|A Traditional Craft that Combines Beautiful
Form with Practical Function
The area around Morioka in Iwate Prefecture was known as Nambu in the Edo period (1603-1868). Nambu Tekki is the traditional ironware that was produced in two areas: in Morioka City and in Mizusawa City to the south. Production of Nambu ironware is thought to have begun in Morioka City at the end of the 17th century, when craftsmen who came from Kyoto started producing ironwares such as teakettles, weapons, and temple bells. Casting in Mizusawa, on the other hand, is said to have originated in the 12th century with the making of items used in Buddhist ceremonies and armory. Two factors led to the development of metalworking in both places: production materials for metal casting were locally available, including metal ores, good quality clay, and charcoal; and the industry received protection during the Edo period. The name Nambu Tekki was applied to the products of both centers in around 1960.
Today tea pots and kettles are still made by hand using traditional techniques, and they owe their refined forms to traditional Japanese aesthetics. With the concepts of wabi and sabi, a high value is placed on the austere expression of simplicity, an aesthetic ideal that is sought in the tea ceremony or in haiku. On the other hand, everyday items including all kinds of pans, ashtrays, wind chimes, paper weights, bottle openers, and metal ornaments, are mass produced in factories. Articles of Nambu Tekkin are popular because they have a satisfying weightiness. The iron content of the pans, which dissolves into food and helps to prevent anemia, an attracting character for those suffering from iron deficiency.
Photo: An iron pot of Nambu Ironware (Iwate Prefecture).
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