香川の漆器経験 – Kagawa Lacquerware Experience

We foreigners are all on an email chain that keeps us up to date on different multicultural events happening in the Takamtsu area.  From that, a few of us got on board for a lacquerware festival being held in one of the historic buildings at Tamano Park.  It required waking up a bit early on a Saturday, but in the end it was well worth it.  As a slight bonus it gave a reason to go to that park, which for all of our time living here none of us had yet had.

After meeting outside the gate and seeing the last bit of the opening ceremony, we were led inside to enjoy a tea ceremony.  The tea ceremony experience was a bit different than some of the others that I’ve participated in.  For one, it was overseen by a man.  Up till now I had only ever seen women practicing this art.  Also, rather than serving the thick and frothy matcha tea, there were two different green teas that were served instead.  They were good of course, but it was just different.  As part of tea ceremony, I opted to sit on my knees as in the traditional Japanese fashion.  This isn’t expected of anyone, especially the foreigners, because it gets really uncomfortable after a short while.   Of course I wasn’t going to give up, so I managed the whole time.  My feet went numb after a 20 minutes or so, but when I stood up all the sensation came flooding back in the form of pins, needles, and outright pain.  I was basically paralyzed and couldn’t bear to take a step until it subsided.

From there we were ushered to a small corner where we would actually start the lacquerware project.  While there are several different styles and methods, what we would be doing on this day is removing layers of colored paint to create an image.  We’ve all done something similar to this in elementary school I’m sure.  Anyway, I selected my design and got to work.  I went with Mt. Fuji because it’s such a symbol of Japan, and it didn’t look to be that difficult.  After tracing the image on our block of wood, we set to gouging it out.  There were 5 different colors depending on how far down we went with it.  It was a bit meticulous getting everything looking good, but there was a certain sense of satisfaction and contentment with focusing on our work.  Throughout the project there were people coming to the exhibition who would peek over at what we were doing.  These were mostly older women, but they were nice to talk to.  Also, NHK TV and a couple others came in for questions and pictures.  I had a nice spot on the end, closest to this hubbub, so I’m sure I’ll have people asking me about it at work this week.

Once I was done with my carving, there was a guy who cleaned up a couple things and then added the gold color to accent my clouds.  I’m actually really happy with how it turned out, and it was certainly better than what I was expecting from myself.  Here it is.

Taking a picture of it was a tad tricky, since it is basically like black glass and reflects everything.

After we finished our projects, we walked around and looked at some of the works for sale.  There were some incredible pieces, and they were all hand made.  For some of it the worth was apparent, but then there were another handful of pieces where they were astronomically priced.  I saw a rather ordinary container that was selling for 18,000 dollars.  Too rich for my blood.  We finished up around noon, had some lunch and then went our separate ways.  It was a great chance to try something new, for free, and expand my exposure to Japanese arts and culture.

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