豆腐の旅 パート1 石工さん Tofu Journey Chapter 1: Stone Mason

豆腐は、大島の暮らしに欠かせないものでした。冠婚葬祭には必需のご馳走で、でも行事の多い島だからしょっちゅうどこかの家が作っていたといいます。竹を焚き物にがんがん沸かし、にがりじゃなくて海水で固めた豆腐。ほのかな塩味と外国のトーフを思い出させるしっかりした質感、そして何よりその存在の深さに魅了され、これを石臼で、自分の手で作るべく辿ってきた豆腐の旅、第1部です。

たいてい大豆3升ほどを挽いて、大釜で炊きます A big pot full of ground soy beans
たいてい大豆3升ほどを挽いて、大釜で炊きます
A big pot full of ground soy beans

Tofu has been an essential food in Oshima. For weddings, funerals, festivals and rituals, it was one of the special foods in the island. Yet in another way, it was an everyday food since there were numerous community events throughout the year, for which there was always someone making tofu.  It is made by heating soy milk over a vigorously burning bamboo fire, and sea water is used instead of nigari to curdle it into tofu. The result is a tofu with a texture similar to firm tofu in western countries but with a subtle saltiness. Having been fascinated by the taste of it as well as the stories around it, I was determined to make tofu from scratch with the traditional millstone method. Here is the first step of my tofu journey.

前に竹師匠の徳蔵さん夫妻に「豆腐作ろう!」と持ちかけると、「できるかよぅ。うちん臼は目の擦れとって使えんよ」と一蹴されました。どこの家でも必需品だった石の挽き臼ですが、今は漬物石やガーデンオブジェとしてちょっと不本意にお役立ち。たいていは目(溝)が擦れていて、本来の仕事はちょっと厳しい。しかし月日を追うごとに膨らむ憧れは如何ともしがたく、再三、豆腐の誘いを試みると、「石工さんなら目切りの道具持っとるかもしれんよ」と徳蔵さん。そういうわけで、手前豆腐への旅は石工さん巡りからとなります。

臼の目。これが擦れていると挽けません Grooves on the stone
臼の目。これが擦れていると挽けません
Grooves on the stone

I had once said to my bamboo basket teacher Tokuzo san and his wife that I wanted to make tofu with the millstone. He said “No chance. Our millstone is all worn out”. The used-to-be-indispensable tool is now often seen on top of pickles (as a weight) or in the garden (as an ornament), and most of them have had their grooves worn away. As my dream grew bigger day by day I bugged them more than a few times, and finally Tokuzo san told me to ask stone masons if they have the tool for cutting the grooves. The journey begins with visiting those old stone masons.

まず自分ちの近所のおじいちゃん石工さんを訪ねると、「もう道具はなかなあ。鍛冶屋さんか他の石工さんに聞いてみんね」。というわけで鍛冶屋さんへ。「作ったことはあるけど、もうなかねえ。あれは特殊なもんやもんね」。そして行き着いたのは小値賀で一番若い石工の山内さん、80歳。春浅い海を眺めて物思いに耽っているところに乱入して、話を聞きました。IMG_0777_2

I started with the retired mason in my neighbourhood and was told that he didn’t have the tools anymore. “Ask the blacksmith or a mason on the other side of the island”. So I went to the blacksmith, also retired,  who said “I’ve made it but don’t have one. That’s a special tool just for that purpose”. So I ended up with 80 year old Yamauchi san, the youngest of the stone masons in Ojika. He was sitting in front of his house, looking out over the sea rippling in the early spring wind when I suddenly pulled over my bike.

