The Residential house of Hachirouemon Mitsui, located inside the Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en, in Koganei City, Tokyo, was originally built in Kougai Town (now Nishi Azabu 3 Chome, Minato-ku), in 1952.
The house has a guest room, dining room, kitchen and service room on the first floor and a bedroom, bath room and butsuma room, the room where the family Buddhist altar is placed, on the second floor.
The house, in its original location was burned down during the war. To restore it, many rooms, building materials and stones were transferred from other Mitsui family houses located around Japan. The guest room, transferred from Kyoto, was built in 1897 and kitchen and warehouse were from Meiji period.
The guest room has a carpet with a table and chairs rather than the Japanese style tatami mattress, and its ceiling is decorated with craftwork called “sensai” which is made with colored threads and silk. Above the stairway is a luxurious and rare Czech glass chandelier. The handles of the sliding doors of the butsuma room are made of turquoise colored Shippou-yaki or Cloisonné ware.
The house is filled with a harmonious blend of Western and Japanese styles and visitors can enjoy the quintessence of the Mitsui family’s opulent life-style from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods.
'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Ohajiki is a traditional game enjoyed by Japanese children, especially girls. Its name comes from the flicking (“hajiku” in Japanese) of fingers that is done to ohajiki (flat glass marbles) with a diameter of about 12 mm.
The game dates back to the Nara period (710-794), when it was introduced from China. In those days pebbles were used to play, and the game was called “Ishi-hajiki (stone flicking).” It was mainly enjoyed among the nobility at the Imperial court. It was in the Edo period (1603-1868) when the game began to be played by girls. In the late Meiji period (1868-1912), glass marbles appeared.
To play the game, players scatter the ohajiki on a flat surface and then take turns hitting one piece against another with the flick of a finger. If a player is successful, she can get the other player’s ohajiki. The player with the most pieces wins. Ohajiki marbles are cute-looking stuff and the game is enjoyable even for adults.
Pahoehoe is basaltic lava that has a smooth, undulating, or ropy surface. As basalt contains relatively less silicon dioxide, basaltic lava behaves more like a plastic substance than a liquid substance. As lava continues to flow underneath this plastic skin, the surface can bunch up or wrinkle into a form that resembles coiled rope. Such a surface is called ropy pahoehoe.
There is a belt of dark gray ropy pahoehoe cropping out along the coast from Hanaze to Tazaki Beach in Kaimon Town in Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is one of the few examples of ropy pahoehoe found in Japan. This lave belt was formed when Mt. Kaimon erupted in about 500 B.C. The trace of lava that erupted out of the crater of Mt. Kaimon and flew toward the offing can be clearly seen. As the precious natural phenomenon, from which we can learn about volcanic and geological activities of the earth, it is prefecturally designated as a natural monument.
Toomizuka Kofun in Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a keyhole-shaped kofun built from the end of 4th century to the early 5th century. With a total length of 110 m and a height of 6.5 m, it is the 5th largest kofun in the Tohoku region. It is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
The characteristic of this keyhole-shaped kofun is that the square front part is extremely lower than the round rear part. The kofun is surrounded with an irregular-shaped moat, which is about 10 to 40 m wide. The number of burial accessories is extremely small for the size of the kofun. Only 1 quartz cylindrical jewel, 4 glass balls and 18 combs made of lacquered bamboo were excavated.
The half of the round rear part was destroyed when the U.S. Air Force expanded its Kasumime Air Base. The kofun site is converted into a park now. The excavated articles are preserved and displayed at Sendai City Museum.
Among Sendai Hariko (papier-mache), a kind of toy made from molded and colored paper, probably the most common item is the Matsukawa Daruma doll. This daruma is colored ultramarine around its face, and the body is decorated with a relief motif of a bringer of good luck such as a treasure ship, the god of wealth, the pine, bamboo and plum trees, Ebisu, a carp swimming up the waterfall, and “Ichi-fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi (Mt. Fuji at the first, hawk at the second, eggplant at the third).” It is distinctive that real hair is used to make its eyebrows and it has glass-made eyes. This daruma is a long-beloved item as a mascot or a bringer of good luck.
According to one widely-accepted opinion, Matsukawa Daruma was named after Matsukawa Toyonoshin, a retainer of the Date clan and the person who created this daruma about 170 years ago. The daruma dolls were produced by low-ranked warriors of the domain as their side jobs. Different from daruma dolls made in other areas, Matsukawa Daruma has black eyes. According to one opinion, this was because warriors were concerning about their one-eyed lord, Date Masamune.
Matsukawa Daruma was originally made in a much more simple style. It was Takahashi Tokutaro (1830-1913), or the Buddhist sculptor Mentoku II, that improved it into the present gorgeous doll.
Sendai Hariko is a kind of toy made from molded and colored paper, on which patterns such as Oriental Zodiac animals, Fukusuke, or various masks are painted. It is said that this craft was created by a low-ranked warrior of the Sendai domain during the Tenpo era (1830-1844) and its making was widely spread among warriors as their side jobs.
Though technical improvements were made during the Edo period, the making of Sendai Hariko was discontinued in the Meiji period (1868-1912). It was revived by local people in 1921 and has been handed down to the present days.
The most common item of Sendai Hariko is the Matsukawa Daruma doll. The daruma is colored ultramarine around its face, and the body, in strong relief, is decorated with the god of wealth, a treasure ship, and so on. Also, it has eyebrows made of real hair and eyes made of glass. It is loved by people as a bringer of good luck.
Other lovely Hariko such as various kinds of masks and animals are also popular. As they are all hand made, each pieces of Sendai Hariko has gentle warmth and a humorous shape that can’t be created by machines. Maybe this is why they have been loved by people for nearly 200 years
Celadon, or Seiji in Japanese, is a pottery that has a long history dating back to the 1st century in China. Its origin goes even further back to more than 3,500 years ago when China began making real glazed ceramics called “primitive porcelain” during the Yin Dynasty. The techniques of making Seiji, whose distinctive color is created when iron in glass-quality glaze glows a deep blue/green like color during reduction firing, was established during the Later Han period around the 1st century and since then it has been followed rigorously to this day.
Seiji became popular in other countries and, after around the 9th century, it was exported extensively to Japan, the Korean peninsula and other Southeast Asian countries. Especially in Japan where China was highly regarded at that time, Seiji was actively collected and copied, and production techniques were rapidly refined.
Because Seiji tea cup brightens the color of green tea inside, Seiji became essential for use during the tea ceremony and has been much valued by tea masters, feudal lords and temples over the years.
Seiji, with its exquisite graceful hues of blue that evokes the transparent sea and subtle green, enchants people’s hearts around the world.