The first female craftsman in the history of Itoya

Chochin Artisan Mariya Kojima

She became a cook after graduating the junior college, but became a lantern artisan when she was 25 years old. Later she got married and became a mother of three children. She is not only engaged in lantern production at the same time as raising children, but also holds managerial and public relations position.

Becoming a lantern artisan from being a cook.
I made that decision out of sheer desire to support my father.

When I was 25 years old, I left my job as a cook at a hospital. I made that decision when I thought my father, who was caring for my grandparents in between works, would eventually collapse if he went on like that. He was against my decision, but I wanted to help him out at any rate. Although it took some courage for me to leave a stable job, it wasn’t much of a challenge for me as I always liked making things by hands.

I started out with the painting, and learned to construct the model next. I have to moist the washi paper with a spray when pasting it onto the model, but if I spray too hard, the paper becomes too thin, so it is difficult to exert the right pressure. My father advised me that the right feeling only comes with the actual experience. He tells me that he enjoys teaching me, because I am honest and like making things by hand, and that the most important character in human being is to be honest”.

Division of labor is common in the lantern production, but Itoya carries out all the processes in house. Therefore, there was so much there for me to learn, which made me realize how great my father was at his work. It has been more than 10 years since I became a lantern artisan, but I and my father have never had a fight. I am devoting myself to lantern making with the help of my father’s advice.

When I just started working at Itoya, it was facing a difficult financial situation. However, I and my father worked together to protect Itoya to the end. That hard work brought us where we are today. My father evaluates himself then as a “worker bee”, but I have watched him work feverishly with a conviction that “an honest person never wavers,” which made our ties go beyond that of either parent-child or master-disciple.

As an artisan and as a mother of three.
I want to sustain and nurture the Itoya’s history of 230 years.

My life changed 180 degrees since becoming a lantern artisan. Itoya has been established in Edo period and has a history of more than 200 years, but I only became aware of it after becoming a lantern artisan. Despite facing quite a few difficulties, I enjoy being able to take on various challenges.

I have married and gave birth to three children in these 10 years. I have returned to work right after childbirth, and worked while laying the baby next to me. I had to pick up my child from the nursery school, go back to Itoya, come home and do all the housework, and in busy season, go back to work after my child has gone to sleep. I used to hate even 10 minutes of overtime work at my previous work, but I find my current one so rewarding that I often work until midnight without knowing it.

My children tell me that they want to be a lantern artisan when they grow up. When I was small, lantern making seemed rather drab and I never wanted to get involved with it, but I want to make it a colorful profession before my children grow up. My new goal is to create a studio, which can convey the appeals of lantern making, and an environment that is easy for anyone to work in.