2008年1月25日 星期五

Shuji Yamada 山田 脩二





山田脩二
180 x 180 - 15k - gif
www.japandesign.ne.jp
カワラマン山田脩二
458 x 338 - 138k - gif
www.awaji-ibushi-tiles.jp
... 山田脩二の軌跡ー写真、瓦、炭】

Weekend Beat: Keeping the tile industry alive

01/26/2008

BY TSUYOSHI KANDA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Awajishima island in Hyogo Prefecture was famous for tiles. Roof tiles, ridge tiles, garden tiles--a thousand different types for a thousand different functions, handcrafted in little workshops clustered in Minami-Awaji's Tsui area.

In 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck. Older houses with tile roof suffered the most. Whether the age of the houses or the heaviness of the tiles was the decisive factor remains controversial. In the public mind, however, tiles stand condemned. The tile industry has yet to overcome the stigma.

Twenty-five years ago a photographer named Shuji Yamada quit a promising career and moved to the Tsui area of southwestern Awajishima island. What was the attraction? Tiles.

Now 68, Yamada has been fascinated by tiles since childhood. "Our house in Koshien (in Hyogo Prefecture) was bombed from the air. I can still see the blackened, smoldering tiles," he says.

Evacuated to Okayama, he lived in a house with a well bordered by beautiful tiles. Tiles are made from earth. That in itself appealed to him.

In his 20s he became a professional photographer, specializing in taking photos for architectural magazines. Japan's economy was then in its postwar surge. Tall buildings were going up nearly everywhere.

Yamada made a decent living, but the uniformity of the buildings was depressing.

"In my 30s," he says, "I worked with paper, and got my fill of it. In my 40s I decided I'd work with earth. I came to this island--whose earth," he laughs, "will receive my bones."

He felt no hesitation about giving up his career, but on the island he met with a chilly reception. Making the rounds of the tile factories, "I was told again and again, 'Forget it. Go home.' Finally one small factory hired me as an apprentice at 700 yen an hour."

It was a grueling learning process. His hands were a mess, his colleagues less than supportive. "You're hopeless," an older woman would berate him. He'd drop into a local bar for a drink and suddenly silence would descend. He was an outsider. No one wanted to gossip in front of him.

That changed when the famous photographer Kishin Shinoyama visited the island and addressed Yamada with respect: "Yamada sensei!" That was Yamada's ticket to local social acceptance.

Yamada eventually set up on his own and began turning out tiles for gardens, promenades--anything but roofs. Architects like Osamu Ishiyama and Toyoo Ito--old friends of his--incorporated his work in their designs.

Then came the Hanshin earthquake with Awajishima at its epicenter. It was a deadly blow to the tile industry.

TV news broadcasts emphasized that the damaged old houses had tile roofs. Housing developers pounced on the oversimplification and played it up. Demand for new housing soared. Traditional tile roofs were out.

The tile industry developed new techniques of making tile more earthquake-proof. Too late. Demand had shifted to western-style housing. Before the quake, Awajishima's tile makers were turning out 220 million tiles a year. Last year's figure was 92 million.

Sinking demand coupled with the soaring price of fuel to heat the kilns is driving tile makers out of business.

And yet Yamada persists. Lately he has turned his attention to rebuilding traditional earthen daruma-gama kilns. They are essentially vessels of hardened clay, their tile-baking blaze fueled by firewood.

He fights an uphill battle against tunnel-kilns and iron kilns used in mass production. Such tiles as are still required by housing developers tend to be produced in this fashion.

And yet tiles from daruma-gama kilns possess an appealing irregularity you won't find in mass-produced tiles.

"In the old days, you'd turn out thousands of these tiles and roof dozens of houses with them, each tile unique, the tiles themselves transforming a uniform landscape," Yamada says.(IHT/Asahi: January 26,2008)



#29 12.12
山田 脩二
瓦師・フリーカメラマン
Shuji Yamada
Kawara Maker,
Freelance Photographer




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