Tokyo has been producing quality silverware for a long time, including kitchen utensils and dishes. This time, we had a chance to talk to Mr. Soutatsu Kamikawa, who is a certified traditional craftsman of silverware.
Edo to the future
The history of Tokyo silverware goes back to the Edo period. Back then, the silvers that was unearthed from Iwami silver mine was turned into currency by the Tokugawa Shogunate. The city where the Tokugawa Shogunate turned silver into currency became Ginza as we know today (Gin means silver in Japanese). The city of Ginza and the wealthy merchants were two of the main reasons silverware culture flourished in Edo.
The Hirata family is said to be the origin of Tokyo silverware and the skills were passed on to Sousho Kamikawa, who is Soutatsu’s grandfather. Unlike the other silverware craftsmen, the Kamikawa family manages all of the steps in craft. Soutatsu saw his father creating silverware when he was a child and since then, following his father’s footsteps has been his dream.
He started apprenticeship when we was 18. Although it has been 20 years since he started creating silverware, he states he still has so much to learn.
At first, I thought silverware was “art”. But as I learned more about it, I realized it was history. When I dug deeper into the craft, I realized once again that science plays a huge part also. Silver is chemistry and you can see different reactions in each steps. For example, silver’s thermal conductivity is 420 times stronger than that of glass. So the cold drinks feel way more cooler and the human temperature can warm it way faster. Silver ion can change the taste too. I want to dedicate my life to research about silver and it’s craft
He told us the depth of silver crafts. You can see in his eyes his desire and love for silverware. He also taught us what is needed to pass on the tradition to the next generation.
When I think about tradition and innovation, there are 3 aspects that I comes up in my mind. The first one is the aspect that stay the same. If that aspect of the craft is timeless and loved by different generations, that’s a keep. The second one is the things to add. People’s lifestyle changes over the generations, and the crafts need to keep up with it by adding new aspects. The third one is the things to get rid of. If the people lose interest completely, it’s time to get rid of that aspect of the craft.
Once a culture gets lost in history, it is very hard to revive it. That is why Soutatsu is always thinking how he can pass on the silverware culture to the next generation.