We are now into our third week of instruction here in Awaji. Last week, week two, we worked with a master carver. Sekioka Sensei is a carver from Tokyo. He runs a business which makes reproductions of Ukiyo-e prints from the 18th and 19th centuries. This is done by starting with an old print and meticulously recreating the blocks in old cherry wood and printing them by hand in the original manner. He showed us some of his cherry wood blocks and his carving is exquisite. Apparently there is a real dearth of carvers and presently he has only one apprentice. It's a seven year apprenticeship and the first six months of the apprenticeship is spent carving letters out of cherry wood. This may be one reason why there are so few young Japanese carvers stepping up to the plate.
The sensei also gave us a lesson in sharpening our tools, a skill I have never mastered and even after a day of personalized instruction, still haven't. At home I have two identical sets of tools. When one set gets dull, I send it off to Japan for sharpening. I have managed to get my hands on a piece of leather, (something highly discouraged by our hosts) which I am using to hone my knive blades. They're not perfect, but they're much better.