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.
Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.
In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work
The Uda Mikumari Shrine is located in Utano-ku, Uda, in Nara Prefecture. It is an ancient shrine with a tradition stating that it was founded during the Emperor Sujin era.
Uda Mikumari Shrine is also the East Shrine of the four Daiwa Yoshinomikumari Shrines described in the 'Engishiki Jinmyocho', along with the Katsuragi Mikumari Shrine, the Tsuge Mikumari Shrine, and the Yoshino Mikumari Shrine.
The shrine is deified along the Yoshino River at three points: the Upper Shrine (Yoshino), Middle Shrine (Furuichiba) and Lower Shrine (Shimoidani). The enshrined deities at these shrines are the Amenomikumarinokami, Kuninomikumarinokami and the Hayaakitsuhikonokami, all of which are water gods.
The main shrine (Furuichiba) is made in an Ikenshakasugazukuri Hiwadabuki style, accompanied by the vermilion-painted Mikumari connection structure, making it a national treasure. Kasuga and Munakata shrines are also deified along with Furuichiba. The vermilion-painted main shrine casts light on the 500-year-old cedar tree, creating a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Masami Isoi was born in 1926 in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. In 1985, his 'kinma' work was designated as an important intangible cultural heritage and he became a Living National Treasure.
Kinma is a decorating skill for lacquerwork that involves special patterns that are incised and filled with color.
Masami Isoi's father Joshin Isoi is known as the 'father' of Sanuki-urushi-chuko. He is also designated as a Living National Treasure for his original technique of kinma dot carving. Kinma dot carving was invented by Joshin, who developed the idea of the technique from old photos.
Joshin's kinma style is more feathery than Masami's. Masami's pieces have 'both a contemporary look and the classical feel of traditional urushi'. Masami expresses imaginary scenes using butterflies and plants that are mentioned in the 'Manyoshu' ('Collection of Myriad Leaves').
Ryukyu lacquerware is a traditional craft with a history of 600 years in Okinawa. It is mainly produced in Naha and in the town of Haebaru in Shimajiri county.
Ryukyu lacquerware dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Its skilful and artistic qualities were highly appreciated, making it one of the most sought-after luxury exports from Okinawa to China and Japan.
Gorgeous and technically advanced tables, writing boxes, food containers and trays were crafted under the Kaizuri-Bugyousho, a department of lacquerware manufacturing established by the Ryukyu kingdom. Technically and artistically high-standard lacquerware was produced. In particular, the 'tsuikin' method of creating designs in relief is a decorative technique only seen in Ryukyu lacquerware.
The bright vermilion color of this lacquerware is unequaled elsewhere. The contrast of black and vermilion is audacious and innovative. It is one further example of the special characteristics of Ryukyu lacquerware.
Taikodani Inari Shrine is located in Kanoashi district, Shimane Prefecture. Kamei Norisada, the 7th lord of the Tsuwano clan, founded the shrine in 1774. It is said that this shrine is modeled on the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. Today, it is counted as one of the five great Inari shrines in Japan. Inari is a god of food, clothing and shelter. Similarly, it draws worshipers who wish for prosperity in trade, success in industry and good fortune at any time of year. The name of the shrine comes from a story that a guardian of a castle lost the key and was told to commit ritual suicide by disembowelment, yet, after continuous worship at the Inari shrine, he found the key on the day of the ritual . After this, the word “success” was added to the shrine’s name. One thousand Shinto gates are lined to form a zigzag tunnel. Kanoshi district also has a lot of lightning strikes in. The shrine appears particularly beautiful when the snow covers the vermilion gate and courtyard.