奈良墨 （Nara Sumi）
“墨（Sumi）” is one of the ink to be used for Japanese “書（”Sho”）with “筆（”Fude）. In past, all Japanese people used to use Sumi. I also did. It was one of the very important habit for Japanese people to grind a Sumi by using people’s own hand and “硯 （Suzuri）” to make ink before writing.
As Mr. Hrai Shoshu, who is 臨済宗全生庵住職 said about Sho that, “単なる文字ではなく「心の跡」(Quoted from 『坐禅のすすめ』幻冬舎) （Sho is not just written word but imprint of mind）”, the word written by using “Sumi” communicate more than the meaning of the word.
It is said that “山岡鉄舟 （Yamaoka Tesshuu）” who was a politician of Japan and also known as a master of “Sho” wrote 1 million piece of papers of “Sho”.
The origin of “Nara Sumi” is imported from China through Kora in A.D. 610 by “曇徴 （Don Cho）” as Japanese History book “日本書紀 （Nihon Shoki）” mentioned that “推古天皇の十八年春三月、高麗王。僧曇徴よく紙墨をつくる”.
At first, Japanese people used “Sumi” imported from China or Korea. At that time, the shape of “Sumi” was like picture below. It looks like boat, doesn’t it? So, the way of numbering of Sumi is still same as boat in Japanese language. You might be able to see “Sumi” at that time in annual “Shosoin” exhibition in some time (may be around 7 or 8 years later).
About 460 years ago, craftsmen in Japan start to produce “Sumi” by themselves. Since then, Nara has been a produce center of “Sumi” and more than 95% of “Sumi” in Japan has been produced in Nara. Nowadays, only 7 “Sumi” manufacturers whose number of craftsmen is only 10 in total are able to produce “Sumi” in Japan.
There are two type of raw material of “Sumi”. One of them is “松煙 (Shoen)” and the other is “油煙(Yuen)”. “Shoen” is made of smoke of red pine. “Yuen” is made of smoke of sesame oil, rape-seed oil or Tsubaki oil.
“Shimi” made of “Shoen” is expensive and whose component ration is only 10%. Rest of 90% of “Sumi” is made of “Yuen”. Color and Shape of “Sho” is depends on raw material of “Sumi”. “Sho” in above pictures are shown the difference between each raw material but it is really difficult to identify through picture. You can recognize it easily when you see actual “Sho”.
Black color of ink, paint and toner is made by carbon black which is chemical product. However, “Sumi” is completely veritable origin product. It is suitable for “和紙 (Japanese Paper)” which is also made by hands of craftsman.
Above is “Sumi” ingot which is made of “Yuen”, binder and flavor. Binder is glue, one of the gelatins, which is to be used for fixing “Yuen” each other. Flavor is used to get rid of bad smell of glue. Therefore, “Sumi” has its original fragrant smell.
Every “Sumi” is made by hand and maxim 350-400 “Sumi” can be produce a day.
The first process is weight measuring. As I mentioned before, measuring unit for “Sumi” is same as oars of boats in Japanese. Is is called “丁 (Cho)”. One Cho means 15g. This time, craftsman measured 5 Cho, that is, 75g.
Then “Sumi” is kneaded by craftsman. Can you see what a change from ingot? In sorry but not all the people obtain WAZA because it depends on shape hand and habit. It is sure some people cannot make “Sumi” even though ten years of training.
Then Sumi is put into wooden mold.
Can you see white words written in wooden molds? Those words are for identifying appropriate combination of each parts of the mold.
Put into the mold and give “Sumi” a pressure.
After enough time has passed, “Sumi” is taken up from the mold.
The shape of “Sumi” is formed by the mold and it is elastic.
Formed “Sumi” have to be dried for 4 months, at least. After dry up, the size of “Sumi” shrinks about 20%.
However, it cannot be sold yet. It has to be in storage for at least 2-3 years to be commercial “Sumi”. The more “Sumi” is in storage for a long time, the better of the quality of “Sumi”.
After dried and stored for a long time, “Sumi” is completed.
Even scraps produced under manufacturing of “Sumi” are precious product. It has been used in carpenter’s ink bottle.
These are completed “Sumi” in commercial. Gold and blue colors of words are written afterward.
Sometimes, gold power is used for decoration.
When craftsman give a gloss to “Sumi”, he polish it by shell of common orient clam.
Wooden mold is also made by hands of craftsmen and it is also WAZA.
Pictures are taken at “錦光園 (Kinkoen)”. http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~narazumi/index.html