I'm stealing Dad's photos yet again to update from October - thanks Dad for still wanting to get the camera out during your stays!
Many, many years ago I can remember being taken to a fantastic old umbrella factory in Nakatsu City. My memories of it were that it was run by very old people who were working really hard to keep an amazing craft alive - paper umbrellas. The process involved in completing one umbrella was so intricate and intense and of course the finished products were amazing works of art. I can remember thinking at the time that it was sad that it was likely that eventually the crafting of these umbrellas would die out in this area as there were no young people learning the art.
From what I can tell the factory did eventually close, but I was really happy when I heard that it had relocated and was now open in another part of town. We went to check it out and discovered that it hadn't actually relocated, but a completely different person was operating it. It was a man who had decided to start learning the craft to give him something to do in his retirement. He was very open about the fact that he didn't know the traditional method of making the umbrellas, but that he had developed his own style. I got the feeling that he had tried to get some of the knowledge from the old factory owners, but they weren't very happy to share.... that could have just been the way I interpreted his Japanese though.
Where the old factory used to make all the parts necessary, the new factory gets some parts sent from other parts of Japan. While creating traditional designs he also has ones with popular Japanese beer pictures on them. He may not be following the traditional methods, but he is keeping the art alive as best he can and seems to be getting better every year. Here's hoping there will be more generations that can continue on this art for many, many years to come.