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Sugar is not a traditionally simple medium to manipulate into highly-detailed design—but in Japan, generations of artists create complex and exquisite lollipops derived from the sweet material. Now, the artform, called amezaiku, is in danger of becoming obsolete, though a few artisans are keeping the time-honored practice alive.
“Not many people my age do this craft [...] The number of craftsmen has become so small that there was no school left to teach this technique,” Shinri Tezuka shares, while working diligently on a tiny sugar replica of tree frog. Tezuka is a 27-year-old candymaker, and he tells the video network Great Big Story, he specializes in the delicate goldfish design though he crafts dozens of different animals, like the rabbit, the tiger, and the octopus. A steady hand and a delicate application are necessary when crafting the sugar confections, formed from a soft base into a unique shape just before the sugar hardens. Tezuka is perhaps one of the youngest people fluent in the skill. Self-taught in the age-old art, the Japanese artist is an exceptional example of keeping tradition alive among the youth.
The craftsman is the head of a candy shop, Asakusa Amezaiku Ameshin, which sells the unique creations in Tokyo. “You might think there are lots of shops like this… actually there are very few. There are only two including ours,” says Tezuka.
When asked about the significance of his craft, Shinri offers these final words: “If we're asked whether amezaiku is an important part of Japanese culture or not, I would say making it an important part of Japanese culture is my job.”
Watch here as Shinri Tezuka molds and refines a menagerie of animals completely out of sugar:
See more videos from Great Big Story, on their Youtube channel, here.