Shirabeo, or formally called Shirabe, is a set of ropes used for Kotsuzumi (a small hand drum), Otsuzumi (a large hand drum) and Shime-daiko (a rope-tuned drum). Shirabeo does not only hold the drum heads in place but also tunes the pitch of drums. The pitch can be varied by squeezing the ropes with the left hand while striking the drum with the right. Shirabeo is an indispensable part of drums used in classical Japanese music such as Noh, Kabuki and Nagauta and folk music.
For a long time until around 1877, when a professional tuner came into existence, any durable strings on hand were used for tuning. Today, a code for Shirabeo is made of two Japanese linen ropes twisted each other, after which as many as 25 detailed processes are given. The rope used for Shirabeo must be elastic so that it comes back to its original place after being pulled by the player and at the same time it must be soft so that the player’s hand skins are not damaged after playing for a long time. Highly elaborate techniques and long experience are required to produce such ropes.
Aoso Shrine in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is the headquarters of Aoso shrines all over the country. It was founded in 852 by Hozumi Yasumasa, the ancestor of the current shrine priest’s family, who came to this area from Kyoto. He enshrined Amaterasu Omikami (the sun goddess), Ame no Minakanushi no Kami (the god of the universe), and Tsukuyomi no Kami (the god of the moon) in the cave where holy water sprang out; hereby the shrine is famous as the place where the sun, the stars and the moon are enshrined together.
Yasumasa taught the villagers how to grow hemp plants. It is said that the shrine name “Aoso,” which literally means Green Hemp, was derived from this episode. The shrine has been known for its divine power to cure and prevent palsy, and it is said that if you visit this shrine three times, you will never be stricken with palsy for the rest of your life.
As the Hozumi clan was involved in maritime industry, the shrine is also worshipped as the deity of navigation safety. The famous fine water “Osuzu” springs out in the precinct. A lot of visitors come to take a drink of this holy water.
This is a cabinet with doors made of flat bamboo material.
Most bamboo crafts have a softly curved shape that takes advantage of its elasticity. It is rare to use flat bamboo material for furniture like this. The way the bamboo is woven is called hemp-leaf weaving: three thin bamboos are run through a hexagonal bamboo shape that looks like a hemp leaf.
The cabinet is finished with coloring from carbonization; that is, the bamboo is turned to a dark brown shade after exposure to high-temperature and pressure steam.
The cabinet is finished with urushi (Japanese lacquer) that is layered on cloth pasted to the body. The colors of urushi and the carbonized bamboo create an impression of long-cherished antique furniture.
■ Cabinet (for private use)
・ hemp-leaf weaving, carbonization-coloring
・designed by ＭＬＩＮＡＲＩＣ ＨＥＮＲＹ ＆ ＺＥＲＶＵＤＡＣＨＩ ＬＴＤ
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Noto-jofu refers to the high-quality hemp fabric from the Noto region of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is an Ishikawa Intangible Cultural Asset.
Hakui City and Rokusei Town in the Noto Peninsula are often associated with hemp. According to legend, the daughter of Emperor Sujin spun wild hemp into thread and taught women in the area to weave. There are some sources that say that the hemp thread was dedicated at Todaiji-temple in Nara.
Until the early days of the Edo period, local high-quality hemp leaves were used to make what is called Omi-jofu. During the Edo Period, the production of original jofu gained momentum. People from Noto invited craftsmen from Omi to learn their famed dyeing techniques and the two combined to create a new type of jofu. Jofu is used to refer to hemp fabric of the highest quality.
In the first year of the Bunsei period (1818), this new type of fabric was given a special name, Noto. Since then weaving technique has improved, and starting from the end of the Meiji Period, Noto-Jofu has become the term used to refer to this type of cloth.
Noto-jofu is often likened to a cicada's wing for its lightness. It is a clever way to stay cool during the summer.
Nara Sarashi is a hand-woven hemp cloth bleached into pure white. It has been favored by people since the ancient times for its cool touch and perspiration-repellency. The craft is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Nara Pref. Although the origin of Nara Sarashi goes back to the age of Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters), it only became widely known in the early Edo period. In the preceding Azuchi-Momoyama period, a master craftsman named Seishiro Kiyosumi had succeeded in improving bleaching technique, which gave this craft a growing popularity. Until then Nara Sarashi had been mainly used for the clothing of monks and priests, but later in the Edo period it began to be used for hakama (a skirt-like pants worn on a formal occasion) or summer kimono for samurai (warriors) and came to be known all over the nation. The Tokugawa Shogunate also favored this cloth and selected it as one of the purveyance supplies for the government. Because of its clean and elegant texture, it has been used for the costumes of traditional performing art including Kyogen. Presently, Nara Sarashi is used for chakin (tea ceremony cloth) as well as for Noren curtains and tablecloths with the patterns designed from the treasures at Shosoin (the Imperial Repository).
Jinbei is a traditional Japanese clothing worn mostly by men during the summer. Jinbei sets consist of a top and matching shorts. The top falls to the hips and has straight sleeves. It ties closed with laces at the nack and both sides. Jinbei is usually made from hemp or cotton. In the old days only the top was worn like the present Haori jacket, so that the Jinbei is the abbriviation of Jinbei-baori. In one story it is said that Jinbei originates in sleeveless Jin-baori (over-vest) worn by samurai. Or in another story has it that a man named Jinbei invented this clothing. Jinbei is referred to in Tanizaki’s novel “Hansode Monogatari,” which is set in the town of Osaka, in which it is called “Hansode.” Recently products for women are being sold. Compared with Yukata, it does not get loose, so Jinbei is often favored for Bon dancing.
Yayoi Amo was born in 1948 (Showa 23) in Tokyo. She is a traditional craftswoman of Nanbu lozenge embroidery, and lives in Aomori Prefecture.
In 1977, she started learning Nanbu lozenge embroidery by herself and, in 1988, she opened a lozenge embroidery school called the 'Plum Flower Studio'. In 1999, she held an exhibition in Paris with a French ceramic artist.
The history of lozenge embroidery dates back to the Edo period. The number of the geometric pattern is more than 400 and the pattern is sewn on hemp cloth with cotton yarn. Lozenge embroidery exists in the towns of Sannohe, Gonohe, Hachinohe and Kamikita to the south of Aomori. In olden times, farmers were allowed to wear only hemp kimonos and they sewed patterns on light indigo hemp cloth with navy blue and white cotton thread, which made the cloth stronger and warmer. The lozenge embroidery is beautiful and practical at the same time.
Ms Amo composes lozenge embroidery with her hand-made hemp cloth and her dyed cotton thread. Each work has a unique pattern. She says, 'I would be happy if someone wearing my work feels a warm heart.'
Omi-jofu is a hemp fabric made in Echigawa, Echi, Shiga Prefecture. The clean waters of the Echigawa River, the high humidity and the success of the Omi merchants led to the development of fabric manufacturing here in the Kamakura period.
In the Edo period, the cloth market grew under the patronage of the Hikone clan. Since then, cloth-dyeing techniques have evolved greatly. Later, a unique and sophisticated designed 'Omi' cloth was woven. The name 'jofu' (direct translation = 'upper cloth') was used because, during the Edo period, the cloth crafted in this fashion was used by the nobility.
The characteristic feature of Omi-jofu is that, after the dyeing of threads, it uses a typical method called 'shibotsuke' to dwindle the threads. Another imporant feature of hemp-cloth is that it absorbs moisture easily and is cooling to the wearer.
To conclude, it could be said that Omi-jofu is a traditional fabric that has evolved over time along with the spirit of the craftsmen.