Artisans highlighting tradition
Artisans highlighting tradition >> Kageyama, Yasuteru
he diminutive dolls, a mere 5 centimeters tall, appear to be dancing. Some hold paper lanterns, some beat drums, and some play the shamisen. All look so lifelike that you expect them to suddenly begin to move. “I give them expressiveness by taking great care with details such as the degree of tilt of the heads and the amount of bend in the arms and legs,” says Kageyama Hiroki, holding the dolls in his hand as he explains. Kageyama is considered a craftsman of much promise.
Kageyama was a primary school pupil when he first encountered awa-odori bamboo dolls. Though just a boy, he was drawn to the detail and expressiveness of the bamboo dolls made by his next-door neighbor, a man named Fujisawa Tsunefumi. “I’d like to make dolls like these myself,” he thought. He began to help with the gathering and preparation of the bamboo when he was a junior high school student, but it was not until he was in senior high school that he was allowed to begin the actual work of doll-making.
Although he had planned to enter the family business after graduating from senior high school, he was unable to give up his dream of becoming a bamboo doll craftsman. It was thus that he became an apprentice to Saoka Tamotsu, an established doll-maker.
The dolls consist of heads, torsos, arms, and legs. Each part is crafted separately and then assembled to create the figure. Bamboo is a hard material, and working it is an intricate, detailed process. A slip of the hand or unnecessary force can result in too much being cut away or even injury to the craftsman. The operation during which errors occur most frequently is the bending of the arms, which is done using a soldering iron. “The arm won’t bend if you don’t press hard enough, but if you press too hard the soldering iron burns straight through,” says Kageyama. Every step of creating the finished product requires careful control over the amount of force applied.
After apprenticing with Saoka for a year and a half, Kageyama assumed the professional name “Taizan”. People thought this might be a bit premature, but it was based on the principle that a craftsman assumes responsibility for his work when it bears his name. Half a year later, Saoka died. Kageyama felt he still had much to learn, but he was forced to strike out on his own.
In 2003, Tokushima Prefecture designated six items as “traditional special products” in the hope of revitalizing industry in the region. One of the items designated was awa-odori bamboo dolls, and Kageyama was selected as an approved producer. Kageyama says he gets nervous whenever he receives a visit from a reporter gathering information for a story. Though he feels the weight of tradition on his shoulders, there is no one for him to rely on but himself. “Imbue each and every doll with your passion” was what Kageyama was told many times as an apprentice. He says he feels a strong sense of responsibility to carry on.
Kageyama Hiroki TEL: 0883-52-3737