NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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【誠】 Sei Sincerity

Jp En

This character cannot be seen among the tortoise plastron, bone, or bronze inscription characters but from the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script on. Certainly, it can be divided into a left and right part. It, however, would be too rash to jump to an A+B style mathematical explanation. Dr. Shirakawa summarizes: “The meaning is to realize an oath.”
Rather than a mere superficial interpretation like that of a 言 ‘kotoba: word’ that 成る ‘naru: realizes,’ one has to take the customs and religion of ancient China into consideration here. As was pointed out in the explanation of 信, the 口 of the lower part 言 is a vessel for putting in prayer writings. The meaning of the upper part with its four horizontal lines is hard to understand from the form of the Common Use Kanji. Its original form and meaning has to be understood in the context of the tattoo and ritual body painting culture. It shows the form of an instrument, a needle with a handle for tattooing. Already this part 言 only has the meaning of words of oath to the gods.
The part 成 shows the form of the ritual of completion performed after the making of a 戈 ‘hoko: halberd’ is finished, adding a decoration. This means that the left and right character parts have their origin in religion.
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川原毛地獄 Kawarage-jigoku Kawarage Jigoku

Jp En

Kawarage Jigoku located at the foot of Mt. Takamatsudake in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, is one of Japan’s three great spiritual places; others are Mt. Osorezan in Aomori Prefecture and Mt. Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture.

Kawarage Jigoku is the ruins of the sulfur mine, which had been flourished since the Edo period (1603-1868). It is said that the mountain was first trekked by the priest Doso in 807. Fumes of hot water gush out of the mountainside covered with grayish white lava, giving off strong smell of sulfur. The desolate scenery of naked hillside evokes us of the horrible images of Hell.

There are as many as 136 small and large Jigokus (geothermal pits) in the mountain area, 800 m above sea level. Jigokus include Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell), Tsurugi Jigoku (Sword Hell), Bakuro Jigoku (Horse Dealer’s Hell), Hariyama Jigoku (Pincushion Hell) and Nusubito Jigoku (Thief Hell).

This high-temperature hot water flows down into 20 m high Kawarage Oyutaki in the downstream. The waterfall then flows into the basin in the huge rock, where people can enjoy soaking in a natural hot spring.
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うさぎの吊るし飾り Usagi no tsurushi-kazari Rabbit Hanging Ornament

Jp En

Hanging ornaments such as these are known as 'tsurushi (hanging) kazari' or 'tsurushi hina'. These ornaments have been part of traditional culture since the Edo period, and the custom is rooted in the Izu-Inatori Onsen region. During the Hina (Girls) Festival, parents prayed for their daughter's happiness through a thread taken from a piece of old clothing. It is this hina hanging ornament that swings from both sides of the tiered stand used for the presentation of the hina dolls.
   This custom is called 'sagemon' in Yanagawa, Kyushu, 'kasafuku' in Sakata, Yamagata, and 'hanging hina' in Izu-Inatori. Only these three districts have inherited this historical patrimony, documents and photos.
   People entrust their wishes to the ornament. Some 110 ornaments have separate meanings. For example, the red eyes of a rabbit are supposed to have the power of causing and curing diseases. A rabbit is said to be the servant of a deity.
   It is lots of fun to decorate with ornaments that suit each season. Your favorite small objects will colour your life and enrichen your heart.
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加賀繍 Kaga-nui Kaga-nui Embroidery

Jp En

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.
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とげぬき地蔵 TogenukiJizou Togenuki-Jizou (Togenuki Ksitigarbha)

Jp En

Pour the water over the statue of the Togenuki-Jizou (The Needle-pulling-out Ksitigarbha) and rub him with a towel.
In the year 1713 (Shoutoku 3), the wife of Matashiro Tazuki, who lived in Edo, had caught an incurable disease, even though she had always believed in the Jizo (the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha). The doctors had given up on her, and said she was scourged by spirits from the dead. The wife resigned herself to death.
Tazuki prayed fervently and desperately to Jizo every day. Then, one day, a black-robed monk appeared by his pillow and revealed how he could save his wife. As instructed by the monk, Tazuki made 10,000 figures of Goei (images of God) from small sections of a wooden Jizo left by his pillow and floated them down the river. The next morning, the monk had swept away the lemurs that had appeared in Tazuki’s wife’s dream with his wand. The wife miraculously recovered and was for ever after free from the illness.
Two years later, when a maid of the Mouri family accidentally swallowed a needle, she was told to swallow one of the Goei figures that Tazuki had made. The maid threw up the needle, which had become stuck in the Goei figure. This story is where the name “Togenuki-Jizou (The Needle-pulling-out Ksitigarbha)” derives.
Since then, the belief has developed that diseases can be cured by pouring water then rubbing with a towel  the Togenuki Jizo of Kougan Ji (Kougan temple) in Sugamo, Tokyo.
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こぎん刺し Kogin-zashi Koginzashi (Needlework)

Jp En

Koginzashi is old needlework technology passed down in Tsugaru district. The origin of this technology is that in the Edo period farmers were forbidden to wear padded garment, so they dressed in several layers of clothing made of linen or ramie that grew in mountains to shut out the cold. In order to make the clothes more durable and warmer, the women began to give embroidering especially to the part of the shoulder, waist and lower sleeve edges with undyed cotton thread. It was the fruits of the women’s wisdom to overcome the severe cold in the northland. Koginzashi is characterized in that hand embroidering with white cotton thread is given along the weave patterns of indigo-dyed linen. At the present day, cotton or wool is also used and there is a variation in color. Its simple and beautiful geometrical patterns represent the strength and sensibility of the women in the northland, who carry on delicate needlework. It was designated as a traditional handicraft by the prefecture.
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南部菱刺し Nanbu-hishizashi Nambu Diamond Embroidery

Jp En

Nambu Diamond Embroidery is the needlework handed down in Nambu district centered around the present Hachinohe City, Aomori Pref. This craft dates back to 200 years ago, when the farmers were only allowed to wear clothes made of hemp or ramie, and cotton must be used only as thread. The women in the farming villages then contrived the way to reinforce the fabric and retain heat by stitching cotton thread into the hemp cloth. The skill has been handed down up to the present and become traditional crafts. It is characterized by various kinds of beautiful diamond patterns. There are collectors who have collected Nambu Diamond Embroidery works made in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods. Currently it is not only popular among handicraft lovers but also among known to ordinary consumers all over the country.
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