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ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 4 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
November 17, 2014
Small shops in Tokyo neighborhoods keep crafts alive
By Linda Lombardi
The Associated Press
OKYO — The Japanese capital is
home to many modern creations:
high tech, animation, youth
fashion. But in the small crafts shops
crowding the area known as Yanasen,
visitors can watch artisans preserving
traditional crafts, or updating them.
Yanasen (a combination of three
neighborhood names: Yanaka, Nezu, and
Sendagi) is in Tokyo’s old downtown. Some
of its shops go back generations, while
others are new.
On the Yanaka Ginza shopping street,
Midori-ya, in business since 1908, sells
items handmade from bamboo, including
chopsticks and baskets, as well as more
modern cellphone charms, earrings, and
figurines. Further down the street, a tiny
storefront houses the young artists of Ito
Manufacturing, who handprint t-shirts
with their own illustrations and make
custom hanko. A hanko is a personal seal
traditionally used instead of a signature;
Ito gives it an up-to-date twist with cute
illustrations of animals, including pandas,
a French bulldog, and a cat drinking beer.
In many of the neighborhood shops, the
craftspeople can be seen at work. At
Shibata Shoten, look past the display of
paper lanterns and you’ll see lantern
painter Keiichi Shibata at his work table.
The shop, started by his great grandfather,
has been in business for about a hundred
years in various locations around the
neighborhood. It used to make paper
umbrellas, for which there’s little demand
nowadays. The lanterns can be painted
with a customer’s name and family crest,
and while Shoten says the samples on
display are his mistakes, you’d never know
it to look at them.
Then there’s the woodworking shop Ito
Furoten, which started out making
wooden baths around 1925 (furo-ten
means “bath shop”). Azusa Miyahara, the
fifth-generation owner, says not many
women do this kind of work, but her father
had only daughters, so he passed the
business on to her 10 years ago.
The tradition of soaking in a bath is still
strong in Japan, but tubs now are often
made of other materials. So while
Miyahara still makes wooden ones on
order, the shop has branched out to include
trays, vases, stools, and other items.
YANASEN’S ARTISANS. Takahiro Yoshihara
(top photo) makes a candy beetle at Amezaiku Yoshi-
hara in Tokyo. At Amezaiku Yoshihara, people can buy
a ready-made item, including many variations on the
shop’s rabbit mascot, but the real deal is to pick a
creature from the catalog to be custom made on the
spot. Customers watch as the craftsperson takes a
glob of sugar syrup, adds a drop of coloring, and
quickly works it into an incredibly detailed little crea-
ture, using only fingers and a small pair of steel scis-
sors. Pictured in the bottom photo is Azusa Miyahara,
sitting in her woodworking and bath-building shop, Ito
Furoten, in Tokyo. Miyahara, a fifth-generation owner,
says not many women do this kind of work, but her fa-
ther had only daughters, so he passed the business to
her ten years ago. While she still makes wooden bath-
tubs when they are ordered, the shop has branched
out, offering trays for serving sushi, long-handled
buckets traditionally used for cleaning graves, stools
to sit on for washing before soaking in a tub, and
round wooden vases. (AP Photos/Linda Lombardi)
Passersby can watch her at work,
surrounded by tools and materials.
Other neighborhood shops feature items
made of fabric or paper; perhaps the best
show is one that uses sugar. Amezaiku —
the craft of making elaborate candy figures
individually by hand — used to be a
common traditional entertainment. Now,
it’s a rare skill.
At candy-maker Amezaiku Yoshihara,
people can buy a ready-made item,
including variations on the shop’s rabbit
mascot, or pick a creature from a catalog to
be custom-made on the spot. The crafts-
person takes a glob of sugar syrup, adds a
drop of coloring and — using only fingers
and a small pair of steel scissors — quickly
works it into a detailed little creature. He
has only a few minutes before the sugar
“Children who watch the magical event
of the candy being made stare open-
mouthed,” says the shop’s English flyer,
but when I watched Takahiro Yoshihara
pull the sugar into the legs and horns of a
Japanese rhinoceros beetle, the kids
weren’t the only ones gaping.
South Korea ends ferry
Grief, rage at 36-year sentence for ferry captain
By Hyung-jin Kim
The Associated Press
By Hyung-jin Kim
EOUL, South Korea — Enraged parents wept
and screamed as a judge sentenced a South
Korean ferry captain to 36 years in prison for
negligence and abandoning passengers when his ship
sank earlier this year, killing more than 300 people,
mostly high school students.
