19 June 2024

Matsukan Chopsticks Set: Sound of the Sea Series

The umi no ne “Sound of the Sea” series by Matsukan presents an exquisite blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern design, drawing inspiration from the tranquil beauty of the sea. Conceived as a follow-up to the successful Sakura series, this collection introduces a refreshing theme that encapsulates the serene and calming essence of the ocean. This article explores the background, unique features, and meticulous manufacturing process behind this remarkable chopstick set.

Contents

  • Origin of Sound of the Sea Series
  • Features of the Chopsticks
  • Rakugan Chopstick Rest

Origin of Sound of the Sea Series

The inception of this series stemmed from a desire to introduce a new motif that was both meaningful and unique. While previous collections had focused on popular themes such as sakura, cherry blossoms, there was a noticeable absence of gift items inspired by the sea—a significant and ever-present element in Obama City, Fukui Prefecture.

Obama City faces the only ria coast on the Sea of Japan and Wakasa Bay. Due to its proximity to the sea, it has abundant local products and has historically been a place that supplied high-quality, delicious food to the imperial court. The area has also been well-connected, serving as an important trade port during the Kitamaebune era in the Edo period (1603 CE–1868 CE). The ocean is deeply intertwined with the lives of the people here, making it very meaningful and special to use it as the main theme and element of this creation. Thus, the Sound of the Sea series was born, celebrating its beauty.

Features of the Chopsticks

Chopsticks were introduced to Japan from China at the end of the Yayoi period (10th century BCE–mid-3rd century CE). At that time, chopsticks were considered sacred tools used by the gods, and only the tenno, the emperor of Japan was permitted to use them. By the Edo period, with the rise of dining establishments, chopsticks became more widely used. Most of Japan's lacquerware production centers were established during the Edo period. The mid to late Edo period is known as the golden age of Wakasa lacquerware, with the completion of over 200 techniques, including raden, mother-of-pearl inlay, and maki-e.

The chopsticks from the Sound of the Sea series are Wakasa lacquerware. Wakasa lacquerware originated around the years 1596 to 1615 when a lacquerware craftsman from the Obama Domain, Matsuura Sanjuro, designed patterns inspired by the seabed of Wakasa Bay and created pieces based on Chinese lacquerware. Over time, Wakasa lacquerware evolved from luxurious items for samurai and merchants to lacquered chopsticks that inherited two key features: durability and visual beauty.

This series is crafted using the traditional technique known as togidashi, which involves placing shell pieces on the chopsticks and then layering them with transparent lacquer multiple times. It is polished using charcoal and horn powder, which is a finishing technique. To ensure a smooth finish, the surface is polished, evening out any irregularities. Traditionally, this process used colored lacquer, but to balance cost and production efficiency, transparent lacquer is now used. In addition to using the raden technique, glitter is mixed into the lacquer to emulate the shimmering effect of waves, creating a sparkling representation of the shoreline. This innovative use of materials and techniques adds a touch of modern elegance to the traditional chopsticks.

Rakugan Chopstick Rest

The rakugan, a traditional Japanese confection, chopstick rests hold a special place in this series. The molds used to create these rests come from Iseya, a long-established wagashi, Japanese sweets shop in Obama. Additionally, the chopstick rests are made of Hasami ware, known for its vibrant glazes, ensuring that these chopstick sets are both beautiful and practical.

The collaboration aimed to produce chopstick rests that resonate deeply with local culture and heritage, aligning with the design of the chopsticks. The mother-of-pearl emits a colorful and enchanting glow, and the seashell-shaped chopstick rest seems to produce the sound of the sea.

The Sound of the Sea series by Matsukan stands as a testament to the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. By capturing the essence of the ocean and local culture, these chopstick sets offer more than just functionality; they provide a connection to nature and heritage. Designed primarily as gifts, these sets are often chosen for special occasions such as weddings, symbolizing harmony and support in relationships. With their intricate craftsmanship and thoughtful design, this series transforms dining utensils into works of art, bringing a touch of elegance and serenity to every meal.

View Sound of the Sea Series

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