半世紀老店傳承──明章榻榻米

:::

2013 / 2月

文‧劉嫈楓 圖‧林格立


近來,古都台南掀起一股新生活潮,許多建築師、設計師、旅行家移居此地;充滿歲月痕跡的店舖,開始出現年輕臉龐。隱身在台南東門圓環旁,一間擁有五十多年歷史的老店──明章榻榻米,正上演著洪施明、洪偉晉祖孫二人的傳承故事。


當現代人忙著追逐最新潮流,趕著站在時代尖端,卻有人懂得在懷舊凋零的技藝中,琢磨出最動人的光采。生長於榻榻米世家的洪偉晉,就承接起阿公洪施明用一輩子打下的榻榻米店舖,看見別人眼中看不見的技藝資產。

亞東技術學院畢業後,洪偉晉回到台南,進入紡織大廠佳和旗下子公司怡華工作,擔任製程部基層組長。日復一日的布料檢驗,繁雜的製程管理,讓近30歲的他心生厭煩,他想起上一輩人時常說著,「有一手功夫在,不怕餓死。」與其不快樂地過著上班族的生活,何不承接家中半世紀歲月的榻榻米生意,延續消失中的傳統手藝。

祖孫兩代人傳承舊技藝

2008年,26歲的洪偉晉決定回家,跟著阿公洪施明學起榻榻米技藝。洪偉晉從小在充滿稻梗的氣味裡長大,看著阿公蹲在木架旁,搬挪近20公斤重的稻草塊,再鋪上燈芯草蓆面,以鋼針固定頭尾,縫製兩側布邊,拿著鋼刀俐落裁切多餘稻草。平日習以為常的景象,直到親自動手做後,洪偉晉才知道有多繁雜。

榻榻米的製作,是以稻草塊為主體,外層鋪上燈芯草或圓藺草蓆面,確認尺寸後,裁切多餘草料,並縫上綢絲等裝飾布邊。一帖寬3台尺、長6台尺的標準尺寸榻榻米,從製作到完成,共需7~8個工序,製作時間短則40分鐘,長則1小時不等。

沒有經驗的洪偉晉,一開始只能練習製作最小尺寸的榻榻米,「最難的是縫頭尾兩端,為了讓蓆面看不到線頭,全憑手指觸摸,讓穿著尼龍縫線的鋼針,落在同個針孔上。」因為這樣,洪偉晉左手留起長長指甲,為的是保持縫製榻榻米的手感。

半年後,洪偉晉不用阿公在旁叮囑,已能獨當一面。每日清晨七、八點,店門打開後,祖孫倆一前一後蹲在木架旁,拿起鋼刀切割草蓆,唰唰聲響徹店舖。

年輕的洪偉晉,技術仍差經驗老道的洪施明一大截,像是榻榻米兩側角度,洪偉晉裁切出來的,都是直挺挺的90度,洪施明卻能精巧掌握斜切角度。乍看之下,外觀似乎沒有區別,但鋪設時,洪偉晉馬上發現,阿公做的榻榻米安裝起來更順手。

四年多下來,洪偉晉從阿公身上看見堅持古法的技藝精神,卻也感嘆台灣社會缺乏對專業技藝的尊重。「在日本,不論廚師、手工藝者,擁有專業手藝的工作者都能擁有的職人自信,在台灣好像都沒有,」他說。

明章榻榻米店面開放,常有路人走過騎樓,看著祖孫倆做著榻榻米,好奇眼光下總夾帶奚落,不是問著,現在還有人在睡榻榻米嗎?就是質疑榻榻米技藝能夠延續多久。有一次,一對父子經過時,稚齡的小孩竟然轉頭問父親:「做榻榻米能賺錢嗎?」想到此事,洪偉晉仍掩不住氣憤。

重現榻榻米昔日風華

在台灣現代住宅裡逐漸失去地位的榻榻米,過去曾擁有一段風光日子。今年81歲,做了60年榻榻米的洪施明,見證了台灣榻榻米產業的興衰。

1895年,中日簽訂《馬關條約》,清朝將台灣割讓給日本後,日人引入榻榻米文化。大同大學工業設計系教授羅彩雲的論文《台灣榻榻米產業的發展與歷史》指出,為因應大量日式房舍的興建,日治初期有近萬名日本榻榻米師傅移居台灣,台北、台中、台南成為榻榻米三大製造重鎮。戰後,榻榻米仍然廣泛應用於民間屋宅、政府辦公廳舍,日人撤出後,台灣師傅取而代之,填補空缺。

