Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Sunday 23 October 2016

Learning straw work in Mukugawa village, Shiga prefecture

Mukugawa village is located in 1 hour distance from Kyoto main city by car.

We traveled north along Kamo river, one of the main water source for Kyoto city residence. As we go upstream as far as the source of the river, the scenery is gradually changing. The river flows from north to south, and the direction of flow changes at the point of watershed, and flows from south to north, which leads to the Northern sea of Japanese continent.

People in Mukugawa village 椋川 is still living subsistent life with nature, plowing their lands, and processing their own foods.

"We use straw broom everyday, don't we? The broom get worn-out every year, so we have to make it once a year. When we make new one, we burn old one. We did not have money to buy threads to bind up, hemp or bark of bee tree had been used to make threads"

Old ladies often get together to make tebouki手箒 (straw brooms), nabeshiki 鍋敷 (pot/pan coasters), shimenawa しめ縄 (talisman against evil).

They are also teaching local children how to make these handicrafts.

First, we have to make the straw soften by using wooden hammer (Kizuchi木槌) and stone (uchiishi 打ち石).

In old houses, uchiishi stones (striking stone) are embedded in the floor, which is used for beating straw.
beating straw on striking stone

This is bark of bee tree to make threads

Straw Pan Coaster, Nameshiki

After beating straw, make a ring by twisting straws.

Then, binding 3 pieces of straws around the ring.

Bigger ring will be bigger size of nabeshiki, and the amount of straw influences its thickness.

Straw Broom, Houki 箒

In the afternoon, we learnt how to make straw broom.
Broom is more difficult than pot mats, said an old lady.

The old ladies are very powerful when making straw broom. It indeed requires grip strength.

If we do not bind the strings very tight, the straw will be fallen off.

The most tedious chore is picking nuigo (spear head of straw) from straw stem.
It took around 1 hour to pick up nuigo for making one small hand broom.

Nabeshiki (pan coaster) and broom are both folk art, what we call "beauty of usage", which are not for selling, but for daily use.

Tools to make these hand works, such as wooden hammer, needle for straw are all beautiful.
millets grown for making broom
Handiworks are their life.

Mukugawa Village people had been making these crafts for so long... They will never forget how to do it.

We do not use straw mats or broom everyday to be worn-out in one year, however, my memory gradually fades... I have to make it repeatedly, so that I can make without thinking like breathing.

Clothes made by fuji tree
Food baskets made of straw

Thank you for everyone!!