|photo: colocal.jp Johoji-urushi|
The other day, I joined a talk session on Japanese traditional crafts at Midtown in Roppongi. Hidetoshi Nakata, a former football player and Jun Nakagawa, CEO of Nakagawa Masashiti shoten in Nara pref. talked about their endeavors to promote Japanese traditional crafts. It was very interesting and thought provoking for me.
Nakata, known as a “traveler,” said he had just finished his trip visiting artisans, sake breweries and other local traditional craft centers in all 47 prefectural regions in Japan. I have been wondering why a former world-class football player got interested in Japanese crafts. I couldn't wrap my head around it. However, my uneasy feelings finally cleared up when I heard his explanation.
Nakata said that he realized he didn’t know anything about Japan at all when he was asked about Japan, as he worked outside of the country. All the more reason, he wanted to know every inch of Japan and started visiting manufacturing people after he quite playing football. I think it’s his honest feelings and I also sometimes feel the same way. It’s a shame we really don’t know about our country.
Nakagawa is the 13th generation of a traditional company with 300 years of history. Born in a family of linen fabric makers, he considered the future of Japanese crafts, which seemed to be disappearing due to the lack of successors and the change of people’s lifestyles. Now, he has been enthusiastic about revitalizing traditional crafts. And his company is growing enough to have a flag shop in Aoyoma, Tokyo.
The chemistry of these two people was very interesting. Though their standpoints are different, there are some similarities between them. What impressed me most is their claim that Japanese traditional products wouldn’t be sold overseas unless customers understand the cultural background, or how the products have been used in traditionally in Japanese.
For example, Japanese wooden products and urushi lacquer products are beautiful but it’s a bit difficult to maintain their good conditions if people leave them in low ambient humidity, as in Europe.
If we want to expand the traditional crafts market worldwide, we should export the history of the products as well so that the prospective consumers would keep using them as long as possible. Otherwise, Japanese crafts would be recognized just a souvenirs.
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