Fukui: Idol makes crutches using craft techniques

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mai, left, and fellow Sakulight member Wakana hold up crutches made from traditional techniques in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture.

FUKUI — After being seriously injured while working, a member of a local idol group in Fukui Prefecture made crutches using local, traditional craftsmen’s techniques.

The crutches were made by Mai, a member of the idol group Sakulight, which was formed in July 2019 to support traditional crafts in the prefecture. The 23-year-old has continued working, including appearing on stage, while using the crutches.

Mai and another member Wakana, the same age as her, have participated in events featuring traditional crafts such as lacquerware, woodcrafts, blades and washi traditional paper. They have also interacted with traditional craftsmen and posted images of the craftsmen creating their work on social media and video sites.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Crutches covered with red lacquer adorned with cherry blossoms

Mai was injured in June while working and diagnosed with a torn ligament and fracture of the left instep, with eight months needed for a complete recovery.

Though severely injured, she was reluctant to stop working as an idol, instead wondering if there was anything that she as an injured person could do.

Mai then saw crutches in a hospital and came up with the idea of making her own.

She visited craftsmen she had met through her work and asked for help.

Guided by staff at Furnitureholic, an Echizen-based manufacturer of traditional furniture like chests of drawers, Mai assembled the main structure of the crutches without using nails or metal attachments.

Mai learned a special technique of applying lacquer at Tsuchinao Shikki Corp., a lacquerware workshop in Sabae. Then, using the technique of wiping off lacquer to apply it again, she turned the frame of the crutches red, which is also the group’s color.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Though her muscles ached from making the crutches, “I was happy when the lacquer was applied well,” Mai said with a smile.

With the help of Yamaken, a manufacturer of handles for Japanese kitchen knives in Echizen, she depicted cherry blossoms on her crutches.

The crutches have become a proud work for Mai to show fans at live concerts and other events.

“It’d be great if people could see them up close and notice the high level of traditional craftsmanship in Fukui Prefecture,” she said.