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Handmade Heroes

Nagasaki Crafts|Hasami Pottery|Japanese Mascots

nagazasshi Volume 9 Issue 2 September/October 2016


Jessica Richard

Editor-in-chief Rosie Fordham


Sophie Midgley Will Tiley

Copy Editor Will Powell

Layout and Design Dylan Nordstrom

Public Relations Conor Hughes

Contributors Dan Cohen Rosie Fordham Conor Hughes Patrick Maguire Sophie Midgley Will Morgan Will Powell Jessica Richard Will Tiley Takeshi Uchiyama


Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson www.nagazasshi.com Cover photo: Okunchi Festival Takeshi Uchiyama


hile there’s plenty to love about the prefecture we call home, my favorite thing about Nagasaki is the residents’ local pride. This attitude is no better exemplified than in Nagasaki’s handmade goods and traditional arts. When you visit the shop of a local artisan, sample a local delicacy, or learn how to make a traditional craft, you’re not just getting a cool souvenir, but also a peek at the personality of the craftsperson and a unique insight into the spirit of the place you’re visiting. We’re featuring an eclectic set of arts and crafts this issue. First, learn about Hasami’s famous pottery through our piece on local artisans Mirjam and Kenichiro Watajima (p. 8). In “Handmade Heroes” of Nagasaki, you can take a peek at the famed knives forged in Matsubara (p. 11), the kominka of Oshima (p. 12), and the art of salt making on the Goto Islands (p. 13). Finally, for a different sort of hometown pride, check out our piece on Japanese mascot characters (p. 14), and learn how you can vote for your favorite in the Yuru-chara Grand Prix, Japan’s annual battle to determine the best local mascot! Happy fall, and happy reading!

Rosie Fordham Editor-in-Chief

Contents 8



Crafty Creations


Living the Legacy


DIY Souvenirs

Hasami Pottery

Handmade Heroes Matsubara Knives


Oshima Folk Houses


Goto’s Local Stop for Sweets


Japanese Mascots


Nihon(go) on the Go


The power of cute characters


Photo credits (clockwise from top): Adorable Designs Sophie Midgley; The Forge Will Tiley; Throwing Bowls NPTA


Events Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Sept 10 - 16, Chinatown, Nagasaki City Come join in the revelry of the Moon Festival! Lanterns come out, shops open, and parades, food and festivities abound. This tradition, brought over from China, is definitely worth participating in. 8 nagasaki-tabinet.com/event/51472 Doya Tanda Fire Festival Sept 18, Matsuura Some 3000 lanterns will be lit in the glowing sunset over Matsuura’s terraced rice fields. The event begins at 6:00pm and is sure to be very romantic. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/119 Huis Ten Bosch’s Fireworks Festival Sept 24, Huis Ten Bosch, Sasebo Come and marvel at the splendor of Kyushu’s largest fireworks display, with over 20,000 rockets to be launched in one glorious night. 8 goo.gl/V4utMy Nagasaki Okunchi Festival Oct 7 - 9, Nagasaki City Centered around Nagasaki City’s Suwa Shrine, the Okunchi festival showcases Nagasaki’s characteristic blending of Japanese, Chinese and Dutch cultural influences with folk-dancing, parades and dragon dances. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/111

Shimabara Castle Takigi Noh Oct 15, Shimabara Castle Square, Shimabara Takigi Noh is an ancient style of Japanese drama, traditionally performed at night by the light of a fire. This October, Shimabara City brings the tradition to Shimabara Castle Park. Players will perform fascinating tales from antiquity by firelight and starlight. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/112 Hasami Autumn Pottery Tour Oct 29 - 30, Hasami Take a look inside the workshops of Hasami potters while also enjoying food, music, and festival events. Various studios around this famed pottery town will be open to the public, with plenty of fantastic wares on display. Before you go, learn more about Hasami-yaki on p. 8. 8 hasami-kankou.jp/archives/722 Brewery Tours Sept & Oct, Arie, Minamishimabara The town of Arie in southern Shimabara has a long tradition of brewing sake, fermenting miso and manufacturing soba noodles. Throughout September and October, visitors are welcomed with tours and festivities associated with the various breweries and factories. The freshly made sake, soba and miso are delicious and definitely worth a try! 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/610

Event of the Month

Yosakoi Sasebo Festival Oct 21 - 23, throughout Sasebo Yosakoi is a lively festival of dance, and one of the largest of its kind in Kyushu. Troupes practice all year round and come from all over Japan to perform in Sasebo. Come by to watch, and try one of the famous Sasebo Burgers while you’re at it. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/113 photo Patrick Maguire

nagazasshi | September/October 2016


CC r a f t y r e a t i o n s

With the cool weather of autumn finally upon us, there’s no better time to branch out and discover new places to enjoy in Nagasaki Prefecture. And what better way to learn about a new place than to make a beautiful, traditional local craft? If you’ve a craving for crafts, then check out our suggestions!

