), ruled over the Kaga clan with Kanazawa as its capital city. From the time of the first lord, Toshiie, successive lords of the Maeda family maintained a deep interest in cultural projects through tea ceremonies. In particular, the third lord, Toshitsune, was an outstanding cultural lord.

At that time, the extent of the land owned by a clan throughout the country was indicated by the “Kokudaka.” This was a measure of the productivity of the land as expressed by its rice yield. The Kaga clan had a kokudaka of one million, which was the highest in Japan.

The great Kaga clan posed a threat to the Edo shogunate. In order to demonstrate his obedience to the government, as well as to show his family status as Japan’s top daimyo, Toshitsune spent his financial wealth, worth a kokudaka of one million, on arts and crafts, including martial arts.

*Maeda Toshitsune/ quote a photo from wikipedia

 


In Kanazawa Castle, there was a workshop called “Saikusho” as a symbol of the Kaga clan’s cultural incentive measures.

It was originally a place for repairing tools and weapons, but Toshitsune gradually transformed it into a craft studio for creating luxurious daimyo-style furnishings for the Maeda family. Along with this, many skilled craftsmen were invited from different places, such as Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo), as instructors of the Saikusho. This led to the foundation of Kanazawa’s arts and crafts techniques, which have been passed down to the present, including “Kaga Maki-e” and “Kaga Zogan, inlay.”

 

The techniques held by the Saikusho within the castle eventually spread to the studios that were run by the townspeople living in the castle town. This led to the formation of an unprecedented rich bank of craftsmen in Kanazawa. Indeed, the dyed kimono that served as the origin of today’s “Kaga Yuzen” was not created at the Saikusho, but rather by a dyer in the castle town who was patronized by the Kaga clan.

“Kaga Maki-e”

 

The Saikusho was further enhanced and developed by the fifth lord, Tsunanori, in terms of both its organization and roles. It remained as a clan-owned arts and crafts studio right up to the end of the Edo period, which was a rare thing across the whole country.

 


 

If you wish to see the great skills and aesthetics of the artisans from that time, visit the “Seisonkaku” history museum adjacent to Kenrokuen Garden. Nariyasu, the 13th lord of the Kaga clan, built it as his mother’s retirement home, with the craftsmanship of the Kaga clan featuring in both the works inside the building and in the collections on display.

 


 

Seisonkaku Villa

  • Open: 9 am to 5 pm (Visitors must enter by 4:30pm)
  • Closed: Wednesdays (Next day if Wednesday falls on a holiday) and Dec. 29 to Jan. 2
  • Admission fee: 700 yen
  • Address: 1-2 Kenroku-machi
  • Contact: Tel. 076-221-0580
  • WEB: http://www.seisonkaku.com/english

 

Takenoko; a taste of spring

Spring is the time to harvest bamboo shoots, or takenoko.

The bamboo plant used to be an indispensable part of daily life in Japan, being used as a building material or as kitchen utensils in the form of chopsticks, food containers, or colanders. Many bamboo tools have been replaced with plastic ones, while takenoko continues to be widely eaten, loved for its crunchy texture and slightly bitter taste.

Here in Kanazawa, the first moso bamboos were cultivated in 1766 and were introduced into the suburbs of the city. Nowadays, the city certifies 15 types of indigenous vegetables as ‘Kaga Yasai’ branded products, one of which is takenoko.

Takenoko is only harvested when the shoots are very young, just after the green tips poke through the soil, which is why they are called takenoko (lit. means ‘child of bamboo’). Takenoko are used in a wide variety of dishes, while takenoko rice, simmered takenoko, and tempura are traditional favorites. Freshly dug ones can be simply sliced and eaten raw.

Despite the fact that many vegetables are grown in greenhouses nowadays to satisfy year-round demand, takenoko are harvested only once a year. It is said that takenoko will sprout from the ground 7-10 days after the cherry trees start to blossom. Both are eagerly anticipated by Japanese people as signs of spring.

