Mononofu is an old term for a samurai warrior. It is also a brand name created by a man who loves history. The Mononofu brand expresses the uninhibited and innovative spirit of the Sengoku period or the Warring State period.
Hideki Tanaka, the creator of the brand, boldly joins two seemingly contrary elements: the promotion of modern art and the reproduction of traditional craftwork. Mr. Tanaka, who first saw a collection of unusual kabuto helmets for warriors at the National Museum, was struck by their appearance and this sparked the idea of incorporating their design into a new indie T-shirt business.
Since each of Monofuku’s T-shirts is an expression of the unique creativity and aesthetic sense of its artist, Mr. Tanaka sees parallels in the creation process of both his T-shirts and the kabuto helmets. He believes that, if the samurai warriors were alive today, they would embrace modern designs and materials in their expressions of beauty.
Edo braiding is a tasteful and graceful Tokyo specialty.
Japan makes extraordinarily sophisticated use of all kinds of threads. Not only do the Japanese bind and tie things together with strings and thread, but they also can show fortune, sex and status by the way the threads are tied together, by the choice of color and by the arrangement of the knots.
Braiding dates back to before the Edo period. It was originally imported from China or Korea. When the Shogunate was established in Edo, there was a demand for ceremonial clothing and therefore for braids. The Edo braid then developed a delicacy and a wabi-sabi quality (quiet simplicity).
Edo braiding is applied to many things, such as the obi sash for kimonos, haori (short jackets) and other essentials for our daily lives.
Braiding is also used to secure scrolls, on monks robes, on sashes worn by nobility, as decoration on traditional armory and on sword handles.
Shinshu forged blade is a handicraft in Shinshu-Shinano-machi, Nagano Pref. It was designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Minister of International Trade and Industry in 1982. Forging skills were introduced into this area during the warring state period in the latter half of the 16th Century, when swordsmiths came to this area and repaired weapons. The local people saw their work and learned the skills. Their forged weapons were used in many battles throughout the warring state period, and the swordsmiths made improvement in their techniques. Extremely soft steel is used as the base whereas high purity carbon steel is used for the blade, the combination of which produces appropriate hardness and persistent strength. The technique has been handed down for 450 years and is still producing excellent blades, which are wide, durable, and cuts clearly.
Inden is Japanese traditional lacquered deer hide craft products. The technique is said to have been introduced from India during the Heian period (794−1192). They have been made in the Koshu region (the present Yamanashi pref.) because, surrounded by mountains, a lot of deer inhabited in this area and also abundant supply of urushi lacquer was possible. The typical technique is called “Urushituke,” in which the stencil (made of fine Japanese paper with hand-curved patterns) is laid on the dyed hide and the lacquer is forced through the stencil with a spatula. When the stencil is removed, the raised glowing patterns appear on the hide. The oldest Inden shop, Inden-Ya, was established in 1582 by the first Yushichi Uehara. Since then the secret process of the making of Inden has been handed down within the family of Inden-Ya. As it fits to a human body and very durable, it was favored as parts for samurai armor at first. Later in the Edo period other items such as purses or wallets began to be made and favored as articles of both utility and adornment. Inden articles made by Inden-Ya are still very appealing to people in the present days.
Watanabe-tei is a wealthy farmer’s residence designated as National Important Cultural Properties, located in Sekikawa Village , Iwafune County, Niigata Pref.. The total area of nearly 10,000 m2 including the 1650 m2 of the main house and gardens is open to public. The founder of the Watanabes had been a samurai who served under a daimyo of Murakami-han (province) but he moved to this village after his retirement. His descendants lend money to some of daimyos and were blessed with prosperity. One of such daimyo, the lord of Yonezawa, was so thankful that he treated the Watanabes as the same rank as his kanjo-bugyo (magistrate of finance). At their best days there were 75 servants. The Watanabes ran 1,000 hectares of woodlands, rented 700 hectares of rice fields to tenants and got 10,000 straw rice bags as rent. The main house in kirizuma style (a house with gabled roof) and six dozoes (warehouse made of soil) including rice-warehouse and miso-warehouse are designated as National Important Cultural Properties. Also the kaiyuusiki-teien (stroll style garden) is designated as National Scenic Beauty. Inside the main house, calligraphic works, paintings, antiquities, agricultural tools and body armor are displayed and you can get the idea of their prosperity and well-to-do life-style. After walking around the garden, it’s a good idea to warm yourself at the irori fireplace preserved as it use to be.