Hon’ami Koetsu was a calligrapher and artist in the early Edo period. He was also well known as the leading tea master of the time.
Hon’ami Koetsu was born into a family of swordsmiths who created and sharpened swords in Kyoto. He showed talent in a wide range of fields including calligraphy, pottery, lacquer, publishing, architecture and landscape design.
He especially excelled in calligraphy and, along with Konoe Nobutada and Shokodo Shojo, he came to be known as one of the Three Brushes of the Kan’ei Era (Kan’ei no Sanpitsu) . He founded his own personal style known as Koetsu-ryu, developed from the Japanese calligraphy style.
Hon’ami is also credited with founding the Rimpa School in the field of painting, together with Tawaraya Sotasu and Ogata Korin. His works include Rakuyaki Kamigawa-chawan ceramic teacups and Funabashi Makie Suzuribako lacquer work- both of which are designated as National Treasures, and Tsurushitae-wakakan painting, designated as an Important Cultural Asset.
In 1615, Hon’ami began an artist community called Koetsu-mura or Koetsu village in Takagamine, north of Kyoto, in the land granted by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He developed his own artistic style further and was also believed to have supervised all the work there.
Monzen-machi is a town that was established around the prominent temples and shrines as stores and business developed to serve visitors to the temples and the shrines.
A town that is developed around a shrine is called aTorii-mae-machi (a town in front of torii) and a town established by religious followers is called Jinai-cho or Shake-machi, all of which are widely categorized as Monzen-machi.
Some noted Monzen-machi are: Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, - developed around the Shinshou-ji Temple, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture - developed around theTosho-gu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine and Rinnou-ji Temple, Ise City, Mie Prefecture - developed around the Ise Shrine, Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture - developed around the Izumo Taisha Shrine, located in Kotohira-cho and Nakatado-gun, Kagawa Prefecture - developed around the Kotohira-gu Shrine.
Monzen-machi is sometimes defined as a religious city. It embodies the urban culture (chounin bunka) born and developed during the Edo Period when society was relatively peaceful and people’s lives were influenced by and served by temples and shrines.
Kuroishi Yosare Festival is the biggest event held in Kuroishi City, Aomori Prefecture. It is held on August 15 and 16 every year and counted as one of Three Nagashi-style Dances (dance parades) in Japan.
About 3,000 dancers called “Tokomanpo,” the workers of the local shopping area, wear straw hats and yukata with pictures of sparrow and dance around the city with distinctive call of “E-chaho, E-chaho.” The concept of the dance is to drive away sparrows by swinging the rice ears, from which the present design of the yukata was contrived.
The dances are mainly composed of Nagashi-odori (dance parade), Mawari-odori (a circle dance) and Kumi-odori (a pair dance). The dance parade sometimes stops and takes the form of a circle dance, where spectators invited to join and dancers perform more enthusiastically.
Kuroishi Yosare originates in the pair dance performed by male and female dancers to represent love call about 600 years ago. Later in the Tenmei era (1781-1788) in the Edo period, the chief retainer of the domain, Sakai Gyoemon, encouraged this dance to gain the popularity of the townspeople. Since then it has been handed down in this city.
Yuutaro Oono was born in Tokyo in 1935. He is currently the CEO of Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd.
After graduating from Hokunoujima Technology High School, Mr. Oono was employed by an 8mm film company. In 1978, he started Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd which specializes in making gears. He also dedicated himself to bringing back Karakuri dolls , which were popular in the Edo period, to modern times, using the advanced techniques of modern gear making.
Mr. Oono first learned about Karakuri in an engineering book and he became passionately interested in them. He had acquired a copy of “Karakuri-zui”, an illustrated compendium of mechanical devices written by Hanzou Hosokawa, a legendary karakuri artisan of the Edo period. Mr. Oono began studying the book intensely and, for the last 20 years, he has been reproducing the Karakuri dolls most loved by people in the Edo period such as “tea serving doll”, “shinan guruma” and the “Karakuri clock”.
Each doll is made using about 80 different parts, not counting its face and clothing. The dolls are created in such a way as to preserve traditional methods as much as possible. The fusion of the Edo period and modern times shows both beauty and functionality.
Mr. Oono’s next project is to bring back “Yumihari Warawa, or “ Boy Archer”, which shows a boy shooting an arrow at a target. His tremendous respect for the Karakuri artists of the Edo period motivates him to try to recreate the Karakuri Dolls most beloved in that period, so that people can remember and appreciate their heritage.
