top of page

In the 37C summer heat, we received a sad news from the urushi Japanese lacquer tree forest.

In the quiet town of Daigo, nestled amid the lush urushi lacquer forest, a heartbreaking news resonates through the community. The passing of Mr. Yuzo Tobita, the most beloved and respected urushi-forester / cultivator, has left us all in deep sorrow. At 88 years old, he was the eldest artisan in the town and a true legend in the urushi forestry industry. On July 30, Mr. Tobita was helping others clearing the forest, he fell off the ladder and was severely injured. It was too late when he was discovered in the mountain.



Mr. Tobita's path in urushi-tapping began when he was just 17. From that moment, he devoted his life to mastering the art, and his dedication was unmatched. As a master urushi-tapper, Mr. Tobita wasn't just skilled; he'd never stop exploring ways to improve urushi japanese lacquer cultivation methods and was a beacon of wisdom and knowledge, guiding younger generations with his nurturing spirit. He possessed a wealth of knowledge that he willingly shared with anyone eager to learn the craft. His generous heart took young apprentices under his wings, teaching them with unwavering devotion and patience. Yanagi Shiro, one of the youngest urushi-forestry artisan shadowing Tobita for years, said "Even at his last moment, he was helping others. Mr. Tobita always put others before himself."


This month we spent a lot of time working on Daigo urushi artisan updates. It's been weeks of combing through videos and photos of the urushi forestry crew and editing the contents. I vividly remember Mr. Tobita's smile and his energy. The day we first met, he took off his cap and greeted us, "Welcome and Go kuro sama desu!" (Thank you for your hard work!). He then patiently taught me how to tap urushi at his tree farm. Watching him manuevered among urushi trees with speed, he was trying to work as much as he can before the lunch bell rings. He showed me his bucket filled with raw urushi collected since early morning and proudly said, "See? Isn't this the world's best urushi lacquer or what?"


We can't help but cherish the memories he left behind. His swift moves and steady hands in scratching the trees, his warm and friendly smile that is overflown with passion and love for his craft, and the moments he generously spent with us, teaching and guiding us wholeheartedly.


Currently, the urushi forestry community is still shocked and saddened by this news. There is a sense of losing an important spiritual pillar as Mr. Tobita had always been leading and pulling the urushi foresters together. There is a lot of work to do, from continuing Mr. Tobita's forests to urushi lacquer harvesting in the midst of the tapping season. But it is too difficult for everyone to find focus during this time of grief. We have sent our condolence and set our dates to visit the crew in September to discuss how we can support, however small.


In November, we plan to introduce Daigo urushi forestry to the world and show our devoted kintsugi advocates why Japanese lacquer and kintsugi craft are so precious and should not be discounted with quick solutions or chemical adhesives. We welcome advocates to visit the forest with us and experience lacquer craft using these precious lacquer. Would you be willing to stay with us on this journey, help spread good information and support Daigo's urushi forestry ?




Comments


bottom of page