While the 230-million-year-old Ogatsu stone’s main feature is its pure black color, it is also a highly valued construction material due to its low water content, high durability, as well as its resistance to chemical changes, heat, bending and compression. Tokyo Station is a prime example where the beauty of this material can still be admired to this day. Ogatsu stone is also used for making Ogatsu Suzuri (inkstone), a popular tool for calligraphers and artists.
While the production of high-quality Ogatsu stone and Ogatsu suzuri is believed to date back 600 years, written documents of these operations only appear in the Edo period. These recount how regional lord Masamune Date appointed two regional Ogatsu crafters to work exclusively for his clan due to their skillful workmanship. Consequentially, the town of Ogatsu became renowned for its sophisticated, refined and high quality suzuri. Later, during the Meiji period, the production of Ogatsu stone intensified and became one of Japan’s major exports.
Due to it’s location on Japan’s north-eastern coast, the town of Ogatsu as well as its Ogatsu stone production and extraction sites were devastated by the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11th 2011. However, thanks to years of tireless communal efforts to keep the local Ogatsu tradition and craft alive, the Ogatsu industry has been able to gradually work on bringing their production levels back up to pre-tsunami levels.
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