08. Communicating Tatami through Space Design | Hiroyuki Tanaka, the Fourth Generation of Tanaka Tatami
We spoke with a tatami craftsman who, after a career working for a venture company and as a computer graphics creator, says he wants to "make the tatami industry more exciting. We got a glimpse of the future of tatami.
Born in 1980. He started his apprenticeship under Hiroshi Yanai at Yanai Tatami mat store in Ikegami, Ota-ku, Tokyo in 2010. Currently, he is based on manual work, which has become rare in the industry. Obtained 1st class tatami technician in 2018. Engaged in tatami work for general housing, temples, tea rooms, and ryotei (Japanese-style restaurants).
Everything is an experience, don't be afraid to struggle
- We contacted you after seeing your appearance on the TV program, but we never thought we would be able to talk to you in this way.
I was happy to know that my appearance on TV could lead to this kind of encounter.
- You have had an unusual career, given the image of the so-called tatami craftsman in town. Could you tell us what you have been doing up until now?
I was born here in Omori and spent my childhood through high school here. In elementary and junior high school I was on the baseball team, and in high school I attended a Tae Kwon Do dojo. After college, I went to the Kansai region and became passionate about lacrosse. After graduation, I returned to the Kanto region and first joined a planting venture company. After working in sales, I moved to a CG production company and worked as a CG creator. Then, a few years ago, at the age of 30, I entered the tatami industry.
- I think there are no tatami craftsmen who were in venture companies or were CG creators. Did your father want you to take over the business from your childhood?
Actually, that was not the case. Rather, I never helped him because I was told not to touch anything (laughs). Naturally, I never had the slightest idea that I would take over the business. I was just an ordinary baseball boy who liked to play games.
- What was the turning point in your life when you became a tatami craftsman?
First, I went to Kansai in college and joined the lacrosse team; second, I met a manager who trained me at a planting venture; and the third is that I joined a computer graphics company.
What runs through all three of these is, "Everything is an experience, so don't be afraid to struggle". This is something my father said that has left a deep impression on me and may be ingrained in my mind.
Tatami still has a lot of potential
- The market for buildings that use tatami is shrinking compared to the past. Is there anything you have noticed or felt because you have been in a world other than tatami?
In fact, the demand for tatami is decreasing rapidly. I don't think the impression Japanese people have of Tatami is a negative one. I think that tatami rooms are relaxing and reassuring. Nevertheless, it may be that Japanese people are losing interest in Tatami these days. I would like as many people as possible to know what Tatami is before it disappears. The history and effects of tatami are surprisingly little known. I feel that tatami makers are also required to make efforts to let people know about tatami itself.
- What is your vision for the future, now that you have entered the tatami industry?
First of all, we would like to focus on communicating what tatami is. There are various types of tatami and various methods in the process of making tatami. When I receive a request to change tatami, I try to fully explain them to the customer and make sure that they are satisfied with the choice. In addition, tatami makers like me who base their business on hand-sewing have almost disappeared in Japan, but I would like to make the most of the style of tatami that can only be done by hand-sewing.
I also want to eliminate the impression that tatami is tacky. I am using my CG skills to create various space designs using tatami on my blog. I think tatami has a lot of potential. There are still things that can be done. In a sense, it may be almost like a gamble. That is why I want to figure out how to do it in this adversity.
(Examples of CG work produced by Hiroyuki)
It's the essence that shows up in a crucial moment
- What is the path you are going to create?
I think it is a path that no one has taken. My goal is not just to make and sell tatami. I would like to make the tatami industry more popular by creating coordinated Japanese-style spaces in any place, not only in Japan but also in the world. I have the weapons of making tatami by hand, the weapon of knowing the world outside the tatami industry, and the weapon of being a creator. I believe that by making the most of these, I can make new proposals.
- Is there something you always keep in mind?
I strongly believe in the concept of "It's the essence that shows up in a crucial moment". I believe that a person's true nature comes out when something unexpected happens. I believe that many unexpected things will appear on the path I am going to take. I would like to continue training so that I can always react in the best possible way at such times. I have a bit of a sportsman's side to me now (laughs). But I think so. I don't like the word "dream," so I want to make it a goal, not a dream.
Interviewers: Yuki Kitamura, Kaoru
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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. [Urushi Laquer] Urushi artist - Tomoya Murose
06. [Glass art] Edo-kiriko Kobayashi - Kohei Kobayashi (Part 1)
06. [Glass art] Edo-kiriko Kobayashi - Kohei Kobayashi (Part 2)
07. [Tea] Edosenke - Hiroyuki Kawakami
08. [Tatami] Tanaka Tatami - Hiroyuki Tanaka
09. [Lacquer brush] The 10th generation of the original lacquer brush artisan - Torakichi Izumi