Ito Inbou’s Ms. Motoko Ito is a seal engraver who creates Koeda Inkan (a seal made from a tree branch). She has been acknowledged as a person with exceptional skills by both Taito Ward and Tokyo Metropolis.
Ms. Ito followed in her father’s footsteps and became a seal engraver. When most people think of a craftsman of traditional arts, they probably think that protecting that tradition is the most important thing. Ms. Ito, however, believes that learning new things and understanding foreign cultures is also very important.
Ms. Ito started making Koeda Inkan in 2000.
She was told that it was possible to make a seal from a tea branch and decided to give it a try, which ultimately led to her becoming a seal engraver.
Seals can be carved into a variety of types of wood, such as cherry, pomegranate, persimmon, and Japanese pepper. In fact, any hard wood can be carved into.
The wood is left to dry out completely for 10 years before it is ready to be used. After the 10 years have passed, the branch is cut into the correct size for a seal. Then the surface of the seal is covered with red ink and letters or designs are drawn on with black ink. After that, a special seal-engraving knife is used to chip away at the surface leaving only the part where the letters and designs are. Once the letters and designs are carefully cut around the seal is complete. The more you use Koeda Inkan the more accustomed to it you become. The unique shape and lack of uniformity bring out a certain charm.
Nowadays, most seals are engraved by machines and the demand for hand carved seals has decreased, but Ms. Ito believes that original, hand carved seals are unique. Up to now, she has fulfilled many customers’ special requests by carving designs on various objects.
When she has spare time she is either coming up with new designs or creating new Koeda Inkan. In this way, Ms. Ito’s new ideas bring in many customers who are interested in seeing what she comes up with next.
“Recently, I made seals with one Hiragana character on them. Many foreign customers seemed to find them very interesting and bought them. Even when we can’t understand each other’s languages we can get a general understanding by seeing and there are many apps available which help us to communicate with each other. By communicating and exchanging ideas with customers I can learn new ways of thinking.” Ms. Ito said.
Also, there is a Koeda Inkan making experience class now opened. Up to 14 people can experience making seals together and many schools take part in this opportunity. All of the tools needed for carving are provided in the lesson and in about 1.5 – 2 hours you can make your very own Koeda Inkan.
“Most children are very adaptable and are able to come up with their own ideas to make interesting and creative designs to carve. Even if they don’t plan to become seal engravers when they grow up, it makes me feel happy that they want to try making something by themselves.” Ms. Ito said.
Address: (Tokyo) Taito, Senzoku 1-19-4
Hours: 8:30am – 6:30pm
Holidays: Open daily unless otherwise noticed