Asahikawa day 3 – part 3

February 24th, 2011

Well it’s the end of our 3 part epic day 3 Asahikawa post (there is still one more day!). Looking back at the past 2 posts, I can’t believe what a day we had and the rest of the night would keep the bar just as high. After visiting Professor Oda’s residence we drove back to Asahikawa to visit “Brown Box“, a craft store that specializes in products made by craftspeople from Asahikawa. Some of the products we recognized from earlier in the trip, but most were knew to us and a pleasure to discover.

When we arrived at the shop the owner Mr. Tokunaga served us some delicious hot chocolate in “Cara cups”, a linden wood cup designed by Rina Ono and made by Hidetoshi Takahashi (we sell them in the shop).

A collection of designs by Oji Masanori and Rina Ono.

Juli fell in love with this little guy.

A little kee-kee, I wish Isha could hang out with us in our shop.

The last workshop of the day was one we were really looking forward to – Takahashi Kougei.

Takahashi Hidetoshi has been a part of our entourage, but we never really got a chance to speak in depth about his work until we visited the studio.

This studio is where Takahashi san produces wooden tableware, including the Kami and Cara series. I should step back a bit and give you a bit of history… Takahashi Kougei is another family run operation, his father is a master craftsmen still producing his own wooden tableware in the workshop. Takahashi Hidetoshi decided that if he would continue in the family business he would need to modernize wooden tableware and bring the tactile experience of wood to a younger generation.

The first piece he produced himself was the Kami cup.

Although the stand alone piece was very impressive, it just wasn’t selling well. It wasn’t until the collaboration with Oji Masanori and the expansion of the collection that the pieces started to sell.

When I asked Oji san about their relationship he replied that when he visits Takahashi Kougei, he feels as if he has been there all of his life. He instinctively knows where everything is, if Takahashi san asks him to find him a tool Oji can somehow can find it instantaneously.

When we arrived Takahashi san was just finishing a Kami cup. He uses a wheel and chisel to finish the cup to a 2mm thickness.

All of that saw dust is poured into this wood burning stove, and in the summer Takahashi san tells me he delivers the saw dust to a local onsen where they burn the saw dust to heat the water.

The calender on the left seems to make an appearance in every workshop we’ve visited.

An assortment of tools.

The drying process is very regimented.

The rough lumber is purchase and left to dry outside for between 6 – 12 months, depending on what season the wood is purchased.

The rough lumber is then cut and made into these cylinder blocks and then left to dry again up in the rafters.

The solid cylinders are hollowed and then a perfected combination of kiln drying and microwaving ensure the wood will never warp.

A collection of jigs for various wooden vessels.

I asked if it was possible to see if I could see a step by step process on how the Kami cup is made.

He graciously allowed us to film the process, we’re really excited to give you a first hand view of how each cup is made. You can see how painstaking it is being one man making each cup one by one.

I asked him how long the entire process takes from that first piece of milled rough lumber. He said it takes roughly 4 weeks.

This a visual of each step from rough lumber to hand sanded finished product. You might notice there is one step missing from the video, the step is an industry secret and Takahashi san asked us not to share it. Although he did let us witness his ingenious method.

After all of the wooden cups are fully milled and dried, they are taken upstairs where a coating of food safe water mat polyurethane is applied.

They are given time to simply air dry, each coat is followed by hand sanding. Many coats are applied to ensure the cups won’t stain with continue use. I’ve had my Kami mug for over a year and drink coffee from it multiple times a day and it still looks brand new.

Rags for applying the finish.

The pieces are then boxed and shipped to select retailers.

Thank you so much for letting us share with our customers the process of the Kami cup!

After spending a good amount of time at the workshop, Takahashi san grabbed his coat and all of us drove into town for some BBQ. We walked down an anonymous street, following distant lights.

I couldn’t tell you what the restaurant was called or where it was located. It was definitely a local haunt and we could hear the loud chatting of happy eaters from outside.

It was the type of intimidating place that we might have peeked our head in and walked out of. The place was filled with smoke, a wall of it, but in this case it wasn’t cigarette smoke, it was BBQ!

