NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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伎楽面 Gigaku-men Gigaku Mask

Jp En

Gigaku is a silent dance drama brought to Japan from China.  It is performed without words, by dancers wearing big masks.
The masks used for Gigaku are called Gigaku masks and they are different from the masks used for Bugaku or Noh. Gigaku masks are bigger and they cover the head, while other masks only cover the face. There are a number of different masks, corresponding  to different  roles in the play, including the human, demon, shishi lion and Herculean man masks.
More than a hundred gigaku masks are preserved in such historically important temples as Shousouin, Houryuu-ji and Toudai-ji and they have been designated as National Treasures.
Gigaku flourished  around the 6th century in Japan and it was performed extensively in the precincts of temples and shrines in order to promote understanding of the Buddhist teachings.  Shousouin temple has a set of Gigaku masks used largely for the gigaku dance that was held on the occasion of Daibutsu Kaigan (a ceremony to consecrate a newly made Buddhist image) at Toudai-ji in 752.
There are essentially two methods of making gigaku masks; kibori (wood carving) and kanshitsu (dry lacquer). Many of the wood carving masks were made from camphor and paulownia wood.
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蒔絵 Makie Makie

Jp En

Makie, a lacquer working technique, is a traditional craftwork passed down through generations for over 1,500 years.
While other lacquer techniques such as “Hyoumon” and “Raden” originated in China, the oldest evidence of Makie lacquer was discovered inside Shousouin Temple. It is believed the Makie technique is indigenous to Japan and is unique in the world.
The word “makie” come from “maki” meaning “sprinkle” and “e” meaning “painting”.
  In the makie technique, patterns and pictures are drawn on to lacquer ware with lacquer, and while they are still wet, gold and silver metal powders are sprinkled on to designs adhering to the wet lacquer.
   Any excess powder protruding from the drawings and remaining unattached to the surface are later brushed off, thus allowing beautiful patterns to finally emerge.
Makie is further divided by its techniques:  Tokidashi Makie, Hira Makie, Taka Makie, Shishiai Makie, Rankaku Makie among others. The technique of “shading off” by a way of sprinkling the powder is also used. Makie is an art form with a wide variety of expressions.
The fact that metal powders are not pasted, but “sprinkled” might give some insight into the Japanese characteristic of being finely tuned to details.
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綴織 Tsuzure-ori Tsuzure-ori (Tapestry)

Jp En

Tapestry is a form of textile art done all over the world since the ancient times. There area a lot of works with high histiric and artistic values. It is said that the oldest tapestry was made by the Coptic in Egypt in about 1580 BC. The techniques of tapestry weaving were brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. The pieces of works brought in these eras are preserved at Horyuji Temple and Shosoin (the Imperial Repository). In the later years, decorative tapestries were woven at many Buddhist temples such as Ninnaji Temple and Honaganji Temple, which was developed into the techniques to make the cloth for obi-belts at Nishijin in Kyoto.

In general, tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving, in which a pattern drawing is placed under the hidden warp thread and the patterns are woven out by plucking the warp thread with weft thread passed through the shuttle.

In the most elaborate technique of Tsume-Tsuzure (literally meaning “nail weaving”), the cloth is woven by plucking the warp with fingernails, from which it is called “the brocade woven by nails.” It is such sophisticated skills and patience that have created ever fascinating beauty for as long as 3,000 years.
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本美濃紙 Hon-mino-shi Hon-Mino Gami (Genuine Mino Paper)

Jp En

The paper used for a census preserved at Shosoin Repository is thought to be Japan’s oldest paper. They are thought to have been made in Mino, Chikuzen and Buzen; thereby it is thought that a history of paper making in the Mino dates back to the Nara period (710-794).

Genuine Mino Paper is made from a superior grade of paper mulberry grown only in Ibaraki Prefecture. It is characterized by its traditional hand filtering method, not only by vertical shaking but also by horizontal shaking, by which all the fibers “knit” together leaving no evidence of the forming process on the surface.

In the Edo period (1603-1868), it was very popular especially for the sliding door of the traditional house. Its uniformly excellent quality was ideal for translucent paper screens.

