Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WayStation: Follow Up

In a post (<-- link) from a couple of years back, I described my quasi-apprenticeship with Watanabe Korehira, a swordsmith living in Hokkaidō, Japan. I recently came across a film clip of Watanabe-tosho, and thought I would share it with readers here. It gives you a good sense of the man and his dedication to his art:


Handmade Portraits: The Sword Maker from Etsy on Vimeo.

I'm glad to see that he seems to have found an apprentice, perhaps one of the 'one or two' on the entire island that Watanabe-tosho thought might possibly have what it takes to be an apprentice. I'm glad for him! It was moving for me to see him again in the film and hear his voice. I well remember my time there. Sometimes I wonder, just for a moment, how my life would be if I had decided to apprentice with Watanabe-san. Forks in the road....

3 comments:

  1. Hi Chris,

    I remember your original account of "the apprenticeship". Not surprising that Watanabe-san would be a difficult master to follow (in an already difficult field of study).

    You may have heard of Pierre Nadeau (www.soulsmithing.com), another Canadian whom I've followed (lived through vicariously to some degree) via blog/website and email who has shed light on the difficult craft/artistry of the Japanese swordsmith.

    Anyway, as always, enjoying your blog immensely.

    Steve

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  2. Chris

    Thanks for sharing that video.

    You can wonder, but I'm sure the steel in your michi is plane iron and chisel, not sword.

    Tom

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  3. Steve,

    glad you continue to enjoy the blog, and thanks for the link. I hadn't heard of Pierre Nadeau before, however I think he's doing something fine there and wish him all the best. I see he solved the problem of surviving financially as an apprentice by marrying a Japanese woman! Unless an apprentice can live in house with the master, it is very hard for a soto deshi (an apprentice who lives elsewhere in town) to make the economics of apprenticeship work. I had the same tough choice when offered an apprenticeship with an Osaka-based temple carpentry company - just 6 months in that city and my savings would have been wiped out, so it just wasn't very doable from that angle.

    Tom,

    nice to hear from you and thanks for your vote of confidence. One has to consider, when looking at taking up certain Japanese craft arts, in terms of formal apprenticeship, whether that basically means you will only be able to survive doing such a craft in Japan. How does a swordsmith make a living in North America? Perhaps they become a maker of knives? I met a fellow in B.C. once who was traveling with a group of Japanese tourists - I engaged him in conversation and learned that he had lived in Japan for 8 years and was now skilled at a silk artisan. and he was thinking of making a return to North America. I told him it would be highly unlikely that he could make a living producing fine craft clothing in silk over here. I could see that unless he wanted to change what he did or abandon the craft altogether, he was stuck in Japan, where there remains, as with handmade calligraphy brushes, fine pottery, etc., some remnant of a domestic market that will support such artisans.

    ~C

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