Meet the Makers: Kaikadō’s Yagi Takahiro and Nakagawa Mokkōgei’s Nakagawa Shūji
Meet two Japanese master craftsmen at Japan House London with a special talk featuring chazutsu (tea canister) maker Yagi Takahiro from Kaikadō and kioke (wooden bucket) maker Nakagawa Shūji from Nakagawa Mokkōgei.
Founded in Kyoto in 1875, Kaikadō was the first manufacturer to create airtight tinplate tea cannisters. Sixth-generation owner Yagi Takahiro continues to develop elegant and functional products while following Kaikadō’s time-honoured methods, meticulously crafting each canister by hand.
He is joined in conversation by wood craftsman and contemporary artist Nakagawa Shūji, the third-generation successor to Nakagawa Mokkōgei. Managing Nakagawa Mokkogei’s Shiga-based workshop, Nakagawa makes kioke wooden buckets by binding wood together with metal or bamboo hoops without the use of nails. Once ubiquitous in the Edo period (1603-1868 CE) as tubs for bathing and containers for food such as rice and miso, Nakagawa has developed kioke for alternative contemporary purposes such as cooling champagne to incorporate them into modern life.
Introducing their respective crafts, Yagi and Nakagawa discuss what it means to be a shokunin (craftsman) in contemporary Japan and the importance of handing down specialist skills to preserve them for future generations.
The talk coincides with a curated display of Kaikadō tea cannisters and Nakagawa Mokkōgei wooden buckets on the Ground Floor of Japan House until 14 June 2022.
This event is being held thanks to Nishihara Sakiko.
Kaikadō was established in 1875 during the period of rapid industrialization in Japan. The founder, Yamamoto Seisuke, was the first to design and commercialize tea canisters made of tinplate. His goal was to create a well-designed and functional vessel for tea. In the past when there were no refrigerators, airtightness was of utmost importance for storing freshly picked leaves for long periods without compromising their flavour or quality. The process of making tea canisters has over 130 steps. Kaikadō continues to follow the methods of the founder, completing each step of the process by hand, even using the original moulds. Yagi Takahiro (b. 1974), the sixth generation owner, is developing the products while still observing tradition.
About Nakagawa Mokkōgei
Nakagawa Mokkōgei founder, Nakagawa Kameichi (1913–1998), opened his workshop in Shirakawa in Kyoto. Today, the second-generation owner, Kiyotsugu (b. 1942), supervises the Kyoto workshop while third-generation Shūji (b. 1968) looks after the workshop in Shiga. In 2001, Kiyotsugu was designated as a Bearer of Important Intangible Cultural Property (also known as a ‘Living National Treasure’). His successor, Shūji is currently developing new products, such as champagne coolers, using time-honoured techniques. He makes wooden buckets by binding the wood with metal hoops without the use of nails. In order to develop world-class products, both craftsmen have introduced the latest technology into their work and strive to create kioke that are suitable for all.