出生於民國21年的洪施明,國小4年級時,因戰亂中止教育。為了謀生,14歲那年,他來到台南麻豆拜師日本師傅,學做榻榻米。「日本師傅對我又兇又打,我沒有機會練習,只能趁著師傅午睡時,偷偷縫製,」洪施明說。學了2年後,洪施明到一家紡紗店舖工作,後來便宜耐用的塑線出現,紡紗店生意直直落,洪施明決定重拾老本行,在民國52年開設明章榻榻米店舖,落腳台南民權路現址,一路營業至今。

當時許多舊式辦公廳舍、宿舍沿用日式建築,年久失修,報紙經常刊載榻榻米修繕、裝修等投標通知。洪施明一看見公告,即拿著標單四處投標,最遠還曾跑到宜蘭羅東競標,憑著「搏感情」的交際手腕,總能讓他順利得標,取得林務局、鐵路局、糖廠等公家機關生意。

現在的明章,店舖內掛著數張黑白照片,其中一張特別泛黃,紀錄老一輩師傅們坐在木架旁,裁切草蓆的身影,映照出明章的昔日風光。生意極盛時,洪施明底下擁有十多名師傅,每回出門工作動輒帶上六、七位師傅,自己也上工16個小時以上,單月出貨可達兩百多片。

逐漸消失的榻榻米文化

隨著日式宿舍逐漸減少,加上彈簧床興起,榻榻米使用量遠不如以往。從前,台南至少有10家以上榻榻米店,現在僅剩下3家,與洪施明同輩的師傅不是早已過世,就是後繼無人。

近來許多移居台南的建築師、設計師,反而成為復興榻榻米的主客群。新世代的洪偉晉也理解,訴諸懷舊的行銷手法不再能喚起年輕消費者的共鳴。因此他變換策略,在明章部落格網站上,張貼榻榻米鋪在餐廳、遊戲房,或是裝點客廳等各式裝潢應用的照片,希望呈現出榻榻米有別以往,只能鋪設在睡憩空間的既定印象,爭取更多顧客。

看著榻榻米幾乎成為上個世代的懷舊記憶,幾年前,年事已高的洪施明曾動起退休念頭。聽聞孫子洪偉晉有意承接榻榻米手藝,洪施明原本不太贊成,嘴巴更不時叨念,「早知道他要回來學,就不用花這麼多錢讓他去念書了。」話雖如此,洪施明慶幸,半生歲月打磨出來的技藝,總算有人傳承。

年少時,不曾想過從阿公手裡接過棒子的洪偉晉,無畏外界眼光,彎腰低頭默默拉著勾線,安靜伴著高掛的老舊招牌,半世紀的技藝風華,就在他一針一線的手中,延續下去。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Mingzhang Tatami Shop:Going Strong After 50 Years

Liu Yingfeng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by David Smith

“New living” has recently come into vogue in old Tai­nan, which these days is a magnet for architects, designers, and travelers looking for an interesting city to settle in. In old shops that show the clear marks of time, young faces are starting to show up. Hidden away just off Tai­nan’s Dong­men traffic circle lies Ming­zhang Ta­tami Shop, which has been in business for over half a century. Proprietor Hong Shi­ming and his grandson Hong Wei­jin run the operation together, with the younger man learning the ropes from the elder.


In a world where everyone seems to be chasing after the latest new trends, one nevertheless can find the occasional person who has found a way to breathe new life and excitement into the handicrafts of a time gone by. Hong Wei­jin, having grown up in a family of ta­tami makers, is now being groomed to take over the family business that his grand­father has spent a lifetime building up. He sees something precious in it, though others may not.

After graduating from the Oriental Institute of Technology in the Tai­pei suburb of Ban­qiao, Wei­jin returned to Tai­nan and took a job in a textile factory, where day after day he inspected fabrics. Short of age 30, he got tired of his job and remembered what older relatives had often said: “If you’ve got a special skill, you’ll never go hungry.” Rather than mope around in an unsatisfying job, he decided to step into the ta­tami making business that his family had been running for a half century. There he would keep alive a traditional craft that has been fading into oblivion.

Learning from grandpa

In 2008 Wei­jin, then 26 years old, decided to return home and learn from his grandfather, Hong Shi­ming, how to make ta­tamis. As a boy, Wei­jin had often watched his grandfather in action. The latter would place a core of rice straw weighing nearly 20 kilograms into a wooden frame, encase the core in woven rush grass, staple the ends in place, sew a cloth border over either side, then lop off any extra straw from the ends with a sharp knife. Wei­jin had often watched it done, and it always looked so easy, but when he tried his own hand at it he at last understood the complexity of the task.

