Kagoshima, Japan | Satsuma Buttons

Delicately decorated

Satsuma porcelain is a technique that was imported to Japan from Korea in the late 16th century. Satsuma buttons were created using the same technique for export to America and Europe during the late 19th century. By the Meiji period the craft spread to Kyoto and settled there while it fizzled out in Kagoshima. The main attribute to Satsuma porcelain and buttons is the fine detail of the ukiyoe motifs, and the finely crackled glaze. The technique slowly died out in Japan in the 1960’s with only a handful of craftspeople capable of passing on the knowledge.

Fine details

Shiho Murota is one of the few people continuing this craft. During my visit to Kagoshima recently I had the chance to visit her studio and have a look at her work, and hear her story first-hand.  Her studio is in a small mountain village. There, Murota-san is creating her own original designs, and buttons. Some of her work is traditional ukiyoe style and others are more modern. From skulls, spiders, and anchors to cute floral design, and simple timeless geometric patterns. She not only makes buttons, but wooden Zippo lighter cases with Satsuma button accents, rings, brooches, and pins. They are so elaborately detailed some of the best parts are hidden within the design.
Delicate beauty Huge button, staggeringly beautiful

Kagoshima, Japan | Satsuma-Yaki

Satsuma Yaki 6

Satsuma-yaki is a type of pottery distinct to Kagoshima. The style is muted, and simple. They resemble the folk crafts of old. Yanagi Soetsu, a great promoter of the mingei or folk art craft movement in Japan, admired satsuma-yaki. I visited two different potters in Kagoshima. One making a more simple rustic style, and the other the ryumonji or drip-glaze style.

Satsuma Yaki 1

This piece is called “shark skin”. Just look at this incredible texture, its like a living organism.

Satsuma Yaki 7

A modern gas fired kiln in a very small workspace. But the woman who does this pottery is very gifted. Some of the most unique and rustic work I have ever seen.
Satsuma Yaki 5

“Climbing kiln” or in Japanese noborigama. This one dates back to Edo period, but has not been used in many years due to the intense labor, and its status as a prefectural cultural treasure.

Kapital | Century Jeans 7S (Sumi) 5 Months

Kagoshima Century Denim 7S 4

I picked these up in September of 2012 at the Kobe release. I have been pretty kind to this pair, and the wear has been much less intense compared with the 5S. I wanted to milestone these here before I add the kakishibu coating to them. I thought they really look at home on the farm in Kagoshima. The vest I am wearing is a special repair piece by Brown Tabby Works. Real vintage, repaired by Narita-san.
Kagoshima Century Denim 7S 2 Kagoshima Century Denim 7S 3

Because of the sharper contrast on the 7S the texture is much more defined. The indigo seems to catch the eye and then draw it slowly to the sumi denim. As you may notice there is some staining from kakishibu tanning and wiping my hands on the front and rear of the thighs. I am hoping after coating them, a 墨芯 “sumishin” effect will emerge. Once coated, the brown will fade and give life to the heart of the sumi color of the denim.

Kagoshima Century Denim 7S 5 Kagoshima Century Denim 7S 1

Century Denim 7S

Kagoshima, Japan | Kura “Grey”

Kagoshima Kura 7

The dark and damp kura; in English it means storehouse, or barn. However, there are so many types of kura. They are a treasure box for rediscovering the past of rural Japan. The kura is also a place to find inspiration; the color, the texture, the clash of man-made and nature is beauty in simplicity. The aesthetic to this story is mono no aware, known in English as the “Pathos of Things”. Now let me be clear that I am stretching the meaning quite a bit here to suit this instance. In the Kura “Green” post I tried to show the living part of this village, but the other half is here inside the buildings where people once loved and lived.

This track by Hammock helps me explain much better than I can with words.


Kagoshima Kura 17

I see the aesthetic transpire here through the stories of this house, and the people who lived in it. There is a distant echo from the past that has a beautiful ring to it. I envisage that while walking and around and searching through the dark kura. The beauty is that life isn’t forever and things die and are reborn in different ways. Maybe this land and  these structures could serve a future purpose?
Kagoshima Kura 8

The passage of time has taken its toll on this place, the ash has accumulated. The volcano that lurks in the mist outside the window is a reminder of how fragile this place is. I find happiness in the sadness. The sadness that this place is slowly dying and the people are moving to more urban areas. The culture of this small village won’t be here forever. The happiness I find is that there is always a chance that this place can be revived or reborn.
Kagoshima Kura 1

Kagoshima, Japan | Kura “Green”

Kagoshima Kura 18

The old name for this area is Satsuma. Kagoshima is a large prefecture with rugged verdant mountains. We recently paid a visit to our family’s property at the edge of the bay. Ash constantly billows out of Sakurajima, the local active volcano in the center of the bay. It is a rugged landscape with many interesting crafts and buildings. The nature and environment inspire and are a part of the regional crafts.

Inspired by this song.

Kagoshima Kura 27

Large earthenware jars containing a local specialty, black vinegar. The grass and trees fill the lacunas of empty streets and houses. The air is redolent of early spring, and ponkan blossoms.

Kagoshima Kura 26

A narrow foot path that leads to the local graveyard. The over-growing plants are enchanting.