Photo credits: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all photos are the property of Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association Background image: Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture

Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association (一社)長崎県観光連盟 8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com ENDLESS DISCOVERY

N AGASAKI official visitor guide

Handmake Hasami Get your hands dirty at Mt. Nakao’s Denshukan in Hasami, the heart of Nagasaki pottery. Expert potters help visitors mould clay to create their very own tableware. Short on time? Why not welcome the coming of autumn by decorating a pre-made dish with some maple leaves? Experiences start at 1500 yen for make-your-own creations and 800 yen for painting. If you fancy a longer stay, the workshop also has accommodations on site. Advance bookings essential. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/650 Make a stitch in time Try your hand at recreating the intricate designs of the Kunchi Festival’s floats and costumes. Workshops held at the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture teach “Nagasaki stitch,” the traditional embroidery technique originally introduced to Japan by China during national isolation. Bright colors are used to incorporate depth and stunning realism in each work. Classes run most Saturdays and Sundays. Inquire at the museum entrance for times. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/651 Create your own glassware Glassmaking has long been a popular industry in Nagasaki. Passed down from the Portuguese, over time locals mixed techniques learned from China, Czechoslovakia and Holland to create “Nagasaki Glass.” Although Nagasaki Glass is no longer massproduced, Rurian Glass Studios holds a variety of workshops that let you experience glassmaking for yourself: make your own blown-glass cup or vase, kaleidoscope, stained glass keychain, or glass pendant. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/652 Discover the beauty of a Geisha Known as the beauty secret of youthful Geisha, camellia, or tsubaki, oil is one of the Goto Islands’ most precious exports. The oil has been long recognized in Eastern Asia for its restorative and rejuvenating effect on skin, hair and nails. Chances to try the oil extraction process are rare, however the Tsubaki Taiken Workshop in ShinKamigoto offers experiences throughout the year. Crush and press the seeds, then watch as the oil oozes from the extractor to see how much you produced. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/653 Paint prestigious Mikawachi porcelain The porcelain produced in Mikawachi is recognizable for its vibrant cobalt designs over a white background, and has been considered some of Japan’s highest-quality porcelain since the 16th century. You can experience this exquisite craft for yourself. Practice your brush strokes to recreate one of Mikawachi’s iconic designs on a plate, mug or Japanese teacup, or create your own original design. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/654


Living the Legacy

Hasami Pottery

Sophie Midgley interviews designers and craftsmen Mirjam and Kenichiro Watajima


wanted to be a potter and to learn how to “throw” porcelain pots on the wheel, which this area is famous for. During my time in Arita I met my boss, who offered me a job at his company in Hasami… and I decided to stay!

hough originally from Germany and Kumamoto Prefecture respectively, Mirjam and Kenichiro Watajima are currently building a ceramics studio and workshop in the mountains of Hasami. Hasami, like the nearby ceramics town of Arita, has a history of ceramic production that it is still famous for to this day. I sat down with the Watajima’s to learn about their work.

KW: I also studied at Arita College of Ceramics, and at that time I was lucky enough to have a part time job in a studio here in Hasami. My boss wanted to give young people the rare opportunity to both learn the skills to make ceramics but also to use them… he wanted to encourage students to become Hasami craftsmen.

SM: How did you come to live in Hasami?

What is special about Hasami for you, and what made you want to move to Nagasaki prefecture?

MW: I came to study at the nearby Arita College of Ceramics as an exchange student while studying Ceramic Design in Germany. I wanted to come to Japan, and as my college is twinned with Arita College I was placed here! I always

KW: Hasami has a reputation for being trendy, and Hasami design is very popular with young people. There is a lot of freedom here, so craftsmen feel that they can do what they want. It’s


September/October 2016 | nagazasshi

very different from Kumamoto, or any of the other places that I’ve lived in Japan – Nagasaki culture has historically been influenced by lots of other countries, like China and Holland, which means that I don’t always understand or know about the customs here. MW: Everyone here is super welcoming, especially our bosses. The people are kind and gentle, and they are very accepting and always want to involve us in the community. It sounds like a very special place to live! Have you learned different techniques in Hasami? Can you tell me some more about Hasami ceramics and what is special about them? MW: Hasami-yaki is traditionally a cheaper, more affordable massproduced ceramic, unlike the higher quality porcelain made in Arita, which was mainly produced for rich families and even royalty. Hasami ceramics were made very quickly to fulfill large orders, and so in general the glazing and painting of older pots are more simplified than Aritayaki. KW: Hasami-yaki uses softer clay than Arita-yaki to make it easier to mass-produce quickly. In Hasami, each family-run company also deals with a different step in the process of making ceramics… It really is a whole town effort to produce Hasami-yaki! nagazasshi | September/October 2016


What interests you most about Japanese ceramics?

