Saie-Hiogi is a crescent folding fan with blades made of Japanese cypress wood. Hiogi fans were made in the Heian period (794-1192) as the accessory used by the nobility on formal occasions in the Imperial court. The number of blades differed according to the rank of the person who carried the fan. At the present time, there are only seven Hiogi fans remain; one at Atsuta Jingu Shrine, five at Itsukushima Shrine and one at Asuka Shrine in Kumano.
Gofun (powder made from oyster shells) solution is applied as the base coat onto slats of cypress wood threaded with silk. Then after applying mica, pieces of gold and silver leaf and foil are sprinkled on the surface, where colorful pictures are painted with Iwaenogu (mineral pigment).
The motifs of Kachofugetsu (flowers, birds, wind, and moon), noblemen and court ladies are painted in well-mellowed brush strokes. Saie-Hiogi fan was not only an implement but also a work of art that was like a picture scroll. The existing Saie-Hiogi fans are designated as either National Important Cultural Properties or National Treasures.
Old Toyoma Higher Elementary School located in Toyoma Town, Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture, was built in 1888. It is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. The Japanese architectural style is attractively combined with the Western-styled design.
It is a U-shaped cloistered building surrounding a courtyard, which is a characteristic of the Meiji-period architecture. Over the entrance door is an impressive white balcony, from which the whole building can be viewed. Decorations are given to the uppermost part of the pillars supporting the balcony, making it look like a Greek temple.
The school building was designed by Kisaburo Yamazoe, who had studied architecture for 3 years in Europe. No deformation has occurred even after 100 years since it construction.
Fukusa is a silk square cloth used to cover a gift during a formal presentation. Originally, it was put on the box containing a precious gift to prevent it from getting dusty. Today, however, it is an indispensable item on a formal gift-giving occasion.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), when gift-giving became a part of the social custom, elaborately decorated pieces of fukusa were made. The motifs such as Takasago, Chinese phoenix, a treasure ship and the rising sun were used for fukusa for auspicious occasions. The person who presents a gift puts fukusa on the gift box with all his/her heart.
In a formal fukusa, the front side displays the family crest, while the back is decorated with pictures, but the one with the family crest alone is the most favored today. Fukusa is a part of Japanese culture that places emphasis on courtesy. It has been cherished and preserved from generation to generation in a family.
Jizo Rock is a 50 m pair of rocks located in the southwestern coast of Rebun Island in the northernmost part of Hokkaido. It is one of the representative sightseeing spots of the island and used as the motif of the town sing board of Rebun Town.
It was named Jizo because the two rocks look like two hands joined together in prayer when seen from the sea. Actually, the rocks in the bottom of the sea were erected by an ancient crustal movement and have been eroded by the rough waves to create such shapes.
Alpine plants bloom on the surface of the desolate cliffs around the rocks and create a marvelous landscape in summer. Jizo Rock looks dynamic in the daytime, while benevolent in the evening. Either has its own interest, but it is the most splendid when the sun sets between the two rocks. The photos of Jizo Rock in the sunset often appear in brochures for tourists.
Hakata Textiles is a traditional handicraft with a history of 700 years. The technique was first founded in this area in the Kamakura period. Later, during the Edo Period (1603-1867), Kuroda Nagamasa, the feudal lord of Chikuzen Province (presently Fukuoka prefecture), sent tributes (kenjo in Japanese) of Hakata textiles to the Shogunate, which led to the cloth also being called Kenjo Hakata and its geometric designs are called kenjo design.
There are 3 types of Kenjo-designs, each of which is characterized by the striped-patterns in the motif of Buddhist objects of tokko and hanazara. Hakata textiles are gusty but soft and flexible. Presently, there is a concern about the successors of these precious weaving techniques. Kisaburo Ogawa, the recognized authority on this technique, was designated as a holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property in “Kenjo Hakata Textiles” in 2003. Now as a visiting professor at Department of Craft Art of Kyushu Sangyo University and a member of Hakata Textile Industrial Association, he is giving lectures at symposiums and talking at panel discussions held all over the country to help regeneration and development of this traditional handicraft.
Iro-Nabeshima (Colored Nabeshima Ceramics) is a kind of Imari-Arita ware. It is characterized by delicate and elaborate pictures with the motifs of Kachofugetsu (flowers, birds, wind, and moon).
The origin of Imari-Arita ware dates back to 1604 (the early Edo period), when a Korean potter, Li Sanpei discovered fine porcelain stone at Mt. Izumi in Arita. Later in the 1640s, the hand-painting techniques were introduced to this region from China, and Imaemon I started to make hand-painted porcelain in Arita.
The kiln of Imaemon I became the feudal property of the Nabeshima domain, where the products solely used for the Nabeshima family and as the gifts to the Shogun or the fellow daimyo were being made. Directly controlled and supported by the Nabeshima family, the porcelain produced at this workshop developed into refined ceramic called Iro-Nabeshima.
In around 1874, when the feudal restrictions were removed after the Meiji restoration, Imaemon X started handle all the production steps, not limited to overglaze painting and established the advanced akae (overglaze painting with red pigment) techniques. Keeping conformity to traditional standards and elegance, Imaemon XIII was eager to create works that fit modern living settings and was designated as a Living National Treasure in 1989. Today, the traditional forms and creativity of an artist living in this modern world is exquisitely blended by the hands of Imaemon XIV.
The Okayama Momotaro Festival is held annually for three days in August in Okayama. Originally, there were various festivals called Okayama Momotaro Festival, Okayama Summer Festival, Uraja-odori parade, and Nouryou Firework Display, each held separately. All of these festivals came together as the Okayama Momotaro Festival in 2001 (Heisei 13).
The highlight of the first day is the Nouryou Firework Display. 5,000 fireworks are set off toward the night sky to gorgeously celebrate the opening of the festival.
Later, the Uraja-odori parade features dancers wearing bizarre makeup called 'ura-geshou'. The motif for the ura-geshou is a man named Ura from mainland Asia, who later became king of the ancient Kibi kingdom (part of today's Okayama Prefecture). There is also a Family Festa, which can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are many events held over the three summer days of the festival in Okayama.
Regardless of age and sex, anyone can join in the Uraja-odori dance, with its distinctive rhythm and bizarre makeup, that has its own unique traditional Japanese style. The three-day festival creates an atmosphere of joyfulness over the summer nights.
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.