【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Tendo Shogikoma ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Tendo Shogikoma ~

【About Japan’s Traditional crafts】~ Tendo Shogikoma ~

 

Historically, the vast majority of koma pieces were produced in the city of Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture. Nowadays, with modern mass-production techniques putting large quantities of low quality koma out into the world, craftsman who can carve koma with the traditional Tendo calligraphy are few and far between. In 1996, Tendo Shogi Koma were designated a traditional craft of Japan. The koma people used to play with have become true works of art!

 

 

Manufacturing Method

  1. Preparing the wood: A boxwood plank is dessicated for many years, then cut into koma-sized rectangles. From there, forty rectangles with similar grain patterns are chosen, and cut into the familiar five-sided shape.
  2. Creating the label paper: The characters for each of the 40 koma are written on thin paper.
  3. Carving the letters: When the paper is finished, the symbols are cut out one at a time, stuck to the koma wood, clamped to the carving stool, then carved one by one with a seal-engraving knife.
  4. Carving out: Once the 40 characters are carved in, rust varnish made from a mixture of polishing powder and lacquer tree sap is painted into the engraving. As the varnish settles and dries, the process is repeated over and over again until the engraving is filled and the surface is flat.
  5. Enameling: Once the carving is filled in, the lacquer is left to dry and then it is polished with sandpaper. After smoothing with fine-grain sandpaper, the surface is enameled.
  6. Polishing: Using a metallic laquer brush, the character is piled upon with laquer so that it seems to rise up from the koma. Piling the laquer so that it is three-dimensional yet even requires the skill of a master.

 

Proper finishing creates the kind of high-quality koma used by professional shogi players.

 

What is Shogi and Shogi Koma?

Shogi is played on a 9×9 board, with two players controlling 20 koma (pieces) each. As in chess, the objective for each player is to capture the other player’s king.

Shogi first developed around the 11thcentury, when the ancient Indian game chaturanga was brought to Japan through China. The practice of writing characters on the koma to differentiate them is original to Japan. The asymmetrical five-sided shape of the koma allows players to tell which pieces belong to whom.

*Weight of play koma, decorative koma, and shogi boards will vary based on material, as well as how much is hollowed out.

Names of Playing Koma:

Osha x2 (King)

Kinsho x2 (Gold General)

Ginsho x4 (Silver General)

Kakugyo x2 (Bishop)

Hisha x2 (Rook)

Keima 4 (Knight)

Kyosha x4 (Lance)

Fuhyo x18(Pawn)

 

 

The Origins of Hidariuma

Hidariuma has long been considered a lucky charm for businesses, and recently, it’s surged in popularity as a good luck charm for horseracing enthusiasts.

 

  1. The word “uma” (horse) becomes “mau” (dance) when written backwards. This is considered lucky, since dances are held during celebrations.
  2. The bottom of the character seems to hold the rest snugly in place, like a hand holding on to gold coins. This is also symbol of luck.
  3. People have always been drawn to horses. Thus, the presence of the “horse” will attract customers to your store.
  4. Horses are traditionally mounted from the left side, so “hidariuma” (left horse) becomes a symbol of horseback riding. It’s believed to bring luck to people who bet on horse races.

 

Material:Boxwood

As Japanese native boxwood became harder to find, starting around 1965, artisans began using western boxwood due to its similar color and hardness.

Western boxwood was said to be have brought back from North America by Nobuyoshi Sudo. He cultivated it in Aki in Kochi Prefecture, and from there, disseminated it to the whole country.

 

 

Material: Japanese Boxwood Grown in Yunnan

While technically the same species as Japanese boxwood, this wood grown in Yunnan, China, has a hard, crispy texture, lacking the stickiness of the traditional wood. The color tends to be an austerely elegant one, slightly different from the Japanese kind.

 

 

Material: North American Spruce

A major lumber import from North America, the material is light and pliable.

It is a pale golden yellow, and its simple grain makes it easy to dry. A fine material for crafting.

 

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