Since earlier this year, Gucci Japan has been conducting an ongoing web series paying homage to various artisans across Japan, who carry on their time-honored tradition to this day. The iconic luxury brand, known for their own emphasis on craftsmanship, has thrived in the Japanese market.
All of their segments are worth a look, but this particular one, in which Shinto priest Shoetsu Kudo creates the annual New Year’s decoration, caught my eye. Kiriko, as they’re called, are decorations that are presented to the gods at the beginning of the year. Priests begin making them around March and by the end of the year, typically have made as many as 16,000! But last year, because if the devastating events of 3/11, only made about a 10th were made.
Each temple has a unique design and the stencils used to make intricate cuts are some of the priest’s most prized possessions. But when the tsunami came, Kudo evacuated his home for high ground, leaving his stencils on a desk. The waves enveloped his home. In fact, they rose to the entrance of the temple, which sits atop a high hill. “I was sure the stencil had been lost,” Kudo says. “But when I returned to my home 2 days later I was surprised to find the stencil right where I left it. It wasn’t even wet. The desk must have floated gently to the ceiling.”
The stencil’s survival was an important reminder of the significance of a craft being passed down from generation to generation.
(thanks for the tip @sheishine)