06. Exploring the Possibilities of Glass through Edo Kiriko | Kohei Kobayashi, the Fourth Generation of Edo-kiriko Kobayashi [part 1]
At the foot of the Skytree, in a town with a downtown atmosphere, I met a young Edo-kiriko craftsman who continues to take on new challenges.
Kohei Kobayashi, the fourth generation of Edo-kiriko Kobayashi, has been creating products that capture the hearts of young women through the creation of accessory brands and the use of SNS. In this interview, we asked him about his experiences overseas that led him to realize the appeal of Kiriko cutting glass, and the future possibilities of Edo-kiriko.
1987 Born in Koto-ku, Tokyo
2010 Graduated from Meiji University, studied Edo-kiriko under his father
2012 Selected, 5th KOGANEZAKI Vessel Shape and Contemporary Glass Exhibition
Excellent Prize, The 8th Tokyo Traditional Craft Challenge Grand Prix
2013 Selected, 25th Edo-kiriko New Works Exhibition (Awarded Prize '15, '16)
Edo-kiriko Young Craftsmen Exhibition at Itochu Aoyama Art Square, Tokyo (2002-2006)
Kohei Kobayashi Glass Exhibition at Mitsukoshi Art Salon, Nihonbashi, Tokyo (2002, 2003)
2014 Selected, 54th East Japan Traditional Craft Exhibition,
The 61st Japan Traditional Craft Exhibition, Honorable Mention
2015: Selected, The 25th Traditional Craft Exhibition, Japan
Established own brand "tokoba". Started selling jewelry.
2016 Exhibition "condense" at Gallery QUIET NOISE with photographer Satoru Koyama, wet plate photography and Edo-kiriko.
2017 The 9th Snow Design Award, Encouragement Award
About Edo Kiriko Kobayashi
It is said that Edo faceting began in 1834, when Kyubei Kagaya engraved the surface of glass using Kongo sand. In 1881, Emanuel Houptman, who was invited from England, instructed more than a dozen Japanese in cutting techniques, and one of them was Tokumatsu Ohashi (grandfather of Kyosen Ohashi). In 1908, Kikuichiro Kobayashi, who was 12 years old at the time, became an apprentice of Tokumatsu Ohashi. After that, Hideo, Toshiro, and Kohei inherited the technique, and it has continued to this day.
Cut glass that came over from England. To my grandfather, father, and son.
- It's been a while since I've been to Sumiyoshi, but it's a wonderful town with an old-fashioned Tokyo feel. Have you lived in this area for a long time?
Yes. I have been living in the Sumiyoshi area of Koto-ku for 30 years since I was a child. I sometimes ride my bicycle to Kinshicho and other nearby places.
Recently, the area has become more crowded due to the construction rush, but it is also a place where I feel at home because it is surrounded by greenery with parks nearby.
- What kind of childhood did you have?
I was a child who loved to play outside. When video games became popular, I spent my time at home with my friends, playing games and getting bad eyesight, just like the other kids around me. If anything, I preferred to move my body in sports such as ball games rather than create something.
- You are the fourth generation of Edo-kiriko Kobayashi, how did you inherit the business?
My great-grandfather was the first generation. My great-grandfather's teacher was Mr. Tokumatsu Ohashi, the grandfather of Kyosen Ohashi. Tokumatsu Ohashi was one of several people who received instruction in cut glass from an Englishman named Houptman, who was invited by the Japanese government, and his techniques developed into Edo-kiriko. The technique of cut glass originally came from Europe, and until then, the term "Edo-kiriko" did not even exist.
This is a picture of the factory in the days of my grandfather, the second generation. From left to right: my father, my grandfather in the middle, and the apprentice on the right. There are tools hanging in the back. In the old days, the belt you can see in the foreground was connected to a single motor to turn several machines. It's analog, isn't it?
This is a photo of my father. In the old days, glass was shaved by pouring sand called Kongo sand (emery) on the glass. The detailed process was different from today, and it took more time and effort than today. Nowadays, it is possible to use a diamond wheel, so I can learn the technique much faster than before.
Seeing the joy on her American host mother's face, she decided to follow in her father's footsteps.
- Did you naturally want to take over the business after watching your father's work?
I grew up watching him work, but at the time I didn't particularly want to do it myself. It was a normal sight to see my grandfather and father working in the workshop, and I had little interest in it as a child.
I wasn't the type of person who was interested in looking at or touching the glass up close, and I don't think I ever tried to cut it myself. I don't think I ever tried to cut glass myself, but I do remember that my apprentices at the time took good care of me. I have had two apprentices since I can remember, they made our house very lively.
- Did your father tell you that you should be his successor?
My father had been helping my grandfather since I was in elementary school, but he told me that I should get a stable job. At the time, the company that subcontracted cut glass as its main business pulled out when I was in high school, so we had to sell products on my own, and my father could not encourage me to take this job.
- What was the reason why you still decided to go into the field of Edo-kiriko?
It was after I entered university that I gradually began to develop an interest in Edo-kiriko. I majored in political science and economics at university, and I planned to work for a general company after graduation. However, a two-week homestay in the U.S. during the spring break of my sophomore year was a big trigger for me, and I decided to enter the field of Edo-kiriko.
When I went to the U.S., my father had given me an Edo-kiriko drinking cup as a souvenir. It was just something I was familiar with from home, but when I gave it to my host mother, she was very happy. It was just a sunny day in the garden, and it was the first time I had seen kiriko glass in the sunlight, and I was moved by how beautiful it was. The cut glass itself is found all over the world, but I was impressed that she liked the fine cutting unique to Japanese kiriko. Watching my grandfather and father, I knew that it was hard work, but I still had a strong desire to do it, and to let more people know about the appeal of kiriko, which led me to be ready to follow in my father's footsteps.
(... In the second half of this interview, he talks about his various challenges in exploring new possibilities of glass)
Exploring lives of young practitioners of Japan's artistic heritage.
- List -
01. [Dance] Nakamuraryu - Ume Nakamura (Part1)
01. [Dance] Nakamuraryu - Ume Nakamura (Part2)
02. [Sing] Itchu-bushi - Ryochu Miyako
03. [Sencha tea] My Sencha Salon - Iga Michiho
04. [Flower Arrangement] Sekiso school - Shoko Okudaira (Part1)
04. [Flower Arrangement] Sekiso school - Shoko Okudaira (Part2)
05. Facing Lacquer Means Living. | Tomoya Murose, Urushi artist