Special edition : TTR’s Japanese confectionery artist Shiho Sakamoto awarded at the Food Film Festival in New York

Q1. Congratulation for your award at the Food Film Festival in New York for your beautiful film showing the making process of your “Wagashi”. Before going into details about the award, could you tell us what is a “Wagashi” and why you became a “Wagashi” artist?

As a “Wagashi” Creator, my job is to express my inspirations into “Wagashi”, one of the traditional form of Japanese confectionery.

From a very young age, I have always appreciated food in general, loving the positive energy it gives us. It makes us smile, happy and warms our heart. As a child, while others were playing with toys, I remember enjoying mixing flavors and playing with spices instead.

My previous career was in IT and whilst working full time in the fast changing landscape of technology, I have always been looking for this mean of expression that would suit me. It was 8 years ago, while I was thinking about my life that I dreamt about “Wagashi”. That was the moment I decided to start my life as “Wagashi” creator.

Q2. You mentioned the expression “Expressing the inspiration into Wagashi”. Could you explain into more detail?

Many of my inspirations come from what I encounter everyday, such as the nature and the coming seasons. It influences what I do and the decisions that I make.

This is the way I learned and continue to do so everyday. This transition from an inspiration of my imagination into a material form gives me great pleasure as I am able to express what is inside me.

As I am not always comfortable expressing myself with word, “Wagashi” is how I express myself and my gratitude to all that inspires me. I like to reassure people, to provide some peace in their mind and in their heart through my creation.

Q3. How do you come up with your creation? What is the beauty of your Wagashi for you?

I align myself to the theme and immerse myself emotionally. I pay attention to my feelings, experiencing all of my emotions the way they spring to me, without fighting it. Then, I empty myself as if to let away every single thing that is inside of me.

Afterward, I transform the images in my head in the form of sketches. It is only then that I start to think about the details: the taste, the ingredient, the texture and many more. I make the Wagashi and taste it to check how close it is to the image I had and give some adjustments. Finally, I decide on the name paying close attention to the aesthetic of the Wagashi.

The beauty of the Wagashi is in the delight of eating it and the beauty of comfort. From the perspective of the Wagashi, the fact that it accomplishes it biggest duty by being consumed, its ephemeral raison d’etre makes it beautiful.

Q4. How do you describe your film about the Wagashi that was submitted to the New York Film Festival?

The film shows mostly the making process of the Wagashi and the story behind it.

Everything is reserved, the Wagashi itself does not come to the forefront, somehow like in the world described by the Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki in “In the praise of the shadow”. The film was directed by the Japanese film director Hiroshi Ishikawa, whom I worked closely in the process.

There was a lot of focus to the hand and the finger in this video, not to the food itself. Just simply creating, without expecting anything, in a silent endeavor.

It is trying to depict the multiple decisions that needs to be taken about color, form, ingredients, textures. I feel very happy thinking the audience and the jury appreciated the story and the process of Wagashi.

Q5. It is very interesting that you received the “Food Porn Award” because actually your film was the furthest from the concept of “Food Porn”. In Food Porn, your body reacts to the tastefulness depicted in the video. In your video, I think that was different.

My wagashi or my film about the wagashi was trying to appeal to the heart. To be good food for the heart so that the heart reacts to it, rather that the body. The Wagashi is a very high contextual confectionery. Something that we make with our mind only speaks to somebody else’s mind. To reach somebody’s heart, you need to make from your heart.

I feel an immense joy to the fact that something resonated between our creation and the judges, the creators, the audiences in New York.

Shiho Sakamoto / Japanese Confectionery Artist

Interview, editing and photography by Jun Kamei

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The TEA-ROOM is a Tokyo-based art collective, which creates a future tea ceremony.