What would you recommend for visitors to do on a day out in Hasami?

MW: I like the handmade nature of Japanese ceramics, every piece is unique. The aesthetic is also special – the asymmetry of Japanese ceramics makes them more organic and beautiful because they are not perfect. Even the whiteness of porcelain is different here – it isn’t a perfect white, but has blues and grays in it as well.

MW: Come and visit us and our workshop! Next year we will open our studio, gallery and workshop space, and start running pottery classes. We want to encourage foreigners and Japanese people to learn together in English, and to have themed classes depending on the time of year and what visitors would like to make. There are two festivals in Hasami every year, in October and April, when all the studios are open and the town comes alive. You can also visit our boss’ studios. (links below) n 8 somefolk.wix.com/koushungama 8 toubou-ao.co.jp

KW: For me, the history of Hasami is important. Whenever I have an idea but I don’t know how to actually make it, there are so many examples here of people who have done it before me that I find it inspiring and encouraging – I know that if they could make it, so can I. photos Sophie Midgley


Mirjam and Kenichiro Watajima 〒859-3713 Hasami Nakaougou 983-2 * Mirjam.pots@me.com

September/October 2016 | nagazasshi

A sharp Business M a t s u b a r a

Will Tiley takes us on a tour of Matsubara’s famed knife forge


f there’s one handicraft that springs to mind when people mention Japan, it’s swords. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no longer a vast demand for samurai-grade katana. Nonetheless, the techniques used to craft them continue to be used—more innocuously—for making kitchen knives and garden tools. Nagasaki Prefecture is home to a couple of traditional forges, most notably in Matsubara, just north of Omura. Matsubara knives appear in kitchens and restaurants all over the prefecture, and are even making a name for themselves abroad thanks to their high quality, usability, and unparalleled sharpness. While the documented history of the forge dates the business to around 500 years old, it is thought that a forge has been located in Matsubara for approximately 800 years, founded when photos Will Tiley

K n i v e s

the Taira clan brought their expertise to the area. These days it is run by Tanakasan, who represents the 4th generation to inherit the Matsubara forge. Watching Tanaka-san at work is a marvel. He operates the mechanical hammer with surgical precision. Within minutes, a glowing lump of metal has been transformed into a clearly recognizable knife. Extensive grinding and sharpening then transforms it into the highly prized kitchen tool that has become famous around the prefecture. Considering their high quality, the knives are surprisingly affordable. Discounts and special offers are frequent, and it’s even possible to get personal inscriptions carved on the blade. So, if you’re a keen chef, looking for a souvenir, or perhaps in need of a suitably Japanese wedding present, it’s worth visiting Matsubara! n Matsubara Houchou Tanaka 〒856-0009 Omura Matsubara Honmachi 371 ( 957-55-8551

A Traditional Treasure O s h i m a

F o l k

Rosie Fordham takes us inside the historic houses of Oshima


ucked away on the small island of Oshima is a handmade treasure that few, even within Japan, are aware of. Oshima, about an hour’s ferry ride away from Hirado, is home to a large collection of kominka, Japanese folk houses, dating from the Edo Period (1603-1868). The Hirado Tourist Association offers tours of the houses twice a year, in the spring and fall. Though you can visit on your own, the tour is the only way to go inside and get a closer look. Wandering through the narrow streets of Oshima’s Konoura area is like traveling back in time. The homes are reconstructions of the originals, built Hirado Tourist Association 〒859-5121 Hirado Iwa no Ue Machi 1473 ( 0950-23-8600 8 hirado-net.com/english/

H o u s e s

when the area was a thriving fishing community. The houses are made of locally sourced wood, and the most recent of the reconstructions was built 71 years ago. Most of the homes are still in use. Examining these kominka provides unique insight into what life on Oshima was like several hundred years ago. For example, the houses have an innovative design where the entire front wall can be opened. This allowed for the easy delivery of goods back in a time when the homes were directly adjacent to rice fields. Entering, you’ll find a cool, earthy space with two stories—an upper loft for storing supplies, and a ground floor for eating, sleeping, and performing other daily activities around a central hearth. Though the number of kominka has declined in recent years, Oshima locals are proud of their heritage and of the houses that do so much to educate about life in another time. If taking a walk into the past appeals to you, pay a visit and keep the preservation effort alive. n

photos Jessica Richard (left) | Hirado Tourism Board (center, right)

