Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [WOODEN SPOON — Miyajima Shakushi] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS

Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [WOODEN SPOON — Miyajima Shakushi]

『カーサ ブルータス』2019年5月号より

Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This trip takes her to a place she’s well acquainted with, Hiroshima prefecture, and on to a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site, the island of Miyajima. There she’ll visit a shop making Miyajima Shakushi, the wooden rice paddle for which this place has been renowned for centuries.

Established in 1890, Miyajima Kogei Seisakusho is a woodcraft studio located on an alley near the world-famous Itsukushima Shrine. At the entrance are sold some 20 varieties of their shakushi. This tool, ordinarily called a shamoji when it is made elsewhere, is the familiar scoop used to prepare and serve rice throughout Japan. KASHIYUKA informs us that here, “mainly local Hiroshima wood is used.”
I took the early ferry from Miyajimaguchi in the Hatsukaichi district of Hiroshima to Miyajima island. It’s my first visit since grade school. The sight of the huge red ceremonial gate rising against the gentle slopes in the distance beyond the Itsukushima Shrine is incredibly beautiful.

Inspired by the appearance of the traditional Japanese lute called the biwa, which, legend had it, was played by Benzaiten, one of the island’s guardian deities, the Buddhist monk Seishin began carving the shakushi for which this place is known in the 18th century, and taught the craft to local residents. Because they were said to be made from ancient sacred trees, people took pleasure in using these particular shamoji to serve rice. This spread to a more general belief that using the local Miyajima “shakushi” was a way of inviting good fortune. Even now, in Miyajima, the shamoji is exclusively known as the shakushi.
Purchase No. 14 【 WOODEN SPOON — Miyajima Shakushi 】  The warm touch of a wooden rice paddle, born of a World Heritage island of legend.
The proprietor of Miyajima Kogei Seisakusho tells us, “there were once more than 300 craftspeople making these in Miyajima alone. Now we’re the only ones mass-producing them for practical use.”
Various samples, even including a rare spatula for okonomiyaki.
Sanding in successive steps to achieve an ultra-smooth, non-stick surface, which inhibits soiling.
In the studio, lined with planks of top-quality yamazakura, zelkova, and hinoki wood, I was introduced to the process that begins with a rough shape drawn — amazingly — in pencil! I was stunned at how easily it’s executed, simply by placing a stencil on a plank of wood and outlining the shape; and I was further surprised to see that the thickness of the plank could run as deep as 30 millimeters. This thickness will vary, depending on the item. In the case of the shakushi, when seen from the side one notes how multidimensional it is, how rounded the handle, how the scoop end curves toward the tip, and so on. The aim of using thick lumber is to be able to chisel each whole piece from a single section of wood. After drawing that first line, the piece is cut roughly, then carved, sanded, and polished to successive levels of finish. When I brushed my fingers across the finished shakushi, every part of it felt silken smooth.