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Hokuriku Foreigner Focus 3: Glass molding with a Scandinavian touch

One of Ingrid Klouman's pieces, "For Summer Secrets". (Photo courtesy of the Toyama Glass Studio)

Hokuriku is a region located several hundred kilometers away from Tokyo -- on the coast of the Sea of Japan -- and is essentially made up of three prefectures: Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui. There are no major cities in Hokuriku, but the region offers a rich variety of foods, profound traditions as well as a wide range of famous tourist attractions. The wonders of Hokuriku have not only attracted Japanese people to the region, but foreigners too. There are approximately 37,000 foreigners living in Hokuriku, which is just over 1 percent of the total number of residents in the region (approximately 3 million). This section provides a glimpse into the lives of various foreigners who have based themselves in Hokuriku, and who have integrated themselves within the region.

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Ingrid Klouman's "Reishu soroe: sweater," or "Cold sake set: sweater". (Photo courtesy of the Toyama Glass Studio)

With the intention of studying glass molding seriously, Ingrid Klouman decided to move to Japan from Norway, in 2013. Now based at the Toyama Glass Studio in the district of Furusawa in the city of Toyama, Ingrid produces a range of charming products that capture the essence of Scandinavia, such as red knit sweaters with snowflake designs, quaint miniature houses with triangular roofs, while also supervising an interactive craft-making course for visitors. Although Ingrid insists that, "I am not particularly trying to introduce Scandinavian culture through my work," the sophisticated Scandinavian design aesthetic is certainly there to see.

Ingrid was first introduced to glass craft as a small child, when she came across a large glass vase in a shop in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. She was very impressed by what she saw. She asked her mother, "How was this vase made?" to which her mother replied, "A glass craftsperson made it." From that moment onwards, Ingrid recalled that she wanted to become a glass craftsperson capable of making something as wonderful as that vase.

Later on, Ingrid went on to study Japanese at university, after developing an interest in Japanese fashion and anime. She would often say to her friends, "Let's go to Japan one day." However, on the other hand, she also wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a glass craftsperson. After graduating from university, she enrolled in a state-run technical school specializing in glass craft, in Sweden.

Ingrid Klouman (Mainichi)

At that time, the Japanese aesthetic was famous in the glass craft world, and Ingrid decided to move to Japan with the intention of "making use of her Japanese language ability, in order to study glass." She did some research online, and discovered the Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, in the district of Nishikanaya, in the city of Toyama.

After moving to Toyama, the thing that surprised Ingrid the most was the magnificence of the craft industry. She came across kilns that she had never seen in schools in Sweden. She also discovered that numerous craftspeople had come to the region from all across Japan, and are engaged in friendly competition with one another. The glass art industry in Toyama is particularly strong -- with glass ornaments on display in town centers, as well as in the Toyama Glass Art Museum.

At first, Ingrid was somewhat overwhelmed by the abundance of rules in Japan, such as strict time-keeping, and there were moments when she crossed wires with fellow classmates due to custom differences. However, she was supported by friends and people around her. Now, she has come to really like Toyama, and there are moments when she really craves Japanese food, despite not particularly liking it when she first came to Japan.

The Hokuriku region of Japan. (Mainichi)

Toyama-style craft is popular among those who come to participate in craft-making sessions. A girl in a wheelchair who came to visit with her parents, made a delightful apple -- which made her very happy. Ingrid has also received thank you letters with illustrations in the past. At such times, she recalls the "sensation of touching glass for the first time," and gets inspiration for her new work.

Ingrid's dream is to have her own personal studio. She commented, "Glass has a wonderful quality that cannot be found in other materials, and it would be impossible for a robot to make glass craft products. In my adopted home of Toyama, I meet lots of people, and I want to keep developing my skills, with the aim of making even better products in the future."

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