Temari is a traditional Japanese thread ball that was used as a toy ball for children. While playing with the ball, children used to sing a temari song. The most loved of these temari songs was “Antagata dokosa” which came from Higo Temari, traditionally from Kumamoto Prefecture.
Higo Temari, whose beauty is characterized by bright colors and biometric patterns, was first made by the court ladies working in their clan’s palace in Edo, Tokyo, as a pastime. This skill was eventually passed down to their local regions.
Higo Temari, which was traditionally made by local women in Higo region, began disappearing as rubber balls took over the market in the middle of Meiji period. In 1968, Higo Temari Club was founded and began formally preserving the temari making method.
The core of a temari ball is formed with dried sponge cucumber which was cut at an angle. Thin yarn is wrapped over the core, and then thread is randomly wrapped around the outside of the ball which produces a cushioned surface and helps create a perfect spherical shape. French Embroidery threads are applied to decorate the surface which creates superb color schemes and a rich variety in designs.
The Higo Temari song mentions a place called “senba”, which is on the bank of Tsuboi River that was once abundant with small shrimps. Mt. Senba nearby was once inhabited by raccoon dogs and the surrounding area was said to be a dense grove and bamboo thicket.
Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with designs stitched in thread or yarn using a needle. The art of embroidery was introduced to Japan from China about 1,600 to 1,700 years ago. Since then, embroidery had been the only way to decorate kimono until the pattern dyeing techniques of Yuzen was introduced. A lot of embroidery techniques were developed in every area of the country for a long time, which led to the present elaborate form of Japanese embroidery.
In ancient Japane, it was thought that stitches had a magical power. For this reason, there was a custome to add an embroidery motif called “Semori” on the back of a garment for children. Semori literally means a back protector. And as children’s kimono had fewer stiches than those of adults, Semori was added as a kind of charm to protect children from evil spirits.
From the similar ideas, embroidery was added to the junihitoe dress, a formal court lady costume in the Heian period (794-1192) and armors for samurai. These religeous element became a part of the bases for the development of embroidery in Japan and “stitches up” the Japanese style of elegance.
Ainu is an ethnic group on the Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Its culture uses a very distinctive pattern called Ainu-monyou or Ainu pattern for their clothes, furniture and ceremonial instruments.
Ainu have many differing designs largely based on two basic patterns: one is a swirl pattern called Moreu in Ainu language and the other is a parenthesis pattern called Aiuushi which means things with thorns. The patterns are designed not only for decoration, but also have some symbolic effect of warding off evil spirits. They are commonly embroidered in cuffs, collars and the hem of clothes. By looking at the pattern one can tell which region it comes from. There are many theories as to the origin of the patterns, but there is no definite explanation.
To express their fondness for the opposite sex, Ainu women used to give an embroidered tekunpe (a cloth to cover the back of the hand and wrist) and hoshi (a cloth to cover the shin) with Ainu pattern while men used to give menokomakiri (small sword) curved with Ainu pattern. Ainu people believed they imparted part of the soul to their handmade crafts and valued them accordingly.
Nowadays, Ainu patterns have more design varieties and have wider applications such as for skirts and blouses.
Toshiki Matsui is a craftsman in Kyo Yuzen, a traditional handicraft handed down in Kyoto. His pen name is Shozui. He was born in Kyoto in 1940. He specializes in painting including base drawing, coloring on the part of the cloth which has been outlined with the resist (itome-nori) and musen-Yuzen, in which designs are painted directly onto the fabric with a brush. He was designated as a Traditional Craftsman by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1988.
It is said that the yuzen technique of painting dye directly onto cloth was established by Miyazaki Yuzensai, a popular fan painter living in Kyoto toward the end of the 17th century. Yuzen’s modern designs as well as its vast range of dyeing, pasting, and other techniques such as embroidery and leafing have brought this industry to perfection. Different from Kaga Yuzen, brushes are used in painting in Kyo Yuzen.
