Along the steep, cobblestone steps of the Kumano Kodō toward Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, you will find some souvenir shops, including a Shodo shop.
Since I am a Shodo fanatic and love all things associated with it – washi paper, haiku and more, the one souvenir I purchased on my pilgrimage was a suzuri, ink stone. Waken is the word for a 和硯 Japanese ink stone.
I’m not your typical consumption-obsessed American, so I don’t buy a lot of things, unless it’s from a Temple Sale, so this suzuri was special.
A shodo artisan shop with a family of traditional artisans 山口 Yamaguchi 光峯 Koho is found along the route toward Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine features hand-sculpted suzuris from the slate/shale of ancient quarries or riverbeds of Wakayama’s black, ancient stone.
The mother demonstrated its superb smooth surface, essential for Shodo. She put a few water drops on the suzuri and blended a a sumi ink stick on the stone’s smooth surface that had and rich luster, close grain and natural pattern.
The ink stones Considering they are handmade by a family of artisans passing down their ancient craftsmanship, the smallest one I could afford was around 1000.00 ¥ ($100). It’s perfect for letter writing and simple Kanji, katakana, hiragana practice.
Most importantly, I purchased it as my one souvenir because I wanted to honor the artisan for his traditional craftsmanship, as well as own an heirloom piece I can pass down for centuries that has a meaningful story to it – not just something meaningless mass manufactured junk Japan was set up to produce after WWII.
I can really feel the energy in the stone and the craftsmanship each time I use it for a mindful and relaxing shodo practice.