Kogoro Kurata is an artist. But he's not your typical artist. He's an ironsmith, and he doesn't build bed frames or chandeliers. Kogoro Kurata builds enormous robots. In a shed.
The son of an ironsmith, Kurata grew up making things, whether that was folding paper or putting together Gundam models. Kurata followed in his father's footsteps and began making things with iron, such as a bass guitar and other music instruments. The big mechas Japan loves, they came later.
Iron has long been used to make Japanese swords and knives, which are widely acknowledged as the best in the world. Wood is still a traditional construction material of choice due to its abundance and ability to bend and give during earthquakes. And there are ironsmiths, and iron is used in construction, whether that be bridges or buildings.
"In Japan it is rare; there isn't a big market for iron and, naturally, iron isn't a plentiful resource here," Kurata told Ping Magazine in 2008. "Also, the climate in Japan is humid and it makes iron rusty easily so there wasn't widespread use of iron in traditional culture." There are Japanese ironsmiths, but they aren't making giant robots like Kurata is.
Kurata also makes stop motion animation, does interior and exterior design and turns old Fiat 500s into tanks. What he's best known for are his large ironworks. One of his most famous creations is a life-size iron ATM-09-ST Scopedog mecha from the anime Armored Trooper Votoms. "I think I really just wanted to prove to people that you can make huge things using iron," Kurata told told Ping. The iron mecha took over a year—longer than it should have, because Kurata broke a bone while building the iron mecha.
Kurata's current project is "Kuratasu", a 13 foot high, iron mecha. The difference here is that Kuratasu can walk. As explained by website Mecha Damashii, each leg is outfitted with a wheel and will be powered by a diesel engine located under the mecha's torso. The engine will also provide power for the arms and legs. It is large enough for a person to sit in its cockpit and control the mecha.
Even with his ironworks heritage, Kurata doesn't consider himself an artisan. "Being an artisan means you need skills first," he told Ping. "However in my case, I want to make something first and then learn the skills necessary to make it, then I perfect it as I go." No, Kogoro Kurata isn't an artisan. He's an artist, and these giant iron mechas are his masterpieces.
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(Top photo: darkhorse_logh | Gigazine)