January 04, 13 | Fumiko Magota
As I sit in a small wooden shed down behind a typical Japanese home, the kind face of the 82 year old, retired fisherman staring at me suddenly cracks a broad, wide smile as he shows me his goods. "Not even in the biggest shops in town can you get products THIS good!", he says as he deliberately, jokingly praises his own work. However the truth be told is that he is probably right! Living in Rausu Town, Mr Sakae Sakurai creates fishing tools that are not practical but also works of art.
Pictured above are hand-made net needles (called 'Abari' in Japanese). These are used to repair holes in fishing nets. The net needles that Mr Sakurai makes are generally said to be easy to use but also strong and don't break easily. They are made from wood which is not only nicer looking but more environmentally friendly than similar plastic versions.
▲ Talking with Mr. Sakurai in his small production hut.
Mr Sakurai also makes incredible sheaths (covers) and handles for fishing knives known as 'Makiri' in Japanese. These knives can be used to cut nets, clean fish, and measure sizes. The intricate carvings are just amazing!
▲ Mr. Sakurai 'makiri' hand carved, wooden sheath.
After hand picking pieces of fine hard wood, the wood is left to dry for about one year before he starts work. It then takes him about 2 months to carved out the finely detailed images. "My eyes are not what they used to be" he says "so getting the fine detail can be hard and it takes me longer". I think however the results speak for themselves.
Mr Sakurai likes to carve images of dragons, eagles or tigers on his sheaths. "This gives them a strong feeling which is what you want in a knife.", he says.
▲ These are some of the self made files and chisels Mr Sakurai uses to create his fishing tools.
"When I go down to the docks, I see so many people with one of my knives around their waist now. It makes me feel like part of me is heading out to sea with them.", he says with some nostalgia in his eyes. Talking to this 'Old Salt' you get the sense of just how emotional he feels for the days he used to go out fishing.
(Hokkaido Likers Photo-Writer - FUKKO)
(Photography - Isao Kawamura)