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Monday, December 25, 2017

Information gathered at the Kochi Prefecture Coral Association

   Have you ever heard of a coral wedding anniversary? It’s the 35th anniversary of a wedding. Why not gift a coral product to your parents on the day? People may think of accessories and jewelry when coral products are mentioned, but they are actually used in various ways depending on application and through blending Japanese and Western influences, such as good luck charms, ornaments, tea caddies used for tea ceremonies, incense burners, Buddha statues, and picture frames. What makes coral attractive is that it lives in the deep sea and grows slowly, with some varieties taking up to 50 years to grow one centimeter, and it is also beloved because of its rarity. Additionally, because of the fact that coral grows by absorbing free-swimming coral larvae, it can be said that it is a natural work of art. There are no two identical corals as they are made within the natural cycle.

~Off to the auction~
   The day we went to collect information, it happened to be the day of the monthly auction. We took a peek at the auction with great interest. In the morning, each product is examined closely. In the afternoon, each buyer is handed a small well-worn handbook and the auction begins. Each person writes their bid in the handbook, and hands it to the organizer. The organizer then yells out “Kaihyou (open the ballot)!!!” along with the name of the person with the highest bid. This results in completion of the bid. There are people who bid a high price for an item they particularly want, people who are able to buy something for a surprisingly low price, and there are people who can only sigh as the item they want is taken by another person. In this way, there is no set market price for coral. However, red coral has become popular in the last 20 years or so. The deeper the color, the more it catches the buyer’s attention.
 
~History of coral and its future~
   The history of Japan’s precious coral began in 1812, when a local fisherman happened to pull up some coral and gifted it to the local feudal lord. From then on, coral fishermen and coral artisans have coexisted naturally and the traditional techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. At the same time, people who have come to own precious coral have handed it down from generation to generation as well, and they have had artisans polish their coral item over the years as they treasure it along with their memories.

   Currently, however, there is a shortage of coral artisan successors. One of the undertakings to combat this is the Tosa Coral Festival which occurs from late February to early March at the Kochi Tourist Information Center, Tosa Terrace. By displaying award winning works from the Coral Masterpiece Contest, it arouses interest in coral among young people, and it provides encouragement to the artisans. There were 130 to 150 works last year, and over 2500 visitors came, including those from Taiwan, China, and Korea. It is a great chance to spread information about the wonders of coral to many people, and it is an opportunity to study manufacturing techniques and artistry for artisans.

Kochi Kencho CIR Cho Keiketsu

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