Mr. Matsui uses as many as 3,000 brushes, which were all handmade by himself and used for different purposes. He applies the dyes on cloth, using his brushes free-flowingly like his own fingers. His excellent techniques and colorful designs are now used not only for kimono but also for a variety of products such as dresses and framed pictures.
The haneri is a spare collar, which is sewed onto the collar base of nagajuban (the underwear for kimono). The origin of haneri dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). As it was originally used for protecting the collars from getting dirty, most of haneri were black in color. However, in the Meiji period, it was thought fashionable to be particular about collars and the haneri with various colors, designs, dyeing techniques and even embroidery works were produced. There were even specialty shops for haneri in those days. The haneri is basically a 1 m long rectangular cloth. The white one is still used at formal occasions. As it is painstaking and expensive to wash kimono, people usually unsew only the haneri off the nagajuban and wash it. Today, various types of haneri are produced including Date-eri (double collars) and the one with embroidery, which are enjoyed in the combination with kimono. The haneri is also used as a scarf today.
Koutou Temple, where this statue of the reclining Buddha reposes, was built for the Arima clan in 1558 (Eiroku). However, the temple was moved to Shimabara when Shimabara Castle was constructed, and became the temple of the Matsukura Family.
The present temple was rebuilt in 1790 (Kansei 2), and there is a painting of the reclining Buddha, which was dedicated as a celebration of the reconstruction. Today's statue of the reclining Buddha was made in 1957 (Showa 32), after the painting's dedication.
The reclining Buddha is 8.6m long from head to toe, and 2.12m high. 'Nehan' is the Japanese word for Nirvana and refers to a spiritual state where the fire of worldly desire has disappeared and wisdom has been accomplished. It is also used as an expression for the dying Buddha (Buddha entering into parnirvana), which is known as the 'reclining Buddha'.
The statue of the reclining Buddha portrays Buddha preaching to his pupils on his deathbed under the paired sal trees of Kusinara, which was near his hometown.
Kaga-nui is a traditional embroidery specific to the Kaga area of Ishikawa prefecture. It was during the Muromachi period that what would eventually become know as the kaga-nui technique was first introduced to the locals, along with Buddhism, from Kyoto. The embroidery technique was initially used for decorating a priest’s stole and the golden cloth that was laid in front of tablets of the deceased. The technique was further developed and, in the Edo period, the embroidery was used to decorate accessories and ceremonial garments used during battles for the lords of a feudal clan. Later it was also used to decorate women’s kimono. Successive rulers of the Kaga feudal clan valued arts and crafts and fiercely protected Kaga-nui. Along with two other famous local specialties; Kaga gold gilding and Kaga Yuuzen, Kaga-nui was perfected so as to become totally unique. Kaga-nui utilizes gold, silver and silk threads so skillfully that embroidered drawings and patterns are raised from the cloth in a three-dimensional shape. This humble yet graceful embroidery, born from delicate and detailed techniques, continues to be used to this day to decorate accessories, kimono and obi. Its elaborate method of hand stitching remains the same and so naturally, each work is different and unique.
Chugu-ji Temple is one of the three major Yamato Monzeki temples. It is close to Horyuji-temple in Ikaruga Town, Ikoma County, Nara Prefecture, and is associated with Shotoku Taishi.
Chugu-ji Temple was established in the 29th year of the Suiko Emperor period (621), when Shotoku Taishi changed a house of his mother, Anahobe-no-Hashihito Queen, into a temple.
After Sonchi Queen became a nun in the temple, Chugu-ji Temple became a Monzeki temple, one in which the imperial family or aristocrats live and train themselves.
The Miroku Bodhisattva statue, a national treasure preserved in one of the main buildings, was made in the late Asuka period and is the oldest example of marquetry work in the country. The figure, with its left leg folded under it and its right finger lightly touching its cheek, is beautiful and famous. 'Tenjukoku-shuchu' is a collection of valuable embroidery dating to the Asuka period. A princess, Tachiba-no-Ooiratsume, mourning over Shotoku Taishi's death, was ordered to embroider the other side. Now, you can see its replica in the temple.