Takenoko, à l’aube du printemps

Le printemps est la saison des récoltes des pousses de bambou “takenoko“.

La plante de bambou était indispensable dans la vie quotidienne japonaise, utilisée comme matériau de construction ou comme ustensiles de cuisine sous la forme de baguettes, de bols, d’assiettes ou encore comme passoires.
Aujourd’hui, beaucoup de ces objets ont été remplacés par des outils en plastique, mais le “takenoko“ reste un aliment très populaire, apprécié pour sa texture croquante et son goût légèrement amer.

Ici à Kanazawa, les premières «moso» (pousse de bambous) ont été cultivées en 1766, à l’époque plantées en banlieue. De nos jours, la ville certifie 15 catégories de ce légume et l’une d’entre elle est représentée par la marque Kaga Yasai.

Le takenoko n’est récolté que lorsque les pousses sont très jeunes, juste après que les pointes vertes sortent du le sol. C’est pourquoi on les appelle takenoko (signifie littéralement ‘le petit bambou’). Les takenoko sont utilisés dans une grande variété de plats, avec du riz, mijoté ou en tempura sont des recettes traditionnelles. Lorsqu’ils viennent d’être ramassés, ils peuvent être simplement tranchés et consommés crus.

Pour répondre à la demande tout au long de l’année et malgré le fait qu’ils soient aujourd’hui principalement cultivés dans des serres, les takenoko ne sont récoltés qu’une fois par an. On dit que les takenoko sortiront du sol entre 7 et 10 jours après que les cerisiers commencent à fleurir. Les deux sont donc attendus avec impatience par les Japonais comme signes de l’arrivé du printemps.

Takenoko, un sabor de la primavera

La primavera es la temporada de cosecha del retoño del bambú, takenoko. El bambú, originalmente, era la planta que no podía faltar en la vida del japonés, utilizado como material de construcción y de utensilios de cocina como palillos, contenedores y coladores. Aunque en la actualidad estos han sido reemplazados por productos de plástico, el takenoko es ampliamente consumido hasta estos días, es amada su textura crujiente y su sabor ligeramente amargo.

Aquí en Kanazawa es cultivado por primera vez en 1766 el bambú Moso, e introducido a sus suburbios posteriormente. En el Kanazawa actual se tienen certificados 15 tipos de vegetales endémicos, y el takenoko es uno de ellos.
Se cosechan solamente los retoños jóvenes del takenoko, que parecen colmillos recién salidos (de ahí su nombre, “hijo del bambú”).

Aunque hay varias formas de prepararlo, son tradicionales con arroz, hervidos y en tempura. Los frescos recién cosechados pueden ser rebanados y comidos crudos.

A pesar de ser una sociedad que cultiva bastantes vegetales en invernaderos durante todo el año, el takenoko natural solo se cosecha una vez al año. Se dice que el takenoko muestra su rostro 7 a 10 días después del florecimiento del cerezo, y para los japoneses ambos eventos representan la añorada entrada de la primavera.

Takenoko; a taste of spring

Spring is the time to harvest bamboo shoots, or takenoko.

The bamboo plant used to be an indispensable part of daily life in Japan, being used as a building material or as kitchen utensils in the form of chopsticks, food containers, or colanders. Many bamboo tools have been replaced with plastic ones, while takenoko continues to be widely eaten, loved for its crunchy texture and slightly bitter taste.

Here in Kanazawa, the first moso bamboos were cultivated in 1766 and were introduced into the suburbs of the city. Nowadays, the city certifies 15 types of indigenous vegetables as ‘Kaga Yasai’ branded products, one of which is takenoko.

Takenoko is only harvested when the shoots are very young, just after the green tips poke through the soil, which is why they are called takenoko (lit. means ‘child of bamboo’). Takenoko are used in a wide variety of dishes, while takenoko rice, simmered takenoko, and tempura are traditional favorites. Freshly dug ones can be simply sliced and eaten raw.