The highly anticipated verdict came on the same
day officials called off searches for the final nine vic-
tims and reflects the continuing grief and finger-
pointing over one of the worst disasters in South
Relatives of the victims immediately criticized the
sentences for Capt. Lee Joon-seok and 14 other crew
members as too lenient. Lee was acquitted of a
homicide charge, which could have carried a death
sentence, because the court said there wasn’t proof
that he knew his actions would cause such a massive
loss of life.
“Do you know how many children are dead?” one
relative shouted out during the sentencing, according
to Kook Joung-don, a lawyer for the relatives. “This
isn’t right,” another screamed.
The intense anger points to the lack of closure many
feel over the sinking. The tragedy shocked a country
that had grown used to thinking of itself as an
ultra-modern economic, diplomatic, and cultural
powerhouse — a country that had left behind a string
of deadly, high-profile accidents blamed on failures of
infrastructure and regulation as it rose from poverty,
war, and dictatorship.
More than half a year after the ferry sank, the
country still grapples with recriminations over claims
that authorities’ incompetence during rescue efforts
— along with the greed, corruption, and lack of
interest in safety of government regulators and the
ship’s owners and operators — doomed the victims.
Most of the ferry passengers were teenagers taking
a school trip to a southern island, and many student
survivors have said they were repeatedly ordered over
a loudspeaker to stay on the sinking ship and that
they didn’t remember any evacuation order being
The Associated Press
COURT RULINGS. Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken
South Korean ferry Sewol, is seen at the Gwangju District Court in
Gwangju, South Korea, in this June 10, 2014 file photo. Enraged
parents wept and screamed as a judge sentenced the ferry captain
to 36 years in prison for negligence and abandoning passengers
when his ship sank, killing more than 300 people, mostly high
school students. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Hyung Min-woo, File)
given before they helped each other flee the vessel.
Lee has said he issued an evacuation order. But he
told reporters days after his arrest that he withheld
the evacuation order because rescuers had yet to
arrive and he feared for the safety of the passengers in
the cold, swift waters.
The Gwangju District Court in southern South
Korea concluded in its verdict that Lee had issued an
evacuation order and that he left the ship after rescue
boats arrived on the scene.
An official from the Justice Ministry, who requested
anonymity because of office rules, said Lee, 69, will
technically be eligible for parole after serving
one-third of his prison sentence.
The court sentenced the ship’s chief engineer to 30
years in prison, and 13 other crew members got
sentences of between five years and 20 years in prison,
the court statement said.
The engineer, Park Ki-ho, was convicted of homicide
Continued on page 7
EOUL, South Korea — South Korea last week ended
underwater searches for nine bodies still missing from
April’s ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people in
one of the country’s deadliest disasters in decades.
The announcement came hours before a South Korean court
issued verdicts on the ship’s crew members charged with
negligence and abandonment of passengers in the disaster.
Searches for bodies and ferry wreckage have been underway
since the Sewol sank April 16 on a trip to a resort island. About
seven months after the sinking, 295 bodies have been retrieved
but nine people are still missing. Most of the dead were teenage
students on a school trip.
Oceans and Fisheries minister Lee Ju-young told a televised
news conference that the searches will stop because there is only a
remote chance of finding the missing bodies. “The government’s
conclusion is that searches by divers have reached its limit,” he
Lee said cabins in the ferry have collapsed and winter is coming,
placing divers in a “very dangerous situation.” Lee said family
members of the missing people have asked the government to stop
the underwater searches.
“As our loved ones remain trapped in the cold waters, this deci-
sion is unbearably painful for us. But we request that the search
operations to be stopped from now” because of safety concerns, a
relative of one of the missing tearfully told a separate news
conference, according to a report from the YTN television station.
Two civilian divers died after falling unconscious during
searches, according to Lee’s ministry. Lee said he feels sorry for
failing to keep a government promise to find all the missing
He said the government will decide whether to raise the ship
after discussing it with experts and the family members. The
families have worried that raising the ship would damage the
bodies or allow them to be swept away.
The ferry sinking has caused an outburst of national grief and
anger, with authorities blaming the disaster on excessive cargo on
the ship, poor rescue efforts, negligence by crew members, and
corruption by the ship’s owners.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.