As society modernizes and globalization speeds up, we find ourselves discussing this topic more often than ever before.
What place will tradition, and the traditional ways of living and creating, have now in the world, amidst continuing technological advancement and societal development?
I question in terms of the artistic preservation of tsumami zaiku, and kanzashi, today.
Behind doors closed to modernization, they flourished.
Then, the Meiji period ushered in an era of westernization and rapid modernization. Men, in increasing numbers, no longer wore their hair long and in topknots. They cut their hair short and started wearing suits.
Women slowly started growing out of Japanese hair-styling (日本髪-nihongami) too. At the same time, they also started growing out of their kanzashi. It wasn’t that tradition had to die because new things were happening. It wasn’t that the traditional ways withered away, sadly fading to obscurity in the wake of the spanking new. If it was the case, so many aspects of culture, including language would have had to die with it too.
It has simply taken to the background in quiet evolution.
The power of human belief
I truly believe that tradition, however quietly, still lives on in the people who still remember and respect it, in acknowledgement of its undisputed importance in their daily lives.
A craftsman who has chosen to take up modern machinery to aid his crafting process cannot be labeled one who has abandoned his craft and life’s work. He has simply elected to follow a different set of methodologies in his pursuit of artistic creation and mastery. Should modernization in art allow him to continue with his craft, improving it and preserving its roots without burdening him with concerns of the past and tedium, there is no logical reason why it must work against human ideals of ‘preserving tradition’ or even ‘pushing for tradition’?
In my humble opinion, this spirit is what allows tsumami kanzashi to progress, to keep moving forward at its own pace without cruelly sacrificing its soul and origins to human arrogance and laziness brought about by abuse of technological ease and convenience in modern society.
As a newly-minted practitioner of the kanzashi craft, I will always remember and live by the notion that it is precisely because it’s easier to make kanzashi now, no matter the design or materials used, that kanzashisurvives and will continue flourishing in the future.
Acknowledge the usefulness of technology but forget not the calluses on the human hands that have endured years upon years of sheer hard work, practice and successes born of failure. For the metal can be polished yet never speak a single word but the lines on human palms relate a world of knowledge and dedication.