Meaningful Things — Hikaru Komura of Uguisu the Little Shoppe
Text & Narration by Charis Poon
Translation by Nate Kan
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Stanley Cheng
When we visited Hikaru Komura at her store Uguisu in Roppongi, Tokyo, we couldn’t leave without asking her about some of her favorite items. Hiki picked the following objects from the things she stocks based off of the criterion of what holds special meaning to her. Uguisu is filled with handcrafted items worthy of deeper investigation and much more could even be said about this selection.
Hand-painted Ceramics by Aya Yamanobe
These ceramics are made by Aya Yamanobe, an artisan potter originally from Iwaki-shi, Fukushima who is now based in Mashiko City. Mashiko is a small town famous for its pottery and ceramics, with the origins of the craft in the area dating back to the 19th century. It is located in Japan’s Tochigi prefecture about 100km north of Tokyo. Around 380 potters are currently based in Mashiko.
Yamanobe has been a full-time potter since 2010. She began making ceramics while studying at Musashino Art University, and after graduation began to devote her time to making and painting ceramics in a particularly artistic fashion. She hand-paints each piece with patterns that include flora, fauna and characters that resemble those in folktales. As a result of her hand-painting, these ceramic pieces are totally unique and cannot be found elsewhere.
Haibara Washi Letter Set
This hand-made letter set is produced by the paper company Haibara based in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Haibara was founded in 1806 and has been making washi and washi products ever since. Washi is traditional Japanese paper made from long natural plant fibers that come from native Japanese trees such as kozo, mitsumata, and gampi. Haibara is considered one of the oldest, most exclusive, and highest quality washi producers in Japan.
This particular letter set is made by rubbing each envelope and piece of letter paper on carved woodblocks in order to create the color rimmed edges. The process is very traditional and requires skilled master craftspeople to be executed properly. Haibara’s letter sets are popular with Uguisu customers.
Warousoku Traditional Japanese Candles
Warousoku translated means Japanese candles. “Wa” means Japanese and “rousoku” means candles. Warousoku date back to the 14th century and the warousoku sold by Uguisu are made using traditional techniques and materials that do not greatly differ from the methods and substances used in the past. The wax of warousoku are made entirely of vegetable material such as haze, lacquer tree seed wax or nuka, rice bran wax. The wick is made with washi paper. The flame of warousoku candles tends to be brighter and give off less smoke compared to modern oil-based paraffin candles.
The warousoku pictured here is a set of haze candles produced by Daiyo, a family-owned business located in the Shiga prefecture. The family has been in the candle-making business since 1914 and the skills required to make the candles have been passed through generations. Because of the limitations of exclusive knowledge and expensive materials, there are only 10 master artisans in Japan who can make these particular haze rosoku.
Handcrafted Organic Material Earrings by Yuikoubou
Yuikoubou is a weaving studio based in Northeast Japan in Sendai, Miyagi. The studio collects organic materials, spins the fibers, creates plant dyes, and constructs products, doing every step by hand. Yuikoubo is invested in researching the many possibilities of organic plant materials grown in the Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures where the studio is based.
The earrings pictured here are made of aoso, which translates to ramie, fiber. This fiber comes from a plant in the nettle family and it was traditionally used for high quality textiles, but is rarely used in modern times. The blue earrings are aoso fiber dyed with dyes extracted from local indigo plants.