NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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堺五月鯉幟 Sakai-gogatsu-koinobori Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori

Jp En

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.
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刺繍 Shisyuu Japanese Embroidery

Jp En

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.
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丹後藤布 Tangofujifu Tango Fujifu (Tango Wisteria Cloth)

Jp En

In mid-May, wisteria blooms beautifully over the mountains. Fujifu is a cloth made by weaving fabrics extracted from the vines of those wisterias. In the Tango areas, the weaving skills that developed over 1,200 years are now designated as a traditional handicraft of Kyoto.

The history of fujifu is long. There is a phrase that indicates the presence of fujifu even in the 'Manyoushu' (a collection of Japanese poetry, compiled around the mid-8th century), which mentions 'the fujifu of a salt farm worker, working for the lord'. Also, an anecdote describes how the Emperor Godaigo took a wisteria seedling with him to Okinoshima island, when he was exiled there by the Kamakura Shogunate in 1333 (Genkou 2). The anecdote explains that he loved the wisteria and remembered the imperial capital by dressing in fujifu cloth.

At one time, fujifu was being produced widely across Japan as general apparel. Today, there have been approaches to adapt fujifu for modern lifestyles by making new products, such as 'noren' curtains, tapestries, obi belts and interior accessories.
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群馬 鯉のぼり祭り Gunma Koinobori-matsuri Koinobori Festival in Gunma

Jp En

Koinobori Festival, or Carp Streamer Festival, is held in Kanna-machi, Tano-gun, Gunma Prefecture. From the late April through the early May, about 800 carp streamers are flying along the upstream of the Kanna River. The festival was first held in 1981 by the local people bringing their family’s carp streamers. It is said to be the trailblazer of the festivals of this kind, which can be seen many places in the country now.

As many as 30,000 people from all over the country come to see this overwhelming scenery. From May 3rd to 5th, a lot of events including the fair for local vegetables and products, Japanese drum performance, various street performances are held on the river bank. Visitors can also enjoy a river cruise on carp-shaped rafts. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable summer event.
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筒描藍染 Tsutsugaki-aizome Tsutsugaki Aizome (Tsutsugaki Indigo Blue Dyeing)

Jp En

The furoshiki (wrapping cloths) made in the Izumo, Matsue and Yonago areas of Shimane Prefecture are designated as traditional hometown handicraft.

Before the Meiji period, there were aizome indigo dyers across the nation, however, around 1917 (Meiji 40), chemical dyeing had become popular. By 1950, of the 59 tsutsugaki aizome dyers in Izumo, only 4 remained. Today, only one tsutsugaki aizome dyer remains in Nagata, which is recognized by the prefecture as an  intangible cultural asset.

Tsutsugaki aizome with a family crest were used as  trousseau items up untilthe Taisho period. Furoshiki wrapping cloths were also included in trousseaus.

Making the tsutsugaki aizome requires repetition in dyeing. During the dyeing process, the patterns on the aizome are protected by paste, which is later washed off in the Takase River.
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産着 Ubugi Ubugi

Jp En

“Ubugi” is a Japanese word for clothes for a new born baby. Special clothes for a new born baby appeared around the Edo period (1603-1868), when it was often the case with a new born baby that it died in a few days after its birth. Parents intentionally made clothes for their babies from old cloth in hoped that their babies could manage to live long without catching eye of the devil.

Right after its birth, a baby was usually wrapped in a small futon-like blanket called “okurumi.” Then in 3 to 7 days it was dressed in the clothes called “tetoshi,” which had sleeves. On the 31st day for a boy and the 32nd day for a girl, when the baby had spent the first critical period safely, parents took them to a family shrine for “Omiya-mairi” to thank the family god for their safe growth. At the Omiya-mairi ritual, babies were dressed in gorgeous gowns. The Noshime pattern (checked pattern) was favored for boy babies, while the Patterns such as Gosho-guruma (court carriage), silk balls and small flowers were favored for girl babies. It seems that “Ubugi” has protected babies in various forms.
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アイヌ 樹皮衣 Ainu Juhi-i Ainu Bark-Fiber Cloth

Jp En

Ainu bark-fiber is a woven cloth used for the traditional garments and costumes of the Ainu people of Hokkaido. These garments are some of the most representative and familiar forms of clothing worn by the Ainu, and are known as 'atoshi' in Ainu dialect.

Bark fiber used in this fabric is taken from the inner bark of the Manchurian elm, then woven on a loom. As cotton was more highly valued by the Ainu then, garments were considered to be more valuable when cotton was woven into cloth along with bark fiber.

Among the Ainu, the Hokkaido Ainu were the principal users of this fabric. It was worn for daily use, and was mass exported to the main island of Japan in the late 18th century due to its excellent durability and detailed weaving. Today, this fabric is still woven all over Hokkaido as a traditional handicraft.
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金山元太 Kanayama Genta Genta Kanayama

Jp En

Born in 1964, Genta Kanayama is a designer in various fields such as product design including “Furoshiki Bag,” in which furoshiki (a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth) and a bag are combined together, “DUENDE Tissue Case Stand,” which is a standing tissue paper holder, and other sundry goods, furniture and housing equipment as well as graphic design and space design. He established genta design co., ltd. with Chie Kanayama in 2004.

Especially interesting is that he wrote about episodes of developing Furoshiki Bag in Chie Kanayama’s blog. According to the blog, he hit upon this idea when he got an order to design something nice for bringing back a large lunchbox that is usually delivered at a Buddhist memorial service in the Shikoku region, and which is normally wrapped with furoshiki cloth. Then he finally reached the idea to create a new type of furoshiki that doesn’t look like furoshiki.
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