If you have an interest in Japanese culture this new BBC Four series will be the one to watch.
Part of BBC Four’s Japan Season comes this new and fasinating 3-part series ‘Handmade in Japan’, a look at traditional Japanese crafts and craftspeople. The crafts explored are Mingei Pottery, The Kimono and Samurai Sword.
All episodes are now on BBC iPlayer for the next month.
Episode 1 – Samurai Sword
On the island of Kyushu in Japan, one of the country’s last remaining families of Samurai sword makers are continuing a tradition their ancestors began 230 years ago. Working with his brother and son, Shiro Kunimitsu is dedicated to perfecting the art of producing swords of exceptional sharpness and durability. This film follows Shiro and his family as they lovingly craft a sword – a process that takes many months. We discover the importance of the sword in the ancient Samurai code, its enduring spiritual and symbolic power, and the challenges facing the dwindling numbers of sword makers in Japan today.
Episode 2 – The Kimono
The second episode takes us to the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.
Episode 3 – Mingei Pottery
The final episode features one of Japan’s most famous family of potters – the Hamadas. Shoji Hamada was a major figure in the Mingei folk art movement of the 1920s and ’30s and helped turn the town of Mashiko into a major centre of ceramics, famous for its thick and rustic pottery. He also spent time in Britain where he taught renowned St Ives potter Bernard Leach the art of Japanese pottery.
Today, his grandson Tomoo Hamada continues the family tradition and this film follows him at work, painstakingly shaping his pots and firing them in an old-style wood-fuelled kiln. We also hear how Tomoo played a vital role in saving Mashiko as a pottery centre after many of its kilns were destroyed in the 2011 earthquake.
Information Source: BBC