Gogatsu Nobori are banners that are put up on “Boy’s Day” - May 5th along with Koinobori, Kabuto helmets and Gogatsu Dolls. This is done to celebrate the boy and to pray for his success and prosperity in the future. The custom is still preserved in many local areas, each of which displays its own unique banner.
Nobeoka Gogatsu Nobori are one of this type of banner and they have been produced since the Kan’ei period, nearly 400 years ago. They are made in the Kyushu region, with a dye technique called Tsutsubiki Tezome which is rarely used in the region.
At first, rough sketches are drawn on high quality cotton fabric and the sketches are then hemmed with rice paste. The painting is done in an elaborate way, using traditional techniques and 20 different colors.
The motif of the drawings varies from The Genpei War, heroic warriors, Kintaro (from a popular children’s tale) or a venerable sage. On completion, the banners, with their unique color and tone, are solemn and imposing. They have been designated as a traditional craft by the Miyazaki Prefecture.
Yanagawa handballs are traditional Japanese handball made in Yanagawa City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by the prefecture. In Yanagawa area, three is a custom to present “Sagemon” to a girl on her first girls’ Sekku day (March 3). Sagemon is a kind of mobile with a large handball set in the center of the ring and many small balls and handmade staffed-dolls, mostly lucky items such as a crane, attached alternately to the strings that are hung from the ring. Traditionally, Yanagawa handballs are used for this ornament. In making of Yanagawa balls, a wadded cotton cloth is covered with a sheet of cotton, which is shaped into a ball with basting yarn. Then the ball is whipped up with cotton thread that is dyed with Kusaki-zome technique or modern colored thread of synthetic fiber. It is said that Yanagawa handballs were first made by the waiting maids working at the residence of the domain lord of Yanagawa Province and then the technique spread among the townspeople in the castle town. The making of Yanagawa handballs has been handed down as a cultural property of the castle town.
Tenjiku Shrine in Tenjiku Town in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, is the only shrine in Japan which enshrines Niihadakami, the god of cotton.
In 799 in the early Heian period, a Tenjiku-jin (Indian) drifted ashore to the beach of Nishio with cotton seeds. He lived in a village, which was later named Tenjiku Village, and gave the villagers the cotton seeds as a token of his appreciation. Unfortunately, the seeds did not grow well due to the climatic conditions, but Tenjiku Village is considered the birthplace of cotton in Japan.
After his death, the village people had worshipped his portrait as Koso-shin (the god of cotton). In 1883 in the Meiji period, when a shrine was to be founded in this village, people created the name “Niihadakami” for the god of cotton and enshrined it as their guardian god.
In Menso-sai held in October every year, local people carry boat-shaped portable shrine called Funa-mikoshi, reenacting the scene of the god’s drifting ashore. Also, the traditional rite of Watauchi (cotton beating) is performed by priests. The shrine is crowded with visitors including people from the cotton industry.
Kyoto Kakefuda, founded in 1925, is a long-established dyehouse in Shijyo Horikawa, Kyoto. Since its beginning, the store has been known as a custom order specialty store making the silk “furoshiki” wrapping cloth and the “fukusa” wrapping cloth which traditionally has a family crest and is passed from one generation to the next.
Hidetaka Kakefuda, upon succeeding as head of the family business, undertook the design and production of the cotton furoshiki used as a complementary gift for the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, a famous kabuki actor. He was so impressed with the practicality and usefulness of the cotton furoshiki that the following year, he announced his newly designed line of cotton furoshiki with traditional Japanese patterns which is designed off the shelf for more casual use. Aligned with his new line, the store changed its name to Kyoto Kakefuda and created a special logo for the cotton furoshiki, whose design took inspiration from his family crest.
Now that most design and manufacturing is split between different companies, a specialty store that undertakes the whole process of design, pattern making, dyeing, cutting, finishing and retailing under one brand has become rare and treasured. Despite the store's long established history, Kakefuda is also flexible and open to new ideas, and is pioneering a new direction away from the other established stores reluctant to change.
Hidetaka kakefuda is the third line of the Kyoto Kakefuda, a dye house which specializes in made to order “Furoshiki”, wrapping cloth. Mr. Kakefuda was born in 1977 in Kyoto. He entered Kyoto City University of Arts in 1996, majoring initially in Sculpture, later changing to Conceptual and Media Art. He started helping the family business while still a university student. After seeing the family crest book handed down in his family, he took a strong interest in traditional patterns and succeeded to the family business upon his graduation.
In 2004, Mr. Kakefuda undertook the design and production of the cotton furoshiki to be used as a complementary gift for the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII. With this as a beginning, the following year he announced his new line of cotton furoshiki with Japanese traditional patterns such as Karakusa and Kamekou. “I wanted create furoshiki that everybody can use casually as a start”, Mr. Kakufuda says in a relaxed tone. Since 2005, he continues to produce new types of furoshiki based on Japanese traditional patterns, a style sometimes referred to as “Japanese Modern”.
Chiryuu-juku is the 39th post town along Toukaidou highway, one of the Five Major Highways of Edo period, and located in present day Chiryuu, Aichi Prefecture.
Since ancient times, the post town area had been called “Chiryuu” written as 知立 in kanji, however, because the Chiryuu Shrine in the post town had a pond full of carps and crucians, people started to use a different kanji, 池鯉鮒 (translated as “pond of carps and crucians” also pronounced “Chiryuu”). Thus, the present day Chiryuu City is written知立and the post town for池鯉鮒 while they are both pronounced “Chiryuu”.
The Chiryuu Shrine has an even longer history than the post town dating back to the reign of Emperor Keikou Era (241~310, according to records), who was the father of Yamato Takeru no Mikoto.
Chiryuu -juku became an important trading route town when tie-dyed cotton cloth made in neighboring towns such as Naruto-juku and Arimatsu-juku was in high demand, and the town held huge horse fairs attracting hundreds of traders and their horses. Andou Hiroshige, a famous woodblock print artist, captured a scene from the horse fair in his masterpiece, Fifty-three Sations of the Toukaidou.
Chichuu-juku was once a quiet farming village until it was designated as a post town after the Battle of Sekigawara.
Visitors can take an interesting walk through the town imaging the hustle and bustle of the crowds hundreds of years ago.
Narumi-juku was the 40th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road, which connected Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto in the Edo period (1603-1868). It was located in current Narumi-cho, Midori-ku, Nagoya City in Aichi Prefecture. Narumi-juku thrived on tie-dyed cotton fabric that was produced in Arimatsu located between Narumi-juku and the next post station, Chiryu-juku. Many shops selling tie-dyed cotton products stood along the road, which was depicted in Ando Hiroshige’s “The Fifty-three Post Stations of the Tokaido Road.”
In Seiganji Temple in the town stands the oldest stone monument in memory of the master poet, Matsuo Basho. The old battle field of Okehazama, where Oda Nobunaga established his reputation in the Warring States period (1493-1573), is located just past this town.
Having traveled about 350 km from Edo, a traveler in tie-dyed haori coat might have set out for the 13 km walk to the next Miya-juku post station, thinking of the remains of the warriors’ dreams as Basho did. This must have been a divine favor that only a traveler can enjoy.
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.