This past spring, Yuzuriha commemorated the twenty-second anniversary of its launch as a means
of calling people’s attention to the wonderful world of the handicrafts of northern Japan. For me,
each one of the beautiful objects in the Yuzuriha Gallery and Shop seems to have a face that closely
resembles that of the artisan who brought it to life.
The opportunity to meet these master artisans over the years has made the often long and arduous
journeys to their studios very enjoyable experiences. Meeting them face to face, seeing how they live,
being enraptured by the love and care they pour into their work, and learning about not only their
craft but also how they relate to natural world around them have never failed to move me. This was
especially true when conversations turned to the subject of how one should live one’s life; I was
often overcome by a fervent desire to share their works with a broader audience.
While the role of Yuzuriha has been to act as a bridge between the creator and user (customer), I
have never felt completely confident about the “best way” to perform such a role. On the one hand,
artisans cannot be expected to cater to each and every one of my requests, and on the other, I have
sometimes been unable to fully convey my enthusiasm for the exhibited items to customers. I have
sometimes been led to tears over projects that did not go smoothly. But such hardships are only to
be expected in any human relationship. Eventually?I can now look back and say?they gave way
to the joy of helping bring happiness to both the creator and user and of being some use to society.
Nurtured in the unforgiving climate of northern Japan, these handicrafts have provided moral
support for me through the years, as they are the products of human ingenuity and expressions of
the indomitable will to live in the face of adverse conditions.
Each handmade product embodies not only the skills and ingenuity of the artisan but also his or her
soul. I cannot help but feel that each is deeply and generously imbued with the timeless and
unchanging dignity of the human spirit.
Many sadly remark that handicrafts will survive in Japan for only another 5 to 10 years. I am
reminded of an artisan who noted that an even greater joy than creating a beautifully polished
product is producing one that people will actually use. Unless these products continue to play a
useful role in people’s lives, there will no point in making them. Among the generally aging
population of artisans are some younger people who have hurled themselves into this fast-vanishing
world of handicrafts.
For my part, I would be delighted if I can contribute what little I can to keeping this important
industry and its refined cultural ethic of northern Japan and other parts of the country alive for
many more years to come.
Craft Shop Yuzuriha 2010