Salty and sweet Goto’s loc al stop for treats

Conor Hughes introduces us to the wonders of the Goto Camellia Bussankan’s salty treats


ny good chef will tell you about the critical importance of salt. In cooking, common table salt is an important component that makes many of the chemical reactions in the cooking process possible. There is so much more to salt than simply making things “salty.” It’s a flavor enhancer, invigorating otherwise subtle flavors in any given dish. That said, you probably wouldn’t expect to find it in your ice cream. On Nagasaki’s own Goto Islands, one craft shop adds a peculiar twist to its homemade ice cream. Located just next to the popular Koujushi beach, workers at the Camellia Bussankan (or “Camellia Goods Hall”) boil seawater down over a massive open fire. This reduced “protosalt” slurry is used as an ingredient in their ice cream, bringing the flavors to life. Alternatively, it is used to make

various sweets and candies also for sale in the shop, or simply processed into high quality table salt. As well as an impressive array of salt based products, the Goto Camellia Bussankan also sells a range of high quality cosmetics produced from local aromatic camellia flowers. Though a humble shop, the Bussankan is often crowded in the summer months. With a gorgeous beach less than 100 meters from the storefront, the frozen delights of the ice cream manage to draw people in from all over the islands. The flavor also changes every week. At the time of writing, the flavor is mango. Come give it a try! n Goto Camellia Bussankan 〒853-0026 Goto-shi Hamacho 1255-1 ( 0959-73-5921 8 campanahotel.com/ gotobus_top/pg542.html photos Conor Hughes




ot Ma c s

Will Powell explores the appeal of Japanese mascot characters


o matter how long you spend in Japan, you’ll inevitably encounter yuru-chara, or mascots. These mascots represent towns, cities, businesses, and tourist attractions. You name it – it probably has a mascot. Aside from their popularity, mascots have also been fantastically lucrative, generating almost $16 billion dollars in merchandise sales in 2012 alone. The popularity of yuru-chara has exploded in the last decade. To capitalize on skyrocketing public interest, the Yuru-Chara Grand Prix was launched in 2011 to find Japan’s favorite mascot. The winner is announced each year in November, with notable previous winners including Kyushu local Kumamon (2011) and Gunma Prefecture’s Gunma-chan (2014).


In order to truly be considered a yuruchara, a mascot must exhibit certain characteristics: a strong message of love for their hometown, a unique set of movements, and a lovable vibe. These traits are what set yuru-chara apart from more professional and commercial Japanese mascots, like those of sports teams, or ultra-famous mascots like “Hello Kitty.” My personal favorite yuru-chara, only partly because of hometown loyalty, is Shimabara City’s newly created mascot, Shimabaran. Designed by Yo Kai Watch artist Noriyuki Konishi, the character resembles two drops of water, embodying the famed clean and abundant waters of Shimabara. With his stumbling gait and smiling face, he is also easy to love. I have certainly fallen under his spell and will be rooting for him to go all the way in this year’s Grand Prix. Nagasaki is represented by 22 adorable and unique mascots in this year’s Grand Prix, and voting is now open for Japan’s favorite mascot of 2016. Voting ends on October 22nd, so make sure you check out the amazing mascots from all over the prefecture and make Nagasaki proud! n 8 yurugp.jp/vote Image Credits: Shimabaran Shimabara City, Omuranchan Omura City, Hachamaru Hasami Town

Nihon(go) on the Go Fall is the most delicious season in Japan so make sure to keep an eye out for local delicacies. You can hardly mention a destination in Japan without someone telling you about its 特産品 (tokusanhin - local specialty). Nagasaki Prefecture has its own share of 県産品 (kensanpin - specialty products from the prefecture). In the スーパー (suupaa - supermarket) products may be labeled with the mark 産 (san - prefecture). So, if those mushrooms are labeled 長崎県産 (Nagasaki kensan), then they are locally grown. Some specialty products are so popular that they come prepackaged and ready for you to take back to your office and give out. They’re called お土産 (omiyage - souvenirs). It’s considered polite to bring omiyage whenever you arrive at a new place of work or return from a trip. The kanji for お土産 were specially chosen because you go to a 土地 (tochi - region) and bring back a 名産品 (meisanhin - famous product). A simple way of introducing your お土産 is to say:

______ のお土産です。どうぞ食べてください。 ______ no omiyage desu. Douzo tabete kudasai. Just insert your travel destination in the underlined space and the phrase becomes “This is a souvenir from _______, please enjoy eating it.” Bringing back お土産 is a great way to make friends in the office. If you don’t have the luggage space, お土産話 (omiyage banashi - a story from your trip) is usually a suitable substitute.

Dan Cohen & Will Morgan

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Nagazasshi 9.2  

As Autumn winds invite a cool change, there's no better time to don your favorite sweater and experience some local pride at a regional fest...

Nagazasshi 9.2  

As Autumn winds invite a cool change, there's no better time to don your favorite sweater and experience some local pride at a regional fest...