Banshu Miki Forged Blades
The power of the real thing, not lost in the flow of time
The history of Miki forged blades goes back 200 years. We asked Kazuki Takahashi, a chisel maker of 55 years experience, the secret of their craft's continued success.
Goods changing with the times
Surprisingly, Mr Takahashi says, "We used to make chisels just for geta footwear." When one thinks of chisels, one usually thinks of those for architectural construction, but this time it's chisels used to remove the wood between the raised sections of geta. Also, at one time there was a boom in making Hokkaido bear statues, so there was trend toward chisels for sculpting wood, but now there is no demand for those. Instead, he has started making chisels for the carving of wooden Buddhist statuary and ornamental transoms. "This is a good thing," Mr Takahashi says with a smile. Now orders come in from famous sculptors. For example, orders have continued for 15 or 16 years from the famous ornamental transom carvers of Inami-cho in Toyama Prefecture. "When a true craftsman appreciates the quality of my chisels, I'm really happy," he says.
Mr Kazumi Takahashi
It's only natural to be particular
Mr Takahashi's chisels are made by hand one at a time. They are, of course, all unique. The orders of craftsmen making Buddhist statuary are very precise, and among them are those who send measured drawings with their written orders. When asked if it wasn't laborious, making them one by one, he replied forcefully. "Doing it that way is only natural. I've been able to continue this long because I'm particular with my work. I'd like to become even more particular." Mr Takahashi has fans all over the country who will have no chisels but his, and there is no doubt their requests will continue to come in.
A craftsman totally absorbed in his work
His son and successor makes a web site
The paucity of successors is a headache for the traditional craftsman. Mr Takahashi, however, has an excellent heir. At first, however, he had given up hope. His son, Mr Norikazu Takahashi, spent six years as a white-collar worker for a regular company before quitting and becoming his father's successor. When we inquired what his incentive had been, he said, "At New Year's I'd get my fortune read, and one said 'following in the family business would be good' so I started with a rather simple feeling. I took it lightly, thinking it would be easy, but for the first three years, I couldn't do a single thing. Gradually from the fourth year I started to be able to produce a little, and it became interesting.
"I'm still learning, but I've also created a web site," he says, his eyes shining. "I want to pass on what I know of the greatness of our traditional craft while I'm learning." On the one hand, a strict master and student; on the other, a father and son with a good relationship: it warms the heart.
Norikazu Takahashi, his son
Chisels as traditional crafts
The unusually-shaped chisel for geta carving
Kazumi Takahashi (third generation)
Born 1931. A chiselmaker for 55 years. Recognized as a master craftsman in 1998. While maintaining a mild expression he gives his undivided attention to detail in making high quality products.