Junichi Takano works as the Store Manager at the Shirakiya Nakamura Denbei Store, an old store established in 1830. Mr. Takano supports Satoru Nakamura, the seventh successor who inherited the name and the store.
Along the side of the Kyoubashi River in Tokyo that is now an expressway there once was, in the Edo Period, a commercial river port called “bamboo river bank” where 50,000 to 60,000 sticks of bamboo were unloaded every day. It was also a trading hub for all sorts of materials used for daily products.
The founder of the Shirakiya Store, Toubei, began making houki brooms from bamboo and houki-morokoshi (millet), and this “Edo-bouki” (as Toubei’s houki are called) has been created in the same traditional way and at the same place since.
Junichi Takano initially came in as a part time delivery boy. He was soon fascinated by the “practical beauty” of Edo-bouki and the work being done by master houki maker Seiichi Takagi. Since then, he fell in love with making houki himself and he has now become an indispensable talent for the store.
A houki, unlike some modern disposable tools, lasts a long time.
The craftsmen, anticipating all the possible ways the houki might be used, give it lightness, firmness and pliancy. The user understands that the houki is a tool to purify a house and as he or she sweeps the tatami mat from inside to outside, he or she “collaborates” with the houki. The relationship established between the user and the tool is a further development of the relationship already established between the craftsman and the craft.
Using fine materials, expert techniques and human ingenuity, as an artist, Mr. Takano takes elaborate efforts to continue to preserve the relationship between human and tool and pass it on to the next generation.
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.
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.
The word Karakuri was used to describe traditional Japanese mechanical devices. In the Edo period especially, gears from clocks were first used to make moving dolls and the elaborate Karakuri doll tradition began.
It was Hanzou Hosokawa from the Tosa region who first revealed to the general public the way the Karakuri work, using easily understood illustrations. His book, Kkarakuri-zui, had a tremendous impact on many artisans who later developed their own techniques in the field. This book is considered to be the foundation of Japanese robotic technology.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin was invented and the Karakuri techniques were handed down to Yuutarou Oono. Mr. Oono not only successfully revived Hosokawa`s Karakuri but, in a similar spirit of openness, he made them out of transparent acrylic. It is exciting to see a doll in a beautiful kimono bringing and serving tea but people were doubly delighted to to see the dolls’ inner workings as well. The transparent gears developed by modern technology allowed this to be possible.
It is the spirit of true Karakuri artists to honor the people’s desire to know and also create such beautiful dolls that are totally in keeping with the Japanese people’s sense of esthetics.
If you have a taste for the buckwheat noodle “soba” from Japan and you like it so much that you find dining on it at a restaurant occasionally does not satisfy you, then it could be time for you to start making your own soba at home. The alluring smell of freshly made soba, its texture and taste are true bliss and it can be experienced whenever you desire by making your own soba. Essential to the preparation of soba, you will need to use a professional broad knife especially made for cutting soba by a master craftsman. The soba knife with Kuroda-shiage (black finish) is made by sharpening only the blade leaving the upper part with its original black color. It uses Yasuki Hagane White Steel, premium silver high carbon steel, which is suitable for cutting noodles into thin slices. It weighs 650g so pressing down on the dough to cut it into noodles is easy. The price is not too high but they are professional quality. It is always a good item to have in your kitchen.
The paint brush known as hake has been used since ancient times. According to some documents dating back to Heian period, feathers from millet plants were used to paint lacquer onto such things as bowls and bows and arrows.
Edo Hake was an important tool and played a vital role for Edo-influenced artisans from various fields. The word, Edo Hake, first appeared in a product guide book called “Mankin-sugiwai-bukuro”, published in the middle of Edo period. In the book, Edo Hake was introduced as a brush to apply glue for mounting. There are seven kinds of brushes that are designated as Edo Hake: Kyouji Hake, Senshoku Hake, Ningyou Hake, Urushi Hake, Mokuhan Hake, Oshiroi Hake and Tosou Hake.
Modern Edo Hake now uses human hair and animal hair such as horse, deer and goat as well as plant fibers from box tree and hemp palm. Because many hairs are curly to some degree and contain oil, both of which prevent craftsmen from attempting subtle work, a good part of the production process is dedicated to strengthening the hair and eliminating grease from the hair.
The most vital part of the brush is the edge of the hair which is evaluated for its evenness and firmness. It is an essential job for the brush makers to make a careful examination in selecting the best materials.
Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori are koinobori or carp-shaped brocade streamers made in Sakai City, Osaka.
Their origin dates back to the beginning of the Meiji period when a merchant who had a toy and stationery business, on his way back from a visit to the Ise Shrine, saw paper carp made in Nagoya. This gave him the idea of having a Japanese kite maker make the paper carp, which he then sold.
By the middle of the Meiji period, the paper carp were replaced by ones made with brocade cloth and the techniques evolved to accommodate the change in material.
Sakai Koinobori are usually done with a drawing of a boy from a folktale, known as Kintaro, riding on the carp. The traditional elaborate methods are still used, in which the pictures are drawn by hand, one stroke at a time. The brocade cloth is then dyed with the utmost care.
With its graduated shading, subtle brush work and forcible strokes all of which are done by hand, Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori is a notable craftwork that is still highly sought after.
Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori, was designated as a prefectural traditional craftwork by Osaka in 1986. The streamers are still now enthusiastically produced so they can grace the skies of Japan with their elegantly swimming carps.
Matsuri Nobeoka Festival held since 1977 is the biggest summer event in the northern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. It is a citizen’s festival featuring the fireworks display, the Deai Mikoshi parade and the Banba So-odori dancing parade. Everything is planned and carried out by the executive committee organized by the citizens under the themes of “the warm heat,” “the love for homeland” and “the feeling of thankfulness.”
The members of the committee attend the necessary workshops, set the shooting ground and shoot up 10,000 fireworks by themselves with the aid of pyrotechnists.
In the Deai Mikoshi parade, large mikoshi (portable shrines) are dynamically waggled and lifted up and down. The largest mikoshi named “Sanbyakkan Mikoshi” weighs more than 1 ton.
The Banba Odori dance is a traditional performing art handed down in this area since the Edo period (1603-1868). In the Banba So-odori parade, more than 5,000 citizens including Mayor participate and dance in a huge circle. In the recent years, the new styles of Banba dances such as “New Banba,” “New New Banba” in the Okinawan Eisa style and “Samba Banba” are also popular among young citizens.