Spirit of Wood
Spirit of Metal
Traditional Artisans in Heisei Japan
Takayama City is located in Gifu Prefecture、around the very center of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. The Takayama Festival is regarded as one of the three most beautiful festivals in all of Japan. During the festival, lavishly decorated festival floats are pushed and pulled in procession through the town streets. The twenty-three traditional floats were all crafted during the years of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600-1868). These historic floats are still repaired and maintained by the artisans of the Festival Float Association, but no new floats had been built since 1868.
Kinta Nakada, a Takayama entrepreneur and President of Hida Garden Stone, feared that the traditional culture of the artisans would disappear. He also knew that the artisans wanted very much to build a new float from scratch, and decided to personally fund the project. Eight new floats were crafted, the most spectacular of which was the ‘Kintokidai’. Kinda’s vision called for creation of a float that was both traditional in construction but at the same time somehow fresh and new. To realize this dream he called on a team of Japan’s most skilled and experienced traditional artisans, not only from Takayama, but from all over the country. The team was led by architect and project coordinator Akio Nakada and master carpenter Akira Hachino, and included Japan’s top traditional carpenters, wood-carvers, engravers, metal-workers, blacksmiths, lacquerers, and karakuri-ningyo mechanical doll carvers.
Step by step, and piece by piece, this documentary follows the construction of the ‘Kintokidai` festival float. Mixed in with images of Takayama’s beautiful natural and cultural landscapes, we see traditional artisans at work with their beloved tools. We hear them talk about the demanding nature of their tasks, and the pressure to excel, but also about the pride and confidence they have in their skills, and the satisfaction they get from a job well done. We also see young apprentices struggling to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and mentors: an auspicious sign for the future.
The Takayama festival floats, as well as the traditional skill and spirit of the artisans that craft them, are part of a great cultural heritage that easily transcends the boundaries of Japan, and touches the hearts of people the world over.
Writers:Akiko Kamasawa・Ｈiroaki Inui
English Narration and Subtitles:Dr. Kevin Short
Translation Assistant:Robyn Dranfield
English Narration performed by Robert Belgrade