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. Her travels introduce us this time to a traditional craft of Shizuoka prefecture — a cotton zabuton cushion, perfectly suited to a single person, expertly crafted by one of Japan’s best futon artisans.
Relaxing at home these days I spend more time sitting on the floor than the sofa. I usually put a blanket down, or use my cat’s pillow Then I found this small zabuton made by a futon artisan.
Master craftsman Koichiro Shingai of Watashō Shingai Futonten, which has been active for roughly 90 years in Shizuoka, has received an Ōju-hōshō award for excellence in the craft of futon making. He sources his raw cotton from India, and does everything himself, from making the cotton fabric to finishing each item, using his own, singular techniques. I visited his studio seeking the master’s zabuton cushions.
The first stop on my visit was the cotton mill. He uses the same mill that his grandfather ran in his day to draw out and blend the cotton fibers sourced from various locations, resulting in a yarn that is soft, yet resilient. “The older machines don’t over-extract oils and other natural features of the fiber, leaving cotton with its original nuanced texture and strength,” says Mr. Shingai. Next, in the factory section, thin sheets of cotton are stacked to compose the cushions’ interior material. I asked to touch this material and it was fluffy, cloud-like. It had a mellow give, but being filled with air, bounced back. Just as it was, it felt divine!
“A good zabuton is defined by what can’t be seen from the outside. I’m always reminded of the importance of the content,” said Mr. Shingai, and in his words I recognize the sincerity of an artisan who’s devoted years of life to making one thing.