Genbee Yamaguchi is one of the most respected kimono makers. In 1981, he became the head of “Kondaya”, a long-established wholesale store of obi sashes that was founded in Kyoto in 1738. As the tenth head of Kondaya, he devoted himself to advancing obi making. His recent works, however, have been more involved in designing and making the whole kimono. He also takes an active role in revitalizing the dyeing and weaving technologies through such measures as the revival of Koishimaru - a specific type of silk worm cocoon found in Japan and the preservation of a unique village in the Philippines called “Dreamweaver”. In 2003, Yamaguchi received the Japan Culture Award. After successful collaborations with Kengo Sumi, an architect, and Hiroko Koshino, a designer, he released a new kimono line called Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu, in collaboration with UNITED ARROWS, a specialty retailer. It is an exciting and bold kimono collection for men.
Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu is inspired by the men of the Momoyam period (approximately 1568 to 1603) who loved to live a wild and flamboyant life-style. Japanese men in those days were respected as the toughest of the world. Kabukimono is expressive of that type of man who pursued an extraordinary and “cool” life style. The fashion of Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu evokes masculinity and the true “rock and roll” spirit of the time.
“If you keep on pursuing the basics, there will be a moment when you will suddenly see limitlessness revealed to you, as once Zeami (the greatest playwright of the Noh theater) said. Mastering the basics is the shortest road to freedom”
The vital life force and sexiness in Yamaguchi’s designs come from the inner depth of his creative process.
“Amahage” held in Akaishi area in Konoura, Nikaho City, Akita Prefecture, and Mega area in Fukura, Yuza-machi, Akumi-gun, Yamagata Prefecture, is a traditional folk event that is similar to nationally famous “Namahage” in Oga area in Akita Prefecture.
Amahage in Akaishi area in Akita Prefecture is held on Lunar New Year to pray for the health and well-being of the family. The event has been handed down in this village for over 250 years. The two boys selected from the fifth or sixth grade elementary school pupils play a part of Amahage. They apply black ink on their faces, get dressed in straw coats and visit every house in the village, beating Japanese bells and drums and singing. When they enter the house, they jump 15 times in front of the family altar to purify it. Then they make a request for 5 mon (Japanese old currency) of money or 1 sho of Japanese sake, and tasty rice cake
Amahage in Mega area in Yamagata Prefecture is held on January 3rd every year. A group of men wearing the masks of ogres or old men and the straw coats called “Kendan” visit every house in a village to admonish people not to be lazy and encourage being diligent. Amahage are thought to be the messenger of the god to get rid of the evils and bring happiness. Unlike Namahage in Oga, Amahage masks have gentle expressions. This Amahage is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Hososhima Harbor Festival is an annual summer festival of Hososhima Hachimangu Shrine held from Friday to Sunday in late August in the area around Hososhima Harbor in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture. It is famous for violent bumping of Taiko-dai (the float with a Japanese drum on it) and known as a kind of Kenka-matsuri (fight festival), which is similar to the famous Danjiri Festival.
The festival began in 1889 in cerebration of the municipalization of villages and towns in the old system, by which Hososhima became a municipality together with other towns of Miyazaki, Miyakonojo, Nobeoka and Aburatsu. It is said that the style of the festival was borrowed from the one practiced in a town in the Kansai district, with which Hososhima had a close connection in the old days.
The festival reaches its climax when the fierce bumping of the two Taiko-dai floats starts at night, while the boat carrying mikoshi (portable shrine in which the deity resides) sails through the sea in the harbor, guarded by a lot of fishing boats decorated with bumper catch flags. Praying for navigation safety and a bumper catch, the whole town is bustled with people during the festival period.
Itayama Lion Dance is one of the three lion dances passed down in Handa City in Aichi Prefecture. It is a kind of the lion play that was introduced from the northern part of the prefecture to the areas in Chita Peninsula at the end of the Edo period (the mid-19th century). The lion plays were dedicated to the guardian god of the villages in this area at annual festivals to pray for a rich harvest. Today only a few have been passed down.
A man in women’s colorful juban (an undergarment slip), black montsuki (a kimono with a family crest), indigo blue momohiki (pants) and white tabi (socks) dances and performs kabuki repertoire pieces to the sounds of Japanese large and small drums and wood clappers and Gidayu chanting. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Omanto Festival, or popularly called “Zuriuma,” dedicated to Hachiman Shrine in Nakahata Town in Nishio City, Aich Prefecture, on the 3rd Sunday in October every year is a horse festival, which used to be a coming-of-age ceremony in the old days.
In this festival, valiant young men wearing happi jackets and jikatabi shoes grab horses by the necks or the mane not to be shaken off and run with them in the riding ground with a circumference of 120 m. Spectators outside the fence shout applause at those courageous men running at full speed with galloping horses. They also whip a horse from outside the fence because it is believed to bring good luck.
Ometsuki Festival, which dates back over 300 years, takes place every January 24th at Naburi, Ogatsu-cho, Miyagi Prefecture.
It is said to have started in 1781 after a big fire raged through the village and people started to pray at the shrine to prevent it happening again.
On the festival day, led by a person dressed as Shishi lion, Dashi portable shrines parade dynamically followed by Choujirushi portable shrines carried by children.
The biggest attraction in the festival is a series of performances called “Ometsuki”. What will be seen in the performances is kept secret until the day of the event. This is because young people who become lively after drinking “Omiki”, sake offered to a deity, used to demonstrate improvised performances on a whim. Ometsuki is said to have derived from the word, “Omiki” and “omoitsuki” or acting on whims. Although most of the themes in the performances are current social issues, they use a form of traditional Kyougen play with some similarity to Niwaka, a comical street performance, with exaggerated female and male roles. This is very unique in the nation and is a valued cultural event.
Ometsuki is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by Miyagi Prefecture.
Juroku is used to portray a male character such as a young warrior or a prince of the Heike clan. This mask is said to represent Taira no Atsumori (1169-1184), a nephew of Taira no Kiyomori. The name of the mask “Juroku (‘sixteen’ in Japanese)” is said to be derived from the fact that Taira no Atsumori died at the age of 16, when he was defeated by Kumagai Naozane in the Battle of Ichinotani, which is referred to in the Tale of the Heike.
The mask’s decent countenance with cute dimples and bright eyes fully expresses susceptibility of the youth. While the Doji mask is called the mask of the Full Moon, this Juroku mask is called the Mask of the 16th Moon. It is used for the plays such as “Atsumori,” “Tomonaga,” and “Tsunemasa.”
Ogata Korin (1658-July 20, 1716) was a Japanese painter and lacquerer. He was born in Kyoto, as a second son of a wealthy merchant, who ran a shop Kariganeya dealing in kimono fabrics. His father died when he was thirty. By this time, Kariganeya had already bankrupted, but Korin would not stop pursueing his pleasure. Faced with financial difficultied, he started painting in around 1701. Being patronized by noble men including the Nijo family as well as daimyo and actors, he created a lot of decorative paintings. When one of his patron, Nakamura Kuranosuke, who was a government official in Kyoto, was transferred to Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1704, Korin also moved to Edo, where again his works were highly appreciated by wealthy merchants and daimyo. He went back to Kyoto in 1709 and left a lot of masterpieces including folding screens, ko-zutsumi (wrapping paper for incense wood), Japanese folding fans, makie, and paintings for the ceramics made by his ypunger brother , Ogata Kanzan. His work was characterized by careful composition, sense of rhythm, and gorgeous coloring. His brushwork was called Rinpa School, which became one of the major historical schools of Japanese decorative painting, and the decorative designs which resemble the work of Ogata Korin were called “Korin Monyo.”