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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Deer-antler chandeliers bright spot for Hokkaido
KUSHIRO, Hokkaido — The antlers of about 500 "ezo shika" (Hokkaido deer) pile up in a studio in Memuro, Hokkaido, where two men ponder whether to add another antler here and there.
"The curve of each antler is slightly different. It's like drawing a picture," said Hidetoshi Morii, 43, one of the two men, who run an apparel store in the nearby city of Obihiro.
Morii's other business is creating handmade chandeliers made of ezo shika antlers.
With the help of his lone employee, 24-year-old Masayoshi Murakami, Morii skillfully crafts each chandelier — from washing the antlers to painstakingly installing each light bulb by hand.
Because they are handmade, Morii can only produce about 20 chandeliers a year.
His careful craftsmanship has earned him a solid reputation and continued demand — with one of his chandeliers even used as a prop in a rock musician's concert.
There are about 640,000 ezo shika in Hokkaido, some of which are hunted every year by the prefecture and the Environment Ministry.
In fiscal 2010, which ended in March, about 110,000 ezo shika were taken. Usually, their meat is processed for venison and their antlers discarded.
Since the time Morii first saw a deer antler chandelier in the United States about 10 years ago, he began importing similar ones made of fake antlers.
But, wanting to introduce chandeliers made of real antlers in Japan, he began the task of crafting the products by himself from scratch.
Morii builds two types of chandeliers: one with 10 light bulbs and another with six.
The 10-bulb chandelier, about 150 cm in diameter, goes for about ¥350,000. It uses some 30 antlers from deer 5 years old and older.
Not wanting leftover antlers to go to waste, Morii also crafts lamps made of antlers.
"I want people to feel the sturdiness of ezo shika antlers, which endured the harsh winter," he said.