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From Value One, Autumn 2004, No. 06  

Morioka City is located in Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan. This area used to produce large amounts of the raw material used for iron casting. In 1633, during the Edo era, Lord Shigenao Nambu called for Nui Suzuki, an iron caster from what is now Yamanashi Prefecture, and Nizaemon Koizumi, an iron pot artisan from Kyoto, to help develop the iron casting industry. In the 1750s, Nizaemon Koizumi, the third-generation descendant of the original Nizaemon Koizumi, invented an iron kettle shaped somewhat like a teapot with a pouring spout and a handle, to be used in the tea ceremony, a cultural ritual based around the serving of tea. This marked the birth of Nambu ironware. Over the next 250 years, the traditional techniques for manufacturing Nambu ironware were passed down the generations in the area.

The current Nizaemon Koizumi, the 10th-generation descendant of the original Nizaemon Koizumi, explains that "Nambu ironware is characterized by the pattern and shade (texture) of the iron kettle." The creation of one piece of Nambu ironware takes more than two months and involves 50 different processes. The most important processes are pattern pressing, known as monyo oshi, and a texture processing called hada tsuke. Pattern pressing consists of engraving the pattern to be created on the surface of the iron kettle in a mold.

An artisan carefully finishing the surface of a mold, an important step that determines the texture of Nambu ironware.


The hailstone pattern called arare monyo, in which rounded projections, a typical Nambu ironware design, rise to the surface, is created by being pressed on the inside of the mold using an implement called arare bo (hail stick) made of brass. Texture making is done by casting the inside of the cast with sand, through which the fine sand grains impart a rough texture on the surface of the iron kettle. In this way, the artisan imbues the inert kettle with his own personal " warmth."
 

The artisan will complete the piece by coloring its surface either with lacquer or tooth dye after this.


[Ryoundo Morihisa Iron Studio]
http://www.suzukimorihisa.com/
1-6-7 Minami-Odori, Morioka City, Iwate
Tel: +81-19-622-3809

[Iwachu Tekkikan]
http://www.iwachu.co.jp/

2-23-9 Minami-Senboku, Morioka City, Iwate
Tel: +81-19-635-2505
Open year-round. Free admission.
Approx. 5 km from Morioka Station, 15 minutes by car


Morioka City has a large number of Nambu ironware ateliers. The atelier of Morihisa Suzuki, the 15th-generation descendant of Nui Suzuki, is one of them. The 13th-generation Morihisa Suzuki was designated as an intangible cultural treasure in 1974. A number of masterpieces that attest to his consummate craftsmanship are on display and also available for purchase. Anyone who wants to watch a demonstration of Nambu ironware production should go to the Iwachu Tekkikan (Iwachu Ironware Museum) of Iwachu Casting Works. Visitors can also taste wanko soba, a noodle dish, at the restaurant in the theme park-type factory.

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