A young boy from a family of successful stonemasons grows up in Mure, Japan, surrounded by the sea and the highly prized Ajiishi granite rocks of Kagawa Prefecture, where his father, uncles, and cousins have been hammering and chiseling lanterns, monuments, and gravestones since he can remember. He’s often nervous as they load the heavy, rough stones from the quarries into the family oxcart and then onto boats, yet there has been no question about his going directly from middle school into the family business. Soon he can split and polish with the best of them, but he stands out for his ability to coax delicacy from the huge boulders and for his unconventional notions about the stones he thinks of alternately as gods—and rascals. When he sees new stonework designs in the prefecture capital, Takamatsu, from architects Kenzo Tange and Tadashi Yamamoto, he’s inspired to launch a Stone Atelier with a few other pioneers.

This is Masatoshi Izumi, 25 years old and ready to break free from the traditional path set by previous generations.