Inkstone craftsman Takashi Aoyagi and his title “Seikenshi”

Inkstone, Ink, Brush, and Paper

In Chinese and other East Asian calligraphic traditions, these four are called “The Four Treasures of the Study”. Unlike the other three, ink-stone can be used permanently with proper care, and is loved by many writers as an antique. Ink-stone is a stone mortar for the grinding and containment of ink and many Japanese has an experience in using them, for calligraphy is included in the Japanese school curriculum. 

We had a chance to interview Mr. Takashi Aoyagi, who calls himself the Seikenshi or the Ink-stone Artisan. Being the fourth generation of HoukenDou, which is a calligraphy store and ink-stone workshop in Asakusa, he researches and produces wide variety of ink-stones.

The word “Seikenshi”

Mr. Aoyagi is the only person in Japan with the title Seikenshi. With Sei: 製 meaning to produce, ken: 硯 meaning inkstone, and shi: 師 meaning master, his job has no boundaries when it comes to ink-stones. His father, who is also his master, gave him this original title, for his work is different from other ink-stone craftsmen. 

The title Seikenshi might be a word you don’t hear everyday and I  get mistaken for Sekkeishi (architect) often. But my father had a vision behind this word. I want to continue pursuing skills and my research, and I feel that this name is also necessary to explain my work to customers. This title encourages and pushes me to keep moving

Mr. Aoyagi explained his thoughts behind his title Seikenshi. His work ethic and philosophy is very much influenced by this title that his father gave him. He also talked about how satisfying his customer is very important.

Creating ink-stones that is usable for more than thousand years is what I aim for. So if I create one ink-stone for a customer, that customer wouldn’t have to worry about breaking it or ordering another one. So what I value as a Seikenshi is when my customers recommend my ink-stones to other people and when they come to the store from word of mouth. I hoping to create ink-stones that my customers can use forever, and to fulfill the customer’s needs with a stone. 

Ink-stones can last a long time with proper care. As a Seikenshi, the praise from the customers that uses his ink-stone is very important, for they stay in the customer’s lives for a long time. “Fulfilling the needs with a stone”. His powerful words drive him to create the best ink-stone for the customers. 

Will be Continued



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