Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones. Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
The city of Chiryu in Aichi Prefecture was the 39th of 53 post stations on the Old Tokaido Road from 1601 to the end of the Edo period. In 1604, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered to plant pine trees on both sides of the Tokaido Road except the zones in the settlements. The row of pine trees protected travelers from the sunlight in summer and cold wind and snow in winter.
Today, as many as 170 pine trees continuing about 500 meters remain in Chiryu City. Byways built on both sides of the row were used for resting horses that were brought to a horse market. The prosperity of the horse market can be inferred from the stone monument erected in the market ruins site to the south of the road and Ando Hiroshige’s “The Fifty-three Post Stations of the Tokaido Road; Chiryu.” The row of pine trees was designated as a city’s cultural property in 1969.
The Tiger Dance performed on April 29 every year in old Nakaniida Town (present Kami Town) in Miyagi Prefecture is a traditional fire prevention event. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
Old Nakaniida Town had suffered fires from early spring through early summer, when strong winds blew through the town. To pray for fire prevention, the Osaki clan, who ruled in this area about 600 years ago, ordered the firefighters of the town to dedicate a tiger dances at the First Horse Day Festival of Inari Myojin Shrine. Following an old saying, “Clouds bow down to a dragon and winds to a tiger,” the lord intended to use the tiger's influence to stop the winds and protect the town from fire. The tiger dancers and the festival floats paraded through the town to enhance the awareness of fire prevention among townspeople as well as to promote business prosperity of the shops.
Today, several festival floats make their way through the streets followed by 3 to 6 young boys dressed in tiger costumes. The boys in tiger costumes dance on roofs of merchants’ houses to the feverish music of Japanese flutes and drums.
Shomyoji Temple in Funami-cho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido is a temple of Jodoshinshu. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. The temple originates in the Amida hall, which housed the statue of Amida Nyorai, built in the nearby village of Kameda in 1644 by the priest Enryu.
At the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when the port of Hakodate was open to international trade, the temple was used as the consulates of England and France. At the time of Hakodate War, the Shinsengumi used it as their military station. The stone monument erected in memory of Hijikata Toshizo (the deputy leader) and other Shinsengumi warriors stands at the side of a huge ginkgo tree past the Sanmon gate. In the precinct, there are also many other graves and memorial monuments of famous historic figures including a wealthy merchant Takadaya Kahei and Kono Masamichi, the founder of Hakodate. The temple is also known for the oldest epigraph stone monument “Joji-no-hi.”
As it houses precious treasures including the wooden statue carved by Enku, the present main hall is built of concrete for fire prevention.
These illumination lamps can be seen at the HOTEL CLASKA, in Meguro district, Tokyo. The ceiling lamp on the left-hand side is made of tin. The design emphasizes the characteristics of tin, transforming it into a drum shape, and using it as a chandelier. Tin is one of the most stable of metals, and because the chandelier is 100% tin, it will not change color. Moreover, the inside of the chandelier gives out a clear luminous color. The lamp on the right-hand side creates a strange impression, because the light reflected by the brass plate seems to be floating. Brass is formed by the synthesis of copper and zinc. The color, the degree of hardness and the durability of the brass changes with the proportion of zinc added to it.
■ HOTEL CLASKA tin chandelier (left) ・ Wire foil lacquering ■ Illumination lamp (right) ・ Brass, glass, lighting apparatus ・ Size W×D×H (mm) 135mm×135mm×300mm ・ Designed (both) by Intentionars
This form of this table is known a sumitsubo, which is an essential tool for a carpenter. Just like nested boxes, this low table-desk can be paired with a chest or a box.
The table is ebonized with black sumi ink which has been fixed by a special technique that does not stain the person using the furniture.
In former times, carpenters drew a straight line on wood using a string blackened with sumi. The memory of sumi living in the wood is beautiful.
*solid Melapy wood with stained black finish
*low chest W950×D430×H305 (mm)
box W950×D405×H205 (mm)
desk W1200×D405×H380 (mm)
*designed by Makoto Koizumi
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Gold foil, which is pure gold, is mixed with small amounts of silver or copper, so its color may change through years.
The square corners of the photo are where water vapor from the hot springs has bubbled over and they are continuously exposed to water. Moreover, because some of the water comes from the ‘natural hot spring’, the material is corroded easily. So, gold foil was applied to the back of the acrylic board to protect the surface.
You cannot find any spot of attachment glue on the gold foil.
Even though the foil is exposed to water, it has a beautiful gloss.
Seen from the lobby of the hotel, it seems as if a hot spring were bubbling up from a gold ingot.
■ Dormy Inn Kanazawa courtyard
* gold foil applied to the back of clear acrylic board with silicon coating
*size w55×d55×h45 cm
*designed by n.o.a
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa