Nambu Tekki Ironware – Kamasada Iron Casting Studio, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture (Part 2 of 2)
Read Part 1 of this article here ⇒ https://manabi-japan.jp/en/great-master/20180606_3178/
A tradition that retains its lustre throughout the years
Japan’s northern Tōhoku region was not unaffected by the Second World War, and the Kamasada premises were completely demolished. The home and premises that stand today were rebuilt by Shōtarō over a nine-year period after the war, so that they now appear just as his father left them.
Shōtarō passed away at the age of 55 and was succeeded by his son, third generation Nobuho Miya, born in 1952.
Nobuho was only sixteen when his father died, and did not join the family business immediately. Like his father before him, he struck out in search of his own path, studying design at Kanazawa College of Art and later attending graduate school at Tokyo University of the Arts. Nobuho also made a name for himself overseas. He studied design in Finland and exhibited his work in several countries, winning many prizes.
Now, as a skilled Nambu Tekki craftsman, he has achieved worldwide renown.
Iron as a medium of artistic expression.
In a workshop that appears just as it did in his grandfather’s time, Nobuho hones his craft. Layers of clay, sand and charcoal worked into the earthen floor speak of the generations who have worked here. All around are rows and stacks of moulds, with the sound of the furnace a constant presence.
All three generations heading the Kamasada foundry have been artists in their own right, with iron as their preferred medium.
The craftsmen as Kamasada continue to explore and experiment with their medium of molten iron, just as they did in times past. How best to express the inherent qualities of the iron; how to bring out its weight and its subdued dignity?
These qualities are what is drawing everyone back to the use of chagama and tetsubin, iron tea kettles and pots.
Moving with the times, Nobuho has installed a high frequency induction furnace. However, for his own projects he uses an old-fashioned clay furnace dubbed ‘the rice cooker’. He also uses wazuku or Japanese pig iron, created through the centuries-old process of making tama-hagane (‘jewel steel’), essential for Japanese sword-making.
Wazuku is difficult to work with, but it has a unique texture and a lovely reddish-brown hue.
Third-generation iron craftsman Nobuho Miya’s mission has been to pursue new forms using traditional techniques and experimentation. It is through experimentation at Kamasada that new techniques and knowledge are born – after all, as Nobuho says, “If you don’t try, you’ll never know”.
The ironware at Kamasada Iron Casting Studio tells the story of the love of the craftsmen who create these elegant forms, spurred on by a constant sense of challenge.
Kamasada Iron Casting Studio
2-5 Konya-chō, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture
Access: Kamasada Iron Casting Studio is approximately 2.2 kilometres from Morioka Station, or around 12 minutes by car/taxi. Alternatively, take the Funakoshi Ekimae bus from Morioka Station and get off at the municipal offices, Kencho Shiyakusho-mae. From here it’s a five-minute walk to Kamasada.
Yonematsu Shiono was born in 1947 in Akita Prefecture. He graduated with a degree in applied chemistry from Tokyo University of Science. He travels Japan collecting oral histories from outdoor workers and craftspeople. He is a prolific literary author and has been nominated four times for the Akutagawa Prize. He also writes children’s picture books, and won the Japan Picture Book Award for <em>Natsu no Ike. </em>He was in charge of the structure of the 2009 film, <em>Knut. </em>One of his current projects is recording and compiling oral histories relating to disappearing traditional culture and crafts.
Judy Evans is a high school teacher of English and Japanese, and a Japanese-English translator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Art History and has studied production horticulture and landscape design. Judy has a keen interest in the internet environment and has administered websites for a number of organisations. She lives on a small farm in rural New Zealand and is a frequent visitor to Japan.