Genuine Mino Paper is now used for sliding doors, documents that need to be preserved and conservation of cultural properties. Its high quality and depth of flavor attracts a lot of users. In 1976, the techniques of making Genuine Mino Paper were designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property. As the holders of this traditional technique, the members of the Genuine Mino Paper Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down their skills to the next generation.
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豊岡杞柳細工 Toyooka-kiryuu-zaiku Toyooka Willow Basketry

Jp En

Toyooka willow basketry is hygroscopic, moss-proof, and light in weight, and takes on more relish as it is used longer. Making of this willow craft has been handed down in Toyooka City and Yofu City, Hyogo Pref. for as long as 1,200 years. The craft dates back to the Nara period (710-794), and there is a willow basketwork box among the treasures at Shosoin Repository in Nara.
The area around the Maruyama River in Toyooka Basin was suitable for growing Salix koriyanagi, so farmers in this area started to make basketwork items during their agricultural off-season. Until about 40 years ago, it was common to pack personal belongings in a willow basket and send it by rail when young men go up to Tokyo from their hometown. However, willow baskets were replaced by plastic products with high economic growth. At the present time, these baskets have gained popularity again among the people who are interested in using traditional items with a new taste, mainly for interior decoration.
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奈良団扇 Nara-uchiwa Nara Uchiwa (round fan)

Jp En

Uchiwa is one of the things that remind us of the summer. Uchiwa in various colors add some brilliance to the twilight time of the Yukata season. Nara Uchiwa is a traditional handicraft handed down for 1,200 years in Nara Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Handicraft of the prefecture. This round fan is made of Iyo Paper and Tosa Paper dyed in beautiful colors with see-through patterns of items peculiar to Nara or the Pattern of Shosoin (the Imperial Repository), which is then pasted to the bamboo frame. These patterns are carved with “tsukibori (pushed cut)” technique on red, blue, or yellow background, which look very attractive and create the refreshing effect. This traditional handicraft has now been handed down solely at Ikeda Gankodo in Nara City. They have hardly made any changes in the patterns which were first designed in the Nara period (710-794), and have kept employing five background colors of yellow, white, blue, red, and brown. “I’m glad to hear the customers, who visit our shop after an interval of 20 years, happily say, ‘The same thing as I bought 20 years ago!’” says the proprietress with a smile. Ikeda Gankodo has kept the cut paper stencils that were made 120 years ago so that they can make the same products at any time.
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奈良晒 Nara-sarashi Nara Sarashi (bleaching cloth)

Jp En

Nara Sarashi is a hand-woven hemp cloth bleached into pure white. It has been favored by people since the ancient times for its cool touch and perspiration-repellency. The craft is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Nara Pref. Although the origin of Nara Sarashi goes back to the age of Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters), it only became widely known in the early Edo period. In the preceding Azuchi-Momoyama period, a master craftsman named Seishiro Kiyosumi had succeeded in improving bleaching technique, which gave this craft a growing popularity. Until then Nara Sarashi had been mainly used for the clothing of monks and priests, but later in the Edo period it began to be used for hakama (a skirt-like pants worn on a formal occasion) or summer kimono for samurai (warriors) and came to be known all over the nation. The Tokugawa Shogunate also favored this cloth and selected it as one of the purveyance supplies for the government. Because of its clean and elegant texture, it has been used for the costumes of traditional performing art including Kyogen. Presently, Nara Sarashi is used for chakin (tea ceremony cloth) as well as for Noren curtains and tablecloths with the patterns designed from the treasures at Shosoin (the Imperial Repository).
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奈良 面 Nara Men Kogakumen Masks

Jp En

Kogakumen is the general name for the masks used for the traditional Japanese theatrical arts of Gigaku, Maigaku, shrine events, and other traditional arts including Noh and Kyogen, both of which were established as a theatrical art in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Some ancient Gigakumen masks are now preserved at Shosoin (the Imperial Repository), Horyuji Temple, Todaiji Temple and Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. The first Kogakumen masks arrived in Japan as Gigakumen masks, a part of Buddhism art, together with Buddhism during the Asuka period (at the beginning of the 7th Century). Later Maigakumen masks for gagaku (court music) performance and Gyodomen masks for Buddhist ceremonies to teach the general public about accumulating good deeds and having delight with exaltation were also introduced from China. With the development of Noh and Kyogen, a lot of masks began to be made in Nara district, but later the craft followed a course of decline. It was not until the modern times when classics were reappraised that masks made in this district began to receive high acclaim. The craft is now designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Nara Prefecture. A lot of excellent works are sold at department stores and imitations of these Kogakumen are also sold at souvenir shops as interior items. Now in Nara Pref. there are even several craftsmen with the techniques excellent enough to carve out masks for Noh and Kyogen performances.
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