Despite the fact that many vegetables are grown in greenhouses nowadays to satisfy year-round demand, takenoko are harvested only once a year. It is said that takenoko will sprout from the ground 7-10 days after the cherry trees start to blossom. Both are eagerly anticipated by Japanese people as signs of spring.

Takenoko, un assaggio di primavera

La primavera è la stagione in cui raccogliere i takenoko, ossia i germogli di bambo.

In passato, la pianta di bambù rappresentava per i giapponesi una parte essenziale nella vita di tutti i giorni. Basta pensare che il bambù veniva usato come materiale edilizio o veniva trasformato in utensili da cucina quali bacchette, contenitori per il cibo o colapasta. Ad oggi molti strumenti di bambù sono stati rimpiazzati ormai da quelli in plastica, tuttavia i takenoko continuano ancora ad essere mangiati da molte persone, e ad essere amati per la loro consistenza croccante e il loro gusto leggermente amaro.

Qui a Kanazawa, i primi bambù “moso” furono coltivati inizialmente nel 1766 e, in seguito, furono introdotti nella zona periferica della città. Attualmente, Kanazawa certifica 15 specie di vegetali indigeni in qualità di prodotti denominati “Kaga Yasai” (letteralmente “vegetali di Kaga”), una delle quali è proprio il takenoko.

Il takenoko può essere raccolto solo quando i germogli sono molto giovani, subito dopo che le gemme verdi sono spuntate (letteralmente significa infatti “bambino del bambù”). I takenoko sono usati in numerose pietanze, mentre il riso ai germogli di bambù, i germogli di bambù fatti cuocere a fuoco lento e la tempura rimangono i piatti tradizionali preferiti. Per esempio, quelli appena raccolti possono essere semplicemente tagliati e mangiati crudi.

Sebbene ad oggi molti vegetali vengano coltivati in serra per poter rispondere alle richieste di mercato durante tutto l’anno, i takenoko sono coltivati solo una volta all’anno. Si dice che i takenoko germoglino dal terreno dopo 7-10 giorni dall’inizio della fioritura dei ciliegi. E pertanto, come segni di primavera, entrambi sono attesi con impazienza dal popolo giapponese.

Kanazawa Sake: brewed in the heart of winter using a blend of pure water and premium rice

The coldest part of winter with its dancing snowfall is the busiest time of the year for Kanazawa’s sake distilleries. Around this time, each sakagura (sake brewery) in Kanazawa enters its peak season of sake brewing. Ishikawa Prefecture, with its cold winters and heavy snowfall, is perfectly suited to sake brewing and is said to be one of the leading sake regions in Japan. There are many established sakagura in Kanazawa, taking pride in their time-honoured tradition while seeking new and innovative tastes.

Water and sake-rice are the principal ingredients of sake and are key in determining its quality. The nearby Hakusan Mountain range ensures that Kanazawa has an abundant supply of fresh, pure water which is high in minerals and low in iron, making it ideally suited to the cultivation of yeast. Local sake breweries have long used premium sake-rice called Yamada Nishiki, as well as high quality local sake-rice Gohyakumangoku.

Traditionally, sake brewing is overseen by a chief brewer called toji. The breweries in Kanazawa recruit tojifrom the Noto Peninsula but from all over country as well, so that they can compete and learn from each other. Also, the rich culinary traditions in Kanazawa have long supported the sake brewing industry.

Sake has been considered a sacred drink and was believed to exorcise evil spirits. That’s why you often see big casks of sake dedicated to Shinto shrines.

