Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Tool of Champions

The satsuki exhibition at Shunkaen is in full swing, albeit a very small swing. Hopefully tomorrow I will get the chance to take a few pictures. We have had a lot more visitors this year than before and even a bloke from Leeds turned up out of the blue. Being a fellow Yorkshireman I found it very easy to grumble and complain about things.

One of the visitors today was the master tool maker Kawasumi Etsuro,(left) a master craftsman of the highest order. He is part of the family who make Masakuni tools, but had a falling out with his brother who in turn took on the family business. There were at least three sons who apprenticed under their father, Kawasumi Masakuni. Etsuro is a funny old character who likes to partake of a drop or two and that has hampered his commercial success, well that and his stubborn, perfectionist attitude to his work.

Etsuro is famour for his Ikebana scissors much more than Bonsai tools which are incredibly sharp. Many years ago, when I was getting ready to purchase a pair of his thin bladed scissors he told me a little about the process he goes through in order to make them. Everything is hand processed from start to finish and the iron he uses to make the scissors comes from an old ships anchor.

Japanese tools, particularly chisels are made from relatively soft steel which makes them very easy to damage and the blunt quickly but they sharpen very easily and if done properly the blade can split the finest of wood. Etsuro's scissors are the same in that once they have been sharpened they cut so beautifully and true it is incredible. Not only are they scarily sharp but they are weighted perfectly so that the fit in the hand and do not tire you out. They are without doubt the Rolls Royce of Bonsai scissors....not that I am not a brand obsessed tool manaic, quite the opposite I use cheap and cheerful wherever possible...however there are some jobs in Bonsai which require a delicate and true cut and only something of this quality will do.

The reason he came today was to deliver a pair of scissors he had made for Kuma-san, our saturday apprentice. Kuma-sam has been coming almost every weekend for over six year and just works on whatever needs doing. He is by no means a skilled Bonsai artist but he just likes to get out of the house and away from his wife and mother in law. He rides a 1300cc motorbike which roars like a lion and is an all round great chap. Get a few glasses of sake in him and he turns into a one man comedy show. I will never forget the time he got drunk and shouted at the Chief who had chastised him earlier in the day. "How am I supposed to know not to step in the soil! I work for Canon! I fix photocopiers ever day!"

Tomorrow sees the last day of the show and hopefully we will get a chance to take a breath on monday before prepping for the shows next weekend. Morimae is putting on a show at the same time as the Kanuma and Tochigi shows so hopefully I will be able to get to see that. He always makes something worth taking the time to go and see.

In other news, I have been asked to write a book on Bonsai from a Japanese Cultural perspective but from western eyes. I think it will be digital only at first but I am pushing for a paper version. If anyone has any suggestions for things they would like to see in such a book then let me know. Until next time...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Peter,
    How much does a pair anchor iron scissors cost?

  3. Hi Peter, I was wondering whether you are still monitoring this blog. I purchased a pair of bonsai scissors that was made by Kawasumi Etsuro for bonsai master Kunio Kobayashi from Shunkaen Bonsai Museum, and was hoping to find out a bit more about Kawasumi Etsuro. Kind regards, Merv