A standard Taiwanese ta­tami measures three by six Taiwanese feet (one Taiwanese foot equals 30.3 centimeters). A total of seven or eight processes go into the making of a single ta­tami, which generally takes from 40 minutes to an hour to finish.

When Wei­jin first started out, the inexperienced young man practiced on downsized ta­tamis. “The toughest part is sewing up the tops and bottoms. To keep stray ends from showing, you’ve just got to develop a feel, so that the needle pulling the nylon thread goes into the same needle hole each time.” Wei­jin lets his fingernails grow long to aid in the task.

For the past four-plus years, Wei­jin has witnessed his grand­father’s rigorous adherence to the old methods, and become frustrated with a lack of respect in Taiwanese society for craftsmanship. “In Japan, if you’re a chef or a craftsman or whatever, as long as you’ve developed a certain skill, you can hold your head high for what you’ve achieved. But I don’t feel like that in Taiwan.”

At Ming­zhang, the ta­tami making process goes on in full view of curious passersby, who always seem to look a bit askance at the business, as if to ask: Does anyone still sleep on ta­tamis these days? Implied is a question about how much longer ta­tami making skills will survive. One time, a very young boy asked his father: “Can you earn any money making ta­tamis?” Wei­jin cannot hide his resentment as he recounts the incident.

Glory days of the past

Ta­tamis may be disappearing from modern homes in Taiwan today, but there was a time when they were in very high demand. Set to turn 81 this year, Grandpa Hong has been making ta­tamis for over 60 years, a period that has seen the tatami market decline from once great heights.

Born in 1932, Grandpa Hong’s formal education came to an end during the fourth year of elementary school due to war. To earn a living, he moved to the town of Ma­dou in Tai­nan County, where he took up as an apprentice to a Japanese tatami maker. “That Japanese master would yell and hit me. I never had a chance to practice, so I had to do my sewing on the sly at the noon hour, when he napped.” After two years there, Grandpa Hong took a job at a yarn shop, but business declined as durable nylon fibers hit the market, so Hong decided to get back into ta­tami making. He opened Ming­zhang Ta­tami Shop in 1963 on Tai­nan’s Min­quan Road, and he’s done business at that location ever since.

Many government-run companies back then had Japanese-style guesthouses and employee dormitories with tatamis in disrepair, and they frequently posted public tender announcements in newspapers for contractors to repair or replace the ta­tamis. Grandpa Hong scoured the newspapers and traveled all over Taiwan to bid on jobs as far away as Luo­dong in Yi­lan County. Blessed with excellent people skills, he frequently managed to get jobs working for the Forestry Bureau, Taiwan Railways Administration, Taiwan Sugar, and other government-run entities.

Among the several fading black-and-white photos on display around the shop is one which shows a number of ta­tami makers sitting next to wooden frames, working away on their ta­tamis. This is what the shop looked like in its heyday. At the peak, Grandpa Hong employed a dozen or more master craftsmen, and each time he set out for an offsite project he’d lead a team of six or seven to do the job. He worked at least 16 hours a day, and delivered as many as 200-plus ta­tamis per month.

Tatami culture revival?

With Japanese-style structures disappearing and box-spring mattresses growing ever more ubiquitous, the use of ta­tamis has been on the decline. There were once more than 10 ta­tami shops in Tai­nan, but the number is now down to three. Craftsmen of Grandpa Hong’s generation have either died or have no one to whom they can pass their skills.

Recently, however, many architects and designers who’ve relocated to Tai­nan from elsewhere have become big clients, and are sparking a revival of the local ta­tami market. Young Wei­jin understands that appeals to nostalgia will not sell to younger consumers, so the Ming­zhang blog shows photos of ta­tami floors in restaurants and playrooms, as well as living rooms partially floored with ta­tamis. The idea is to impress upon people that ta­tamis today need no longer be confined, as in the past, to rooms where people sleep or rest.

Wei­jin had never thought as a kid that he would one day take over his grandfather’s business, but now he bends intently over his work, impervious to the raised eyebrows of onlookers. Quietly toiling away beneath the old shop sign, he will use his hands to carry forward skills built up within the family over the course of a half century, one stitch at a time.

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!
更快速更方便!