[Sake breweries in Kanazawa]

・Fukumitsuya http://www.fukumitsuya.co.jp/english/index.html (English)

・Yachiya http://www.yachiya-sake.co.jp (Japanese)

・Nakamuraya Shuzo http://www.nakamura-shuzou.co.jp (Japanese)

Kanazawa Sake: brewed in the heart of winter using a blend of pure water and premium rice

The coldest part of winter with its dancing snowfall is the busiest time of the year for Kanazawa’s sake distilleries. Around this time, each sakagura (sake brewery) in Kanazawa enters its peak season of sake brewing. Ishikawa Prefecture, with its cold winters and heavy snowfall, is perfectly suited to sake brewing and is said to be one of the leading sake regions in Japan. There are many established sakagura in Kanazawa, taking pride in their time-honoured tradition while seeking new and innovative tastes.

Water and sake-rice are the principal ingredients of sake and are key in determining its quality. The nearby Hakusan Mountain range ensures that Kanazawa has an abundant supply of fresh, pure water which is high in minerals and low in iron, making it ideally suited to the cultivation of yeast. Local sake breweries have long used premium sake-rice called Yamada Nishiki, as well as high quality local sake-rice Gohyakumangoku.

Traditionally, sake brewing is overseen by a chief brewer called toji. The breweries in Kanazawa recruit tojifrom the Noto Peninsula but from all over country as well, so that they can compete and learn from each other. Also, the rich culinary traditions in Kanazawa have long supported the sake brewing industry.

Sake has been considered a sacred drink and was believed to exorcise evil spirits. That’s why you often see big casks of sake dedicated to Shinto shrines.

[Sake breweries in Kanazawa]

・Fukumitsuya http://www.fukumitsuya.co.jp/english/index.html (English)

・Yachiya http://www.yachiya-sake.co.jp (Japanese)

・Nakamuraya Shuzo http://www.nakamura-shuzou.co.jp (Japanese)

Le Saké Kanazawa : brassé au cœur de l’hiver, c’est le mélange d’une eau pure et d’alcool de riz de la plus haute qualité.

Les tempêtes de neige au milieu de l’hiver représentent la saison la plus intense de l’année pour les distilleries de Kanazawa. Cette saison, est la période de pointe pour le brassage du saké pour toutes les distilleries de Kanazawa. La préfecture d’Ishikawa, avec ses hivers rigoureux et ses importantes tempêtes de neige est parfaitement adaptée au brassage du saké et est considérée comme l’une des principales régions de saké au Japon. On trouve d’ailleurs de nombreuses distilleries de saké dans toute la région de Kanazawa, qui porte fièrement le flambeau leur tradition séculaire tout en étant à la recherche constante de goûts nouveaux et innovants.

La qualité de l’eau et de l’alcool de riz, les ingrédients principaux du saké, sont déterminants pour sa qualité. A proximité, la chaîne de montagnes Hakusan assure à Kanazawa un approvisionnement abondant en eau fraîche et pure, riche en minéraux et pauvre en fer, ce qui la rend idéale pour la culture de la levure. Les brasseries locales de saké utilisent depuis longtemps un alcool de riz premium appelé Yamada Nishiki, ainsi que celui nommé Gohyakumangoku ; ce dernier est produit localement.

Traditionnellement, le brassage du saké est supervisé par un chef brasseur appelé « toji ». Les brasseries de Kanazawa recrutent des « toji » originaires de la péninsule de Noto, mais aussi de tout le pays, afin qu’ils puissent à la fois rivaliser et apprendre les uns des autres. En outre, riche d’une grande tradition culinaire, l’ensemble de la région de Kanazawa soutient depuis longtemps l’industrie du saké.

Le saké a été considéré comme une boisson divine et on croyait qu’il exorcisait les mauvais esprits. C’est pourquoi vous voyez souvent de gros tonneaux de saké à l’entrée des temples shintoïstes.

[Les brasseries de saké à Kanazawa]

・Fukumitsuya http://www.fukumitsuya.co.jp/english (English)

・Yachiya http://www.yachiya-sake.co.jp (Japanese)

・Nakamura shuzo http://www.nakamura-shuzou.co.jp (Japanese)