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A visitor from the past ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 9:38 AM, October 26, 2010 [Permalink]

Carver Ito Susumu passed away in early 1999, about eighty years old. Although I can't go so far as to call him my 'teacher', he was one of the craftsmen who helped me climb to where I am now.

After first meeting him at a public demonstration in 1989, I had asked to be allowed to visit him 'on occasion' to sit and observe his work, but he demurred, on the grounds that he was too busy, and that it would be a distraction. He was, of course, correct in that!

But some years later, during the making of a TV program in 1993, the producer wanted to include scenes with me 'learning' from some of the older craftsmen, so she arranged for such a meeting to take place (presumably compensating him for the lost working time ...). On the appointed day, we showed up at his place, camera crew in tow, and we spent some time with him. The producer had nothing prepared, but simply left the two of us to sit and talk about whatever came up, while the crew filmed it all for possible use in the program (which is archived here).

As it happens, that was the end of my 'carving lessons', because I never did get another chance to spend time in his workshop.

But the story continues. The same producer came back again as I was nearing the end of the long poet's series, and asked my cooperation in the production of a one hour 'made for TV' documentary on my work. I gave my assent, and we went ahead with the production. We didn't get back to Ito-san's workshop, but they did re-use some of the old footage in the new program, which aired in February of 1999 (and that program is available here.)

Sadly, Ito-san never saw it, because he had passed away a couple of weeks earlier.

A short time after the broadcast, I received a small package in the mail from the producer, who knew how important that previous visit with Ito-san had been to me. Inside were four VTR tapes - the 'raw' footage taken in 1993, very little of which had made its way into either of the two programs. Instead of just leaving it on the cutting room floor, she felt that I would like to have it.

Would I!

The tapes have slept in my storage room ever since. Until a couple of weeks ago, when during a conversation with the NHK producer of the recent Japanophiles program, the topic somehow came up. He asked to see them and I dug them out. He thought that there might perhaps be some way to use some of this footage in our program, so asked to borrow them, and requested the contact information of the producer of the original program, which I happily supplied.

As it turned out, he wasn't able to make use of the material in the new program, but when he sent them back to me, he included a little gift - DVD dubs of the old tapes.

The package arrived this afternoon, and I have just spent the past hour - when I should have been working - sitting beside Ito-san again, listening intently as he explains his sharpening procedure. And as my Japanese comprehension is vastly improved over what it was seventeen years ago (!), the lessons are much more useful to me this time!

The producer of the original program in 1993 has given me permission to use these any way I like, so it seems like it might be a good idea to edit these, and get them online ... as soon as I get a 'minute', that is!

Here are a few quick screengrabs ...




Following comment posted by: Annie B on October 26, 2010 11:26 PM

What a precious gift! You two look so beautiful there in the last shot, poring over that block together. I look forward to seeing more as you edit them.

Following comment posted by: Mark Mason on October 27, 2010 7:07 AM

What a great opportunity to learn from a past master... will you be able to offer a translation (either as subtitles or as a voice over)?
Is there enough footage for a DVD release or download through Mokuhankan?

Following comment posted by: Dave on October 27, 2010 9:22 AM

I've only peeked at one of them so far; it was 20 minutes of 'raw' stuff - camera moving around trying to get a good angle, shoot us talking for a minute, move around again, etc. etc. - so it's certainly not going to be useable without a lot of editing (and preparing subtitles, as it's all in Japanese of course).

If the other three tapes are about the same as the first one I checked, then I guess maybe there might be around 15~20 minutes of useful content overall.

I'd have to check with Ito-san's family I think - for politeness if not for legal reasons - but I don't think they would have any objection to me putting something like this online.

But anyway, as I said, it's going to have to go onto the back burner again for a while ...

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