Keiko Yoshida is the owner of Yoshida store in Daito-ku, Tokyo, that creates and sells Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rakes, which are sold only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. Ms Yoshida was born in 1921 and is a master craftswoman recognized by Nihon Shokunin Meikoukai, the association for the Japanese Master Craftsmen.
Yoshida is currently the only store that creates Takarabune-kumade employing traditional methods, and Ms Yoshida continues to use the methods passed down since the Edo period. She initially started making the rakes to help her husband who was originally a carpenter. After his death, she became the head of the store and single-handedly manages the business.
Takarabune-kumade made by Yoshida store uses only natural materials of bamboo and paper. The whole manufacture process including cutting bamboo, cutting paper using a pattern, coloring, drawing faces, painting exterior, and insertion are done by hand. These techniques have been handed down to Ms Yoshida’s daughter, Kyoko.
Tori no Ichi, or Tori Fair, is a religious fair that takes place every November and is believed to have originally started at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa. Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rake, is a harbinger of good luck, coming from a belief that rakes gather up good luck and prosperity, and they are available only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. The Takarabune rakes are currently made only in Yoshida store in Asakusa. The size of the rakes varies from 6cm to 3.4m. The store starts making the rakes immediately after the fair, taking a whole year to prepare for the following years event.
At first, paper is cut using a pattern, then lines are drawn followed by coloring. After the faces of Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, are drawn, they are inserted into the treasure ship with other decorations and finely balanced to finish. Drawing faces with their unique looks for the seven deities is the most difficult part. This hand drawing technique has been passed down for years since the Edo period. It is now practiced by Keiko Yoshida, head of Yoshida store, and her daughter, Kyoko.
Takarabune-kumade has brightly colored decorations of the seven deities, treasures and a sea bream. Although it is a rake with the tip of a straw festoon arranged to look more like a bow of a ship, it is created to have the look of a treasure ship. The rake, with its dominant red color, is referred to as a “red type” amulet. Takarabune-kumade is one of the most popular good luck charms in the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine.
Shimotsuki is a Japanese traditional name for November. Shimotsuki (霜月) literally means “a frost month” because frost is starts to appear in this month. However, according to the different theory, it is said that as this month comes after Kannazuki, it was called “Shimo no tsuki (the following month),” which was later punned into Shimotsuki.
November is also called Shimofuri-tsuki, the frost forming month, Kagura-zuki, the month for Kagura dance to welcome the gods coming back from Izumo, and Yukimachi-zuki, the month to anticipate snow.
The national holidays in November are Culture Day (Nov. 3rd) and Labor Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23rd), both of which are said to originate in the cerebration ceremonies held to thank gods for rich harvest. On the day of the Tori (Rooster) in Chinese calendar, Tori no Ichi Fairs (open-air market) are held at Otori (eagle) shrines all over the country and many people come to pray for a health, good fortune and good business.
A festival of thanksgiving for safety in the past year and a time to wish for happiness in the coming year is held annually in November on the Day of Tori (roosters) at Juzai-san Chokokuji Temple, also called Otori Sama (Otori Shrine), in Asakusa, Tokyo, and at many other Otori shrines.
The origin of the festival dates back to the Edo period, when farmers thanked the harvest god and dedicated chickens to the Otori Daimyo god at Hanamatamura (the Otori shrine in Hanabatake, Adachi Ward).
Hanamatamura, Shosenji Temple (in Adachi ward) and Chokokuji Temple (in Asakusa), became famous as the birthplace of Tori-no-Ichi fairs.
In the 8th year of the Showa period (1771), the Buddhist statue Myoken Dai-Bosatsu was moved to Chokokuji Temple and the shrine there came to be recognized as the pre-eminent Torishrine. Myoken Dai-Bosatsu is supposed to be the Hagun star, the Seventh Star star of the Big Dipper. The Chokokuji Temple crests are also called ‘Moon crests’ or ‘Big Dipper crests’.
These ‘rooster’ fairs are known as ‘Good Luck Rake Fairs’ because a rake is supposed to rake in happiness, and to help wish for good luck and a prosperous business. It is typical of Edo people, who like jokes.