Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
The town of Hinase in Okayama Prefecture is well known among people in the Kansai area for fresh seafood and for fishing.
The most famous specialty of Hinase Harbor is the oyster. The oyster business in Okayama Prefecture is the third largest in Japan, followed by Miyagi and Hiroshima prefectures. At Gomi-no-Ichi ('market of all tastes'), the Fisheries Cooperative Association's market in Hinase town, fish are sold at bargain prices compared with regular markets. Every fish is fresh, making the market very popular not only for locals, but tourists, too. The oysters in particular are known for their size and taste. These oysters can be baked and eaten right there.
The market's name (Gomi-no-Ichi) reflects the abundance of fish available in Hinase Harbor. Numerous varieties of seafood, including shrimp, shore-swimming crab, mantis shrimp, ocellated octopus and sillago can be enjoyed. The marketplace opens around 9 in the morning, but closes once produce is sold out, so it's better to get there early.
Hegura Island is located about 48km north of the Noto Peninsula. The shore has complicated inlets and cliffs formed by exposure to rough waves. The island is about 13m high and some 5km around and is small enough to explore in an hour.
In the past, fishermen from Wajima on the opposite shore would come here during the summer fishing season. But now, the number of inhabitants is increasing. Thanks to currents and landforms, it has many good fishing spots and is especially popular with ama, professional woman divers, who were described in an ancient poem in the Manyoushu (A Collection of a Myriad Leaves).
The views around the island have not changed so much over time and, in summer, many ama come here to dive for fish. In fact, the island is mainly fished by ama, their main catch being abalone, agar, soft seaweed and turban shells.
In addition, the island is a good resting place for birds migrating between Japan and the Asian Continent. In fact, there are some birds that can only be seen here in all Japan.
Mie Prefecture is well known for the many women divers (amasan) who, historically, have caught seafood and famous marine products.
At the end of World War II, Mie Prefecture was reputed to have more than 6000 amasan in the Toba and Shima regions. However, due to the reduction in fishing resources, an unstable and sluggish market, and the harsh working conditions, there have been fewer and fewer women read to do the job. Today there are only about 1300 aging, yet still active, amasan.
The amasan's main targets are awabi (abalone), sazae (turban shells), and namako (sea cucumbers). A few skilled and experienced amasan are able to capture iseebi (lobsters) without a scratch. The fishing methods these amasan use are invaluable to the ecology of the sea as they do not encourage over-fishing.
It can be said that the amasan of Mie are a living link to fishing methods and practises of the past.
Mishima Pond is a reservoir created 700 years ago for agricultural purposes and is located in Maibara, Shiga prefecture. The pond is elliptical with a perimeter of 780m and a total area of 39000㎡. There is a deep relationship between the pond and Mishima shrine.
Since ancient times, the pond has been something of a nature reserve for birds, animals, fish and shellfish. The water is fresh and cold with a depth of about 50cm. The pond is a habitat for various waterbirds and a resting stop for migrating birds.
Miyashima Pond is also called Hiyashi Pond after a legend that a woman named Hiyashagozen heard a prophecy of her death and drowned herself here to stop a drought. It is believed that before her sacrifice, she was weaving. To this day, people say that on rainy nights the sound of her weaving can be heard.
The lake is also a site for cherry-blossoms. In April, the magnificent harmony of blossoms and Mt Ibuki can be seen reflected in the lake.
Shinji Lake is located between Matsue and Izumo districts in Shimane Prefecture. The lake is a known a‘brackish-water lake’, because it has a mixture of both fresh and seawater. Also, it is said that it was formed 10,000 years ago. The word Shinji evolved from the word ‘Swine’s pathway’. It is the 7th largest lake in Japan. Moreover, the lake is a habitat of viand fishes, both fresh water and seawater varieties. In this sense, it is also known as the number-one fare spot for Corbicula japonica. The corbiculidae shellfish plays an important role in the loch. It clarifies the water by swallowing plankton and expelling clean water. It is possible, with the present quantity of shellfish, to purify 5 times the amount of water in Shinji Lake. In winter, over 20,000 birds, including swan, goose and duck, come to the lake. The abundant fish and shellfish that depend upon the lake’s eutrophication (natural enriching with nutrient), a feature of brackish-water, become the prey of the birds. Photographers also gather around the lake to catch the mystery of nature on film.