Nowadays, it’s uncommon to find craftsmen who have mastered their art through eras as well as really love what they do. 80-year-old Masaaki Hiroi is one of those jewels – a fourth generation wooden toymaker prominent for his Japanese Edo spinning tops.
Masaaki Hiroi started making the spinning tops in his 30s having learned the technique from his father. He has presently made more than 4,000 varieties. Edo spinning tops were popular during the Edo Period, around 1603-1867 but Hiroi still thrives on these toys. They have a distinctive component which adds an extraordinary movement to the toys and they are sometimes loaded with entertainment.
He says, “I want to make people who buy my toys laugh”, which he creates to be enjoyed by both young and old people.
In spite of the fact that his original works were based on tradition, they were not acknowledged in Japan and perhaps it was a big blow to his efforts. Yet, Hiroi continued his endeavor. In 1980, he was invited to Paris to exhibit his creations and was exceptionally appraised. While in the exhibition, he was convinced that to maintain the tradition, one needs to continue creating the tradition from the old.
At long last, the Japanese caught up with his innovation, uniqueness and his conviction. And since 1983, Hiroi began to be invited to the United States and other countries to have exhibitions and workshops. He has exhibited his works in over 50 countries to date.
The Japanese craftsman is also popular for his ability in creating conventional super spinner, kyoku-goma tops which are used by conventional spinning performers for their expert exhibitions.
The Kyoku-goma is extremely basic top yet which needs the highly skilled craftsman to make the best balance and spinning movement. You might need to take a spin but it’s difficult. This top is for those who try to reach the apex in spinning tops. But once you master the skill, you’ll have the capacity to get this magnificence to move along a tight string while spinning at the same time.
Although many children these days forego toys and rather choose to keep their minds buried in their pervasive iPads and iPhones, far less would ever opt to play with an antiquated wooden toy instead of their cutting-edge plastic partners. Yet, this hasn’t discouraged the 80-year-old craftsman from spending his days making carefully assembled wooden artworks to amuse an increasingly smaller group of youngsters.
“Cutting-edge technology is fun, but it’s a pity if children become absorbed only in those toys. There are traditional toys and traditional ways to play in Japan, one of them is spinning top. I am sad to see so many old toys become obsolete around the world. I can only wish that children continue to play with both new and old toy. I want to make people who buy my toys to laugh and make toys that anyone, old and young, men and women can enjoy. We are given such little time”, says Hiroi.
Today, Masaaki Hiroi is highly perceived an expert craftsman of Edo Tops and his mission for inventiveness still continue.