“Ichigo ichie” (一期一会): a Japanese idiom meaning “one time, one meeting”. The phrase embodies the cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people, and is often translated as “one chance in a lifetime”, reminding people to cherish any meeting or experience they are part of, as they may not be repeated. The phrase “ichigo ichie” has been adopted by a new series of videos which has launched on Great Big Story and CNN International in partnership with All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest and only 5-star airline. The series comprises seven videos which look at unique parts of Japanese culture, and the video I would like to share with you today is: ‘Keeping the Japanese Art of Candy Sculpting Alive’.
This video is all about the traditional art of amezaiku (飴細工) – candy craft artistry. Amezaiku is the art of quickly shaping warm taffy whilst it is soft using hands and tools such as tweezers and scissors, to create delicate sculpted candy lollipops, usually shaped as animals such as goldfish, frogs, mice, tigers, rabbits, horses and dragons. Edible dyes are painted on to the sculptures after they have been shaped, giving them incredible depth and detail.
In the video we meet 27-year-old Shinri Tezuka, a self-taught amezaiku artist who runs the shop Asakusa Amezaiku Ameshin (浅草飴細工アメシン) in Tokyo. Amezaiku dates back hundreds of years to the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) where it was a common sight on the streets, but today there are only two artists left in Tokyo. Amezaiku craftsmen used to perform to the public, entertaining and selling their crafts. Shinri Tezuka is hoping to keep the dying art alive and introduce this fascinating part of Japanese culture to more people. In Asakusa Amezaiku Ameshin, the head office, amezaiku are exhibited and workshops are held but it is not possible to buy anything. However, there is another branch of the store in Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi, and here it is possible to see amezaiku being made and also buy products. (Solamachi is well worth a visit if you’re in Tokyo anyway – there are loads of great shops there!)
I’ve seen Amezaiku on the internet before, but never actually in real life. It looks absolutely incredible, and certainly seems too good to eat! These sculpted lollipops would make fantastic presents and souvenirs, but I suppose eventually they would be eaten. Tezuka comments in the video, “It’s nothing but a candy, so it’s something that disappears at some point. However, I think that gives it a power.” Thinking back to the idea of ‘ichigo ichie’, I suppose amezaiku is another example of a ‘one chance in a lifetime’ experience. It is a unique souvenir you’re unlikely to see more than once, and something that can only really be cherished as a memory rather than being kept forever.
ANA focus on Japanese hospitality. With ANA, the idea is that your Japanese trip starts on board so you can experience Japanese hospitality before you even set foot in the country. They aim to give all passengers a travel experience far beyond their expectations. From check-in to boarding and everything in between, ANA’s airport services have been recognised as the best in the world. So customers are able to enjoy delicious Japanese meals on all ANA flights, they train local chefs in the techniques of Japanese cuisine. In-flight meals are planned and developed one year in advance and these meals taste as good as they look. Passengers can enjoy a wide range of gourmet meals and have an exquisite dining experience while they soar above the clouds. Amezaiku might not be on the menu, but I have to say their meals look a lot more appealing that some I’ve had on flights with other airlines. I’d love to fly ANA next time I go to Japan…
Watch this space for more videos from the Ichigo Ichie series coming soon!