Devotion over a lifetime, and over a millennium

What makes the work of a shokunin different from that of an artist, is that such one-time creations are really the result of endless repetitions of splitting, planing and so on. It is not just from practice of my own lifetime, but from the experience handed down to me from my ancestors in a perpetual line of accumulated wisdom from ancient times. -Shuji Nakagawa

As someone interested in craft, I find the Japanese mindset of Shokunin, loosely translated as artisan, fascinating. Only in Japan do you have a watchmaker who makes one watch a year (each watch sells for $150,000+) or a blacksmith who makes a $35k pair of scissors.

Shokunins speak of their vocations with pride and humility. They care about mastery not as a means to an end but as the reward itself. Yet, many Shokunins follow an ancient lineage of master craftspeople. Experience and wisdom are passed down to each generation. This accumulated experience means not only an individual’s devotion to a craft but one’s entire lineage dedicated to a craft.

September 19, 2023

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