The first floor was roaring so I didn’t think we could get a seat. The waitress took us upstairs to another room where a big table was waiting for us, we took our shoes off and entered the eating area.

We really love sitting in the floor. I wish it was common in Canadian homes.

The waiter dropped two huge charcoal pots  in front of us.

And a bunch of beers.

We let the experts order for us.

Pork and chicken hearts? Yes please!

It only took a moment for a slew of different meats and veggies to arrive at the table, our favorite was definitely the marbled beef.

Huge raw beams and lanterns hung in the ceiling amongst a ridiculous amount of smoke. Our eyes were watering after 20 minutes and everything I was wearing that night smelt like smoke and then later made everything in my suitcase smell like smoke. (It secretly smelt delicious).

Every night we had to try some more challenging foods, this fat and cartilage filled pork foot was tonight’s special dish. I sprinkled some special spices and salt on it and put it on the grill.

Here goes nothing! In between the bits of cartilage the meat was really delicious, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat all of it or not, I think I probably ate more fat and cartilage than I should have,

What an intense day, it was really unforgettable.

We seem to have a collection of snowman photos now.

Tomorrow is our last day in Asahikawa, better get a good nights rest!

Filed under: Travel | 12 comments

12 Responses to 'Asahikawa day 3 – part 3'

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  1. I’m so impressed with your Asahikawa report, it looks like an amazing place. Thanks for sharing all this!


    tim

    25 Feb 11 at 3:11 am

  2. I’ve probably commented on every post about your recent trip, but just wanted to thank you for sharing once again. -I’m really missing Japan now. Are you having withdrawal or super happy to be home?


    Nikko Moy

    25 Feb 11 at 7:45 am

  3. Nikko – We’re really happy to be back, whenever we come back from a 2 week trip we always say “We’re never leaving for that long ever again!” and whenever we plan a trip we say “2 weeks isn’t enough!” We’re really missing the food, tonight we’re trying to find an authentic Ramen place in the city.


    John & Juli

    25 Feb 11 at 11:49 am

  4. So incredible. I’ll have to come back later and watch the video, but I know already that this just makes me want a Kami cup even more. It means so much to me to be able to visualize who is making these designs and understand their process. Thank you for sharing!


    Jane Flanagan

    25 Feb 11 at 9:43 am

  5. Hi there! I’m so inspired by your work, shop and everything you both share with us! I never had this fascination about Japan, I thought to short, that only was about zakka, manga and tadao ando. But the design and craftmanship that you show is simply amazing!
    I ask you for permission for using some of your foto’s with proper credits at my blog where I want to talk about you, your shop and of course this trip if I’m aloud!
    Hope to hear from you soon! Alle best!
    Sonia van der Zwaan


    sonia

    25 Feb 11 at 11:24 am

  6. Sonia,

    Thank you so much for your nice comment! Please feel free to use any photos on the blog.


    John & Juli

    25 Feb 11 at 11:46 am

  7. Wow. This is amazing. I really love the process and workshop photos. Thanks for sharing all of this!


    Dylan

    25 Feb 11 at 11:34 am

  8. It looked like you guys had such a good time! My fiance & I will be going to Japan next week mostly in Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka area…would you have any good recommendations on artisan/design studios or shops we can visit?? We’re getting especially excited about our trip after reading what you both been doing & experiencing in Japan!
    We’ll be there for 3 weeks!! Which is the longest trip we’ll be taking in a LONG time!! I’m totally stoked!


    Jean

    26 Feb 11 at 4:15 am

  9. oh boy… I can’t wait for the amazing food there!

    Ladies & Gentlemen


    Jean

    26 Feb 11 at 4:17 am

  10. That little creature in the box is adorable! Will you be carrying it in you store ?


    Tara

    26 Feb 11 at 10:03 am

  11. Tara – not sure if we’ll be selling it. It’s funny because I didn’t even buy it! Matsuo-san did though (and I was a bit jealous, haha). I bought something else which we’ll share…eventually!


    Juli

    26 Feb 11 at 12:40 pm

  12. What a great experience for you to see someone work with such passion. The work is amazing and done with such skill. Thanks for sharing this with us.


    Landon

    23 Mar 11 at 12:42 pm

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