石垣というものは、それが溶け込んだ風景に深みを与えます。お寺や屋敷周りの端然と積まれた切石のものも、田んぼや道を頑健かつ柔らかく支える自然石のものも、静かに心に響きます。山内さんは切石積みが専門。彼が弟子入した時にはもう石は車で運んでいましたが、それでも現場で移動させたり、上げ下げしたりは手仕事です。使い込まれた道具を前に、精密な計算を要する石仕事の話を聞いていると、力持ちで忍耐強く頭もいい石工という職に恋心すら覚えます。昔は家の基礎作りもよく手がけたけれど、コンクリートが入ってきてがくっと仕事が減りました。煙草栽培や出稼ぎ期間を経て、後は建設会社で石に関わり、定年後も頼まれて石垣の修理をしたり。数年前から膝が言うことを聞かなくなり、「もう無理じゃね」。技術を伝えたい思いはあれど、伝える先がありません。「若っかもんが習いに来たこともあったけど、腰がもたんで長続きせんだった。そりゃ痛かよ。そこを乗り越えれば続くとけどね」。石という無機質のものに命を与える技術と心意気が、この島から消えていく…おなじみの寂しさが胸を突きます。でも、失礼ながらご存命の石工さんがいると知らなかったので、この日は高揚感のほうが勝りました。

IMG_0766_2
石工道具たち。下から2番目を借りました。 Stonework tools. I borrowed the second one from the bottom.
IMG_0767_2
色んな積み方を教えてくれる Different ways of laying stones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stone walls add a profound cultural touch to the landscape in which they stand. Whether with uniformly split stones that are often seen around houses and temples, or with stones in their natural shape piled around rice paddies and farm fields, they make a quiet but strong impression. Yamauchi san specialized in the former style. Although trucks had already been in use to transport stones by the time he started his apprenticeship, carrying them up and down on the site was done by hand. Splitting and laying required precise calculation. As he showed me his well-used tools and explained about the stone work, I couldn’t help but fantasize about the craftsmen in the past who were well-built, enduring, and bright. How sad that they are not around anymore! Laying a stone foundation for houses was also a large part of their work, but such jobs decreased substantially once concrete became popular. Yamauchi san grew tobacco or at times found seasonal jobs in the mainland for some years, then got a job at a construction company in Ojika. After retiring, he would fix walls here and there when asked and had continued to work with stone until a few years ago when he started having trouble walking. He would still be happy to pass on his skills, but no one is taking it on. “I’ve had a couple of young apprentices but none of them lasted long enough because of back pain. Of course it hurts. If only they could get over the first while…” The skills and the spirit that give life into otherwise lifeless stones are fading out of this island. The familiar sense of melancholy grew in my heart, but on this day, excitement won over since I had had no idea there was a stone mason alive who I could talk to.

山内さんの家の前の漁港は石積みの部分が残っている The fishing port in front of his house has an old stone wall built by his master
山内さんの家の前の漁港は石積みの部分が残っている
The fishing port in front of his house has an old stone wall built by his master

石臼の話に戻します。石臼の目切りは石工の仕事ではなく、外から職人がきて家々を回っていたとのこと。だから山内さんの常用道具の中に目切りの道具は入っていません。それでも、特注で作ってもらったという石工道具のひとつを選び、「これで出来るやろ」と貸してくれました。「でも、それ用の手ヨキもあったと思うけん、探しとくよ」ということなので、また訪ねてくる口実もできました。

山内さんの初期の仕事。師匠について積んだお寺の石垣 A stone wall at a temple that he built with his master
山内さんの初期の仕事。師匠について積んだお寺の石垣
A stone wall at a temple that he built with his master

ずっしりと重い道具を抱えて意気揚々と家路に着きました。大島には次いつ行こうかなあ。

I should get back on track; the millstone. It turned out that cutting grooves wasn’t done by stone masons, but professionals in the trade would come from outside and visit around the community. So Yamauchi san has never done it and his set of tools doesn’t include that particular tool. Still, he picked one of them and handed it to me. “For now, this will probably work. But I think I have that tool somewhere. I’ll find it by your next visit”. That means I could come here again. I went home with the heavy tool and started planning my next Oshima day.

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