Senchadou is one kind of sadou or tea ceremony. While sadou uses maccha tea powder, in senchadou hot water is poured into a teapot containing tea leaves such as sencha and gyokuro. Senchadou is a sadou only in the broad sense. In general, it is considered to be different from a sadou.
It is believed that Senchadou was started by Ingen Ryuuki, who founded Oubaku-shu, a sect of Zen Buddhism in the beginning of the Edo period.
While sadou was becoming more formalized, critics who considered sadou’s formalization pretentious, turned their eyes on senchadou which was the newest trend in Chinese culture at the time and therefore unfettered from Japanese formality. Among people who love good taste, passing time talking and drinking sencha in a relaxed setting became rapidly popular. By the middle of the Edo period, senchadou took a turn away from Chinese culture and more toward Japanese. Its popularity spread from Edo and Kyoto to other parts of Japan.
In 1959, All-Japan Senchadou Association was established. There are now many different schools existing.
In addition to Shuushou-ha, which was born during the Edo period, 39 schools in total have joined the association.
Ichikawa-Daimon in Ichikawa-Misato Town, Yamanashi Prefecture is one of the major firework manufacturing places in Japan. Together with the fireworks displayed in Yoshida Town (the present-day Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture) and Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture, the fireworks of Shinmei was said to be one of the three distinctive fireworks of the country during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The fireworks were originally being displayed at the festival of Shinmeisha Shrine. Although the display was discontinued for a long time from the late Meiji to the Showa periods, it was revived in 1989 and has been held every year until now.
On the festival night, about 20,000 fireworks including Starmines, many kinds of gimmick fireworks and No. 4 balls are shot up and create magnificent and picturesque scenes in the sky. The most overwhelming is the 2-shaku dama fireworks, which are 60 am in diameter and create the illumination of 500 m in diameter in the sky. Along with the traditional ones, many other innovative fireworks are displayed by the participant manufactures of the firework contest.
As many as 200,000 visitors from near and far come to see this spectacular event. It seems the history and tradition handed down in the town of fireworks are condensed and “burst” at one go on the festival day.
Wa-daiko are percussion instruments and a general term used for Japanese stick drums.
They are made from the trunk of a tree such as Keyaki wood which is hollowed out and sealed on both ends of the drum body with animal skin, mostly from cows. The player beats the skin and it vibrates to make sound.
There is another traditional percussion instrument called tsuzumi which has the same construction as wa-taiko but a smaller size. Tzuzumi are played with the hand, as opposed to the taiko drum which is struck with a drumstick or other instrument.
The history of the taiko drum goes back to ancient times - as early as the Joumon period (BC10,000 – BC300) in which a musical instrument with a similar structure is said to have already existed.
In the Middle Ages, when Dengaku - dance performance to celebrate the harvest, was developed, Ohayushi-daiko, smaller stick drums, became popular. In the Sengoku period, taiko drums were used for military purposes (Jin-daiko) and, in the Edo period, they were used inside the Edo Castle to announce the time. Over the ages, taiko drums were used for many occasions and purposes and they have become rooted in people’s everyday life.
The fact that taiko drums have been used as ceremonial tools to communicate with God in temples and shrines has made them very special instruments that resonate deeply in the Japanese people’s hearts.
In the Showa period, contemporary ensemble style drumming called Kumi-daiko became popular. It is made up of various different kinds of taiko drums, and the unique sound has been enchanting people around the world ever since.
Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en or The Open Air Architectural Museum is located inside Koganei Park on the western outskirts of Tokyo. It is a spacious and bright open-air museum that showcases 27 historical and cultural buildings from the Edo period to the beginning of the Showa period. It first opened to the public in March, 1993.
Its vast area of 7 hectares is divided into roughly three sections: buildings from downtown Tokyo in the east, Yamanote residential areas in the west and historically intriguing buildings in the middle.
Along with these historically important buildings, a whole town was reconstructed and the tools used in daily life are exhibited inside as well as outside the buildings. Visitors can then enjoy a more complete experience of what life must have been like from the beginning of the Edo period to the Showa period.
Among the buildings transferred from their original locations and reconstructed in the museum are the residential house of the Mitsui Family, the Bathhouse Kodakara-yu which inspired the popular movie Spirited Away, the residential house of Kunio Maeda, an architect, and the residential house of Korekiyo Takahashi, a politician from the beginning of the Showa period.
At the museum, visitors can travel beyond time and feel their past heritage.