This morning started with an email from one of the organisers, Shinsaku Tada asking me to be MC at the opening ceremony for the conference. I agreed to this since they had sent me the information to present. Firstly I had to introduce Mr. Koichi Hirosawa who was going to give the Opening Address. He is a Takadai Master craftsman in Iga and is the president of the Kumihimo Society as well as the head of Iga-Ueno Tourist Association. He was giving his talk in Japanese so we had an English interpretation as he spoke. He was very eloquent and welcomed us all to Iga and to the conference.
Then I had to introduce Mr. Sakae Okamoto, the Mayor of Iga who gave a short speech in English welcoming everyone to Iga and also telling us that the festival at the end of the week was a Unesco National Heritage and he hoped we would be staying to enjoy it.
I had a load of notices to give, each one followed by a translation into Japanese. I said two sentences in English and it took 5 minutes to do the Japanese explanation. I then introduced our Keynote Speaker, Jennie Parry who is the President of the Braid Society.
Once all the speeches were out of the way, we all went to our workshops for the day. I was working on a technique to make a flower.
While we were waiting to go in, we had a wonderful view of the Castle.
Lunch was a Ninja bento box! It was rice with lots of bits on the top like mushrooms, pumpkin, lotus root, fish, egg and other stuff. It was ok and pretty filling.
We then had workshops for the afternoon at the end of which, I went to visit Mr Hirosawa’s studio where he showed us how he makes the silk warps that uses for his braids. It was really interesting and for those that are not interested, you can stop reading now because I have put in lots of details so I don’t forget!
It started with Mr Hirosawa sitting in his studio with an array of silk behind him. He has 8 cones of fine silk that he is going to use to put onto a large reel. He takes the 8 strands and they go over a large bamboo cane above his head and then onto the reel that is on his right.
He starts winding and turns the handle 250 times. He has a counter to help him make sure he gets the number exact. This measures the warp to be the length he wants.
He removes the reel off the spindle and puts it on the ground so that he can now wind the strands of 8 threads with another 8 threads to make bundles of 16 threads.
This is wound onto a smaller bobbin that he has weighed to get the exact weight of the bobbin.
Once wound, he weighs the bobbin and silk to get the weight of silk and then calculates (on an abacus) how many more strands he needs. He worked out that he needed 25 strands ie another 8 and then 1 more so he wound 8 more from the cones and then a further 1 strand was wound with the 24 existing strands in the bundle being wound onto the bobbin.
There was not quite enough silk on the last cone so he knotted in an extra strand to complete the length.
Having produced a length and bundle of 25 strands of silk, then then proceeded to make them into ropes. Each bundle of 25 is twisted slightly and then twisted with 3 others to make a ‘rope’. This makes the silk stable enough to be stored and easily separated when it is going to be used.
To twist the ropes, he takes the bobbin and hooks the silks onto bobbins at the far end of the walkway where he is working.
In the picture he has created lots of rope bundles and is pulling the silk back to the beginning having made 8 more.
He then attached them to hooks on the large wheel structure and checked the tension. Once all the strands had the same tension, he turned the wheel in one direction and then twisted it in the opposite direction to apply twist to the silk.
Once the twisting was completed, he removed it to create one large rope.
This was then made into bundles of 4 ropes and knotted at one end
Once complete, he then went on to demonstrate on the takadai. He was very happy to answer questions about the braiding and was very patient with us.
It was interesting to see how the wood on the koma (pins) has worn with use.
It was a wonderful visit and a pleasure to see a master craftsman work.