Japanese brooms
Lessons from Japan's Edo broom makers

Oji Masanori Sojirushi broom - Kake Houki.

These remarkable brooms arrived recently, and they struck us as being objects of use as cultural artefacts, provoking thoughts of a world re-made differently.

Oji Masanori Sojirushi broom details. Detail of Gunma broom binding.

Having come across these remarkable brooms, and having set about researching their origins, traditions, and manufacture, it became increasing apparent that in Japanese culture the broom is frequently held in far higher esteem than is commonly the case in the West; and furthermore that the act of cleaning, the brushing away of dust and daily grime, might be perceived not as drudgery but as a spiritual act.

Oji Masanori kake tosaka.

These brushes called to mind the time a few years ago when we were deciding between all the potential names for our shop. Naturally we searched the shortlist on the web, partly to establish domain availability and to discover whether similar domains might present cause for confusion, but also whether anything interesting or peculiar might arise from such a search. It turned out that in those days a search for 'objects of use' returned page upon page of results drawn from book one of St Augustine's De doctrina christiana, and especially the following passage:

"There are some things, then, which are to be enjoyed, others which are to be used, others still which enjoy and use. Those things which are objects of enjoyment make us happy. Those things which are objects of use assist, and (so to speak) support us in our efforts after happiness, so that we can attain the things that make us happy and rest in them. We ourselves, again, who enjoy and use these things, being placed among both kinds of objects, if we set ourselves to enjoy those which we ought to use, are hindered in our course, and sometimes even led away from it; so that, getting entangled in the love of lower gratifications, we lag behind in, or even altogether turn back from, the pursuit of the real and proper objects of enjoyment."

Published in 397 this arguably defines a line of European thought that over millennia has become so ingrained into our cultures that the production of something akin to these brooms, not as art but as daily tools, has become all but inconceivable - that a craftsman could not only survive but flourish in such painstaking manufacture of such insignificant things as brushes, low objects of use.

Three broom corn Sojirushi brooms.  Return home Next note  

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