I recently went to the Open Factory Five-Senses Market (Gokan-ichi) that was held on November 8th (Fri) through 11th (Mon). This event was held to encourage consumers to check out local participating companies in the southern Iwate region (Ichinoseki City/Hiraizumi Town/Oshu City) in order to deepen their understanding of their products as well as get them a few more fans. This year was the second time the market has been held, so I’d like to talk about how I came to participate in the market as well as my thoughts on the experience.

Why I participated

You’re all familiar with the Linear Collider Workshop 2019 that was held for five days from October 28th in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, right? Researchers from around the world were gathered in Sendai, so we knew it would be the perfect change for us to showcase the traditional craft culture of southern Iwate. We didn’t just want to set up a display booth – we also wanted to present researchers with their own piece of Iwate traditional craft culture, so we consulted with Kyoya Somemonoten, a fabric-dyeing workshop in Ichinoseki.

Kyoya Somemonoten is a historic establishment, opening its doors over a century ago. But it’s also a company that challenges itself to try new things, like promoting itself abroad and collaborating with large-scale companies. We had a difficult request for them – “Make us something that integrates both the ILC and tradition” – yet they took it on and created an ILC-themed tenugui (a small piece of fabric now largely used for decoration).

Mr. Hachiya, head of the company, is also a member of the Five-Senses Market Executive Committee, so he came to the LCWS 2019 venue to help us talk about the ILC tenugui, Iwate’s traditional crafts, and the Five-Senses Market project. The international researchers told us it was wonderful that local companies are doing things like this to participate in the ILC, and I think we were able to convey the charm of Iwate’s traditional craft culture to the researchers. And because I met Mr. Hachiya through LCWS, it led to me taking part in the Five-Senses Market.

The ILC Tenugui Design

The straight lines represent the accelerator, and the curves show the colliding particles. The radial design stretching outward is filled with traditional Japanese patterns like “Shippo (a circle-like pattern),” “Asanoha (a star-like pattern),” and “Seigaiha (a wave-like pattern.”)

LCWS 2019

Mr. Hachiya reached out to other companies so that we could borrow things like Hidehira-nuri lacquerware and taiko drums for our display. We explained the tenugui and its significance to everyone we handed them out to.

The Five-Senses Market

Just like the name says, at the Five-Senses Market, you could:

See the artisans’ skill

Hear them do their work

Touch raw materials and completed products

Taste (food) products

Smell the fragrance of raw materials

I visited five of the participating companies: Kyoya Somemonoten (fabric dyeing), Ochiya (lacquerware), Iwate Meijo (sake brewing), Iwayado Tansu Workshop (wooden chests and other woodworking), and Oigen Castworks (cast-iron). I’d love to write about each single place, but I think that would get a little long, and as the Japanese proverb says, “Seeing (for yourself) is better than hearing (about it from me).” I’d really love for you to visit these places yourself, and they’ll be holding the Five-Senses Market next year!

Each company had their craftspeople thoroughly explain the background and manufacturing process of each product, and I was really able to see for myself the amount of effort that goes into each piece – the charm and value of traditional crafts is difficult to understand when you just see it on sale at a store. I also just assumed that Japanese artisans = wizened old men, but there were many young craftspeople who were not only inheriting the tradition of each craft, but also challenging themselves to try new things, leading to new traditions. As an aside, for the “taste and smell” portion of the market, I bought some delicious sake from Iwate Meijo and shared it with my coworkers. (Of course, we can’t drink during the work day, so we enjoyed a glass at a work party celebrating the close of LCWS 2019).

Lastly, I’d like to thank Mr. Hachiya who created the ILC Tenugui, and all of the other companies who helped us put together our display for LCWS, as well as the companies I visited during the market. Thank you so much!

Kyoya Somemonoten: The fabric-dyeing process

On a single long piece of fabric, artisans dye brilliant patterns by hand. I was able to handle many different kinds of fabric. 

Ochiya: Applying a lacquer undercoat

Artisans paint many thin layers of lacquer on the items. They also have lacquerware items on display that were discovered in ancient ruins.

Iwate Meijo: Washing the sake rice

Workers were right in the middle of making this year’s sake. You could smell the sake throughout the factory.

Iwayado Tansu Workshop: Woodworking

Here, craftsmen are cutting trees into materials for the wooden chests. The wooden poles to the left each contain a different design plan for each type of chest.

Oigen Castworks: Inside the shop

We couldn’t take pictures inside the factory, but inside you can see sparks flying from hot molten iron and artisans making cast iron kettles from molds. I was surprised how easily craftsmen were able to handle tens of kilograms of iron.

The Prize from the Five-Senses Market Stamp Rally

If you visited five factories taking part in the Five-Senses Market, you could get a prize like this. This is a brooch. There were also tenuguis and chopsticks available.