Kurashiki, Japan is a quaint historical town with a rich and deep history. Since it’s discovery and inhabitation rival Japanese clans have fought over this choice spot along the river. It wasn’t until during the Edo period the Shogunate shut down the area and put the city under their direct rule did the town ever start to see some tranquility. During the Edo period, Kurashiki did heavy trade with the capital city Edo in rice, sugar, and other goods. Later, during the Meiji Restoration, the city became known for textiles. Kurashiki escaped World War II largely unscathed, and as a result, many of the original storehouses, mills, and shops remain in beautiful condition, open to visitors in the Bikan Historic Area.
A View of the Bikan Historic Area
The feeling whilst strolling the tiny streets is delightful storehouses with lattice windows share space with weeping willows along the banks of the old canal, which is illuminated at night. The canal has led some overly optimistic tourist associations to call Kurashiki “the Venice of Japan”. If not that — the city surrounding the Bikan area is as much a concrete jumble as any other in the country — Kurashiki is still a rare piece of old Japan, one that gives a sense of where people lived and worked, not merely the temples at which they worshipped.
Fun Fact!: Kurashiki is known for it’s cuisine like most other cities in Japan, and the dish de jour here is “Bukkake Udon”. Not to be confused with any nasty connotations you may have about the word Bukkake (which actually means “splashing strongly in great quantities”) Bukkake Udon carries influence from Edo-period in Tokyo, courtesy of the local business magnates who did trade with the shogunate. Today, Kurashiki natives will tolerate no other noodles. The sauce is served separately, so customers can pour it (bukkakeru) onto the noodles themselves. One popular chain has eight locations in the city, including four surrounding JR Kurashiki Station; hours vary, but the HQ at 2-3-23 Achi-dori (7AM-9PM) is the easiest to find. Look for the distinctive yellow and black logo!
Sightseeing and Hentai-noodles aside today we’ll be taking a closer look into something that hasn’t been in Kurashiki for the past thousand years. Benjamin Z. Rodriguez has been supplying shops in Japan and around the world with his impressive and unique pipe-making skills. Shops like GlassHut.mx and others have been stockpiling a great deal of his work in recent months, and with his skills greatly improving by the day his work is getting harding to come by.
Originally from Sinola, MX Ben learned his craft while living in San Diego, CA but it wasn’t until he was receiving a majority of his orders from Japan did he decide to relocate his entire studio to Kurashiki. He enjoys making anything with glass, but most often he finds himself making heady pipes, bubblers as well as paperweights and pendants. Stylistically Benjamin uses a culmination of different techniques; fume-working, reversals, implosions, and many other techniques can be seen all over his work which all adds to his “decadent” and “chaotically-beautiful” style.
When we asked Benjamin his favorite thing about living in Japan he replied:
Benjamin offers his services to shops around the world, brick and mortar and on the cyber realm, If you’re a personal collector and you’re looking for that classic styled heady pipe or bubbler for your collection look no further. Benjamin’s style is both unique and timeless and his craftsmanship is un-paralleled. We look forward to working with Benjamin more in the future, as Japan’s only premier latin-american pipe-maker he has set himself apart from the rest of the Japanese glass scene as a dynamic artist willing to tackle any medium. Benjamin can be reached via his Official Facebook Page regarding any and all personal and business inquires.