The Mizusawa Cast Iron Festival

Apparently, the city we live in is famous in Japan for its cast iron work. Indeed, I know of at least two of our male private students that work in local factories.

One of those students is mine, and I asked him how long his family had been running its cast iron factory. His answer?

“Oh, about 300 years.”

Every year, all the local cast iron companies get together and have a showcase of their wares. These companies are all in competition, but at the same time, they’re all friendly. They won’t hesitate to tell you to look at the other booths, as certain companies have certain specialties. Some do pots, some do windchimes, some do decorative work.

This won’t be a blow by blow account of our day, as there isn’t a lot to tell.

I’ll give a couple of highlights.

First, we found neat windchimes in a variety of shapes and at ridiculously low prices. We bought a lot of those for ourselves and as presents.

I found an inexpensive skillet that I have cooked some unbelievably tasty steaks on (next best thing to a barbecue, I’d say.)

We also picked up a couple of neat paperweights, and Amanda found a nice lotus-leaf incense holder.

All the pictures are, of course, on Amanda’s photoblog, under the title “July Cast Iron Festival.”

A quick note about the pictures. I built a super-cheap, super-easy lightbox for taking pictures of small things (mainly for my eventual gashapon post). Unforunately, I have yet to find a white light/natural light bulb for my light source. As a result, all the pictures have a yellowish tint (except one of the samurai, for which I used the camera’s flash, but that resulted in too much glare, so the details aren’t as clear).

Now for the neat stuff.

There was a booth where, for a mere 200 yen (about $2 CAD), you could try your hand at making some aluminum cast figures. There are a few pictures of us in the process of making these. It was fun, though I felt as though the guy at the booth was rushing me along. My first figure (the samurai) didn’t turn out very well, but Amanda’s (the fox/dog thing) was pretty good. I later went back to try again, this time making a Hamtaro, who turned out pretty well (though I noticed there was some pockmarking on the mold itself that marred the end product, still, it was the best I could do).

There is a museum nearby for traditional iron-working, so we went to that and saw some old examples of the trade. We also saw/participated in a tea ceremony. I would say more about that, but there wasn’t much to it. We went in, we were served sweet red bean cakes, were given some tea, and that was pretty much that.

The one major thing about the tea ceremony is that Amanda was put front and center, since there was a free space there. Part of the ceremony for the people at the front (or, I assume, in a private ceremony, this one being public) has the central people being shown the simple elegance of the tea container and the little scoop for the tea, which they are supposed to admire. No one told Amanda this, so essentially, she was given a small container and a small spoon and asked herself, “Great, what am I supposed to do with this?”

So much for the tea ceremony.

The last thing to mention is the fish. There was a booth where a man had a small pool of goldfish. You give him your money, he gives you a rice-paper net and a bowl. The objective is to catch a fish before the paper breaks in the water. Apparently, the black fish are rarer, and larger fish result in more rapidly broken paper nets. As it was mostly aimed at children, anyone who tried was automatically rewarded with a small goldfish (not a black one), whether he/she succeeded or not.

Despite being me, I managed to catch a large black fish on my first try. I was quite proud of this.

We took it home, and our boss loaned us an old fish tank. I thought I cleaned it thoroughly, but I should have known better.

I think the fish tank did it, but whatever it was, we lost the fish a couple of days later.

R.I.P. Tetsu

And that’s pretty much all that matters about the Mizusawa Cast Iron Festival, from our perspective.


~ by truth9 on September 1, 2007.

2 Responses to “The Mizusawa Cast Iron Festival”

  1. Enjoyed your recent blogs and the pictures – they’re great! Especially appreciated the ocean scenes and the flowers you gave Amanda.

  2. Sounds like a heavy day of shopping. Perhaps a cast iron wagon would have helped?

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