Friday, 16 October 2015

Charcoal Maker and Silk farmer



In the mountain villages just outside Tokyo on the west side, the villagers made their living as silk farmers from May until October and charcoal makers from November to April.

There are no mulberry leaves for the silkworms in the winter and the trees stop drinking water in the in the winter so the quality of the charcoal is better.

There are hundreds of old stone charcoal kilns in the mountains around my place. As the old guys move on to the next world the last few in operation are abandoned. Walking by them on daily dog walks I can remember the smoke and the persimmon trees heavily laden with fruit around them.

Hiro asked me to pick up some charcoal for his Brazilian BBQ night a few days back. Instead of the crappy stuff from the local supermarket I drove out with my workshop members past an old active kiln to visit a local potter and glass maker. I noticed old man Takasaki's truck in front of his kilns.

He was the last major silk farmer in our town who quit 13 years ago. (He is in his mid-90s now) He had a huge barn with mostly mechanized rotating trays.  Many years ago I would help him out with cocooning. I haven't seen him since. He was really happy to hear that I was still farming silk on the other side of town. He let out a good sized roar of laughter when I showed him the tattoo on my forearm of an old traditional bamboo silk farming tray.

His charcoal is amazing. (I guess it should be with about 90 years of experience!) Hiro's BBQ was delicious. It was the good-bye dinner for the members of the autumn ten-day workshop. Thank you Anne, Maureen, Emma, Renee, Tobie, Jaime and Kate. Many smiles and much laughter. You made my life richer.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.




9 comments:

  1. sad to see the old crafts/traditions dying out - too labor intensive for many without the financial gain. Hard work when you are 90.

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  2. Oh I wish. I am certain you made their lives richer too. My first 10 day workshop with you certainly made my life richer and I well remember Hiro's bbq - the steak was amazing.😍. The old traditons and skills are definitely worth saving, even if hard work.

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  3. i agre with jean, but i see a glimmer of hope here (in my old fashioned home). at our tech center they've resurrected the ffa (future farmers of america) and my hope is that not only will they teach factory farming (which has moved in here) but they will teach the older skills. writing this, i already know that it will be the former. sigh.

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  4. lovely story Bryan. I'm remembering the old book you showed us of traditional practices in Fujino!

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  5. and I miss it with that blue blue blue, have to coming back :-)

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  6. Enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for the beautiful story. :)

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  7. In my country silk farming also reducing due to industrial modernization.

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  8. What a joy to me your post is! I visited Japan on a Textile Tour in November and am really wanting to return one day - one of your workshops would be a dream! I'll keep reading your blog to help to fill the void til I can return!
    https://daffodilwild.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/japan-d2-8-boro/

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  9. Hi Mr Bryan. You don't really write these days... I really miss your writing. I've been reading and learning a lot of things from you, started my 'shibori activities' from this corner of the world: Kelantan (Peninsula Malaysia) Have you ever heard that Kelantan is famous with silk painting, we call it hand drawn batik. My wish is to visit your place one day and learn more about indigo.

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