Text: Kit Chan
Photos: Kit Chan
Translated by Derek Leung
What do you think is the most gleaming lamp? A prestigious designer one that shows the exquisite craftsmanship? Or one that ignites and sheds light on its invisible life peacefully when it is turned on?
This is the latest limited specialty in Aomori, Japan, in addition to the well-known apples and seafood, that can only be found in the rural area of Oirase Stream: a lamp made of a Chinese bottle gourd.
Looking unattractive for it simply is a dried gourd with a number of tiny holes, it, however, once the light is on, signifies a whole new world: through the small holes does the light come, more precisely flow, out like water, gently and slowly, with somewhat magically flexible tension, that resembles the contracted starlight spreads out from the gourd-like universe just in front of you.
Another kind of beauty is noticeable on a closer look at those tiny holes, the shapes of which range from flowers and stars, to abstract patterns reminiscent of the totems of ancient peoples. If the gourd were the earth, its tiny holes and the scattered light the shiny stars, mountains and oceans that form a captivating and breath-taking map.
Behind the scenes of this romantic and slender piece of work is beyond imagination a sturdy man with an extremely powerful pair of hands: the 37-year-old Takashi Okita from Aomori who became a star-grade professional Japanese wrestler in 2008.
There was a sudden change in his seamless life eight years ago. His cheekbones were severely damaged in a tournament and the unpredictable complete recovery forced him to leave the wrestling ring. While others may be unable to rise again due to this total collapse, Okita on the contrary chose to live optimistically and returned to his hometown to look for his roots and love from the bottom of his heart. In fact, everything is around him and there is no need to search it.
Moss is one of the most well-known observation in Aomori. Accounting for one tenth in the world, the moss develops more than 300 species in the proximal valleys and natural habitats of the Oirase Stream with extremely high humidity. In 2013, the Stream was officially recognized by Japan as an extremely precious moss forest, which is on par with Yakushima and Kitayatu in Nagano Prefecture.
After ups and downs, Okita returned to the hometown to study and farm moss, and even design it as a unique potted plant.
Soon after, he opened a farm and planted Chinese bottle gourds. After being air-dried for a season upon the annual autumn harvest, the gourds will be carved with tiny holes to become lamps.
All patterns on the gourds are inspired by the vast variety of stream-side moss. Despite its dust-like size, it is indeed a complicated life under the magnifying glass – it is just a subjective thought between humility and mightiness.
No two gourds look the same. This is the magic of Nature – of the Oirase Stream. Some gourds are round, some slender and some weird. Instead of manipulating the design, the designer can only yield to Nature and create according to different fruit shapes and textures. This is in line with Okita’s life. He cannot control the presence of the mishap but he has been trying to accept it and embrace it. Perhaps, there will be another blossom in his life.
Okita who turns those hidden in the wave of trends to be countless stars shining brilliantly in the world of confidence and appreciation.