In this section, I plan to turn the spotlight on various kinds of Japanese craftsmen, visit them at work and put interviews and photographs.
So first, the basics:
we call these people SHOKUNIN, and the term describes people who have obtained and developed outstanding skills, and using those skills create a variety of goods with their hands.
Before the industrial revolution, these SHOKUNIN were the center of manufacturing business.
They made everything necessary for people's daily lives.
Today, because most if not all of the daily goods are mass-produced in factories, not many SHOKUNIN can be seen in the normal townscape. However, there are still a lot of SHOKUNIN around mostly in the traditional crafts field, carpentry and gardening businesses.
The skills they have are called SHOKUNINGEI - literally the art of shokunin - and there is also the term SHOKUNIN-KATAGI. SHOKUNIN-KATAGI is a kind of a personality of a person who is confident with his skills and who strictly sticks to his professionalality without making any compromise due to time and money restriction. It also describes a person who accomplishes a jobe he has taken regardless the profits.
In Japan, there is a long-lasting tradition of valuing these SHOKUNIN, and many of the prominent figures in the SHOKUNIN world have been confermented in numerous occasions and are designated as Human Nationa Treasures.
Sadly, however, it is said that the number of SHOKUNIN has dropped from about high economic growth.
The high economic growth was the opening of mass-production and mass-consumption. The quantity of goods was given more priority than quality, thus the era was a very hard time for SHOKUNIN who were rather inefficient in time and cost performance.
In this way the number of SHOKUNIN has shrunk today, but their high skills are treasured just like they were in the good old days. The skills which are even considered as art have grasped hearts of many many people.
Despite outsiders look at them as artists, most if not all of them actually call themselves artists.
The skills of the masters (takumi-no-waza) prove effective only after it is used practically, not treated fancily. Their stubborness is another factor that contributes to the respect they gather.
I am sure Japan is only one of the many cultures which is proud of such masters. The reason I decided to feature the meisters of Japan is because the skills are slowly being lost. There are people who gather up straw and turn it into a good broom. There are people who roast strips of bamboo over the fire and make them into a fan. Here I would like to show you those kind of Japaneseness in a series.
Look forward to the superhuman skills of the tradition.