09 Oktober 2010

Wisdom from Lacquer Collector

Just a few minutes ago, I was lucky to watch this program on NHK. Although I didn't watch it from the beginning, I was grateful that my curiosity lead me away from boring culinary program to this interesting program.

It was a calm, soothing, documentary program that showed the story of a lacquer collector in Joboji area, western of Iwate Perfecture of Japan. He has been collecting sap from lacquer tree for amazingly 54 years! When I start viewing this program, the program was showing how he brought back memories by playing the record of himself collecting saps. Back then, it was a glorious moment for lacquer collector until Chinese lacquer hit the market with low-priced lacquers. Slowly but sure, many lacquer collector began being out of business. But he patiently stayed in the business.

Collecting saps can only be done in summer. They get up and collect the saps by making a gouge(straight cut on the tree's skin). They may not cut too deep not too short. By making it too deep, they will hurt the tree and the tree may contract goma disease. If they do, collectors may not be able to harvest sap from that tree anymore. If they cut too short, they cannot get many sap. This old collector is also tutoring a young collector how to make good cut and collect the sap. The old collector's philosophy in collecting saps is treating the tree as living substance.

His philosophy is shown by the way he treats the trees. He makes a gentle straight tree in order to prevent the goma disease. He treats the saps by collecting it into one clean bucket, where no bad material that can damage the quality of saps can be found. He patiently collects saps even though he doesn't gain as much as he could in the past. He said, " It is the quality that matters, not the quantity". He keeps the saps as if it is his own son. It's shown by the way he delivers the saps after summer harvesting time is over to the bulk seller. He kisses the bucket as if he is letting his son go on a long journey. After collecting time is over, the trees need to be cut down in order to grow another lacquer bud into a good lacquer tree in the future. He looks sad every time the cut down those harvested trees using a chainsaw. He wishes that he can harvest the sap from the newly-born bud in the future, but in case he aren't there when the time comes, he wants it to be ready when someone younger do it for him.

Wisdom can be found from living by the lacquer tree. Can other people find wisdom by living next to us?

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