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2008/8/29


箒 Houki Houki (Japanese broom)

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A Houki is a broom traditionally used in Japan for sweeping trash and dust.  There are two kinds of houki:  zashiki-bouki (room broom) and niwa-bouki (garden broom), depending on where they are to be used.  
Zashiki-bouki are generally made from hemp palm fibers and morokoshi ( millet- a kind of grain) fibers . The hemp-palm broom is more widely used in Western Japan and it is made from gathered “oni-ge” (demon hairs) which are extracted from hemp palm bark.  The morokoshi plants used to make houki are harvested after growing for one year when they are about 2 meters high.   The ears of the millet plants are threshed and dried in the sun for about a week. Then, high quality ears are selected and gathered for making  houki.
Besides their obvious practical application as a cleaning tool, houki also figure in various traditional customs associated with the idea of “sweeping away”.
There was a spell in which a houki was stood upside down when a host wished his guest to cut his long stay short and go home.  In some areas, a houki was considered a guardian charm for the easy and healthy delivery of a baby. The houki was placed by the bedside of the pregnant woman and, once labor started, a light was attached to the houki and the woman prayed to it.  Her belly was then caressed with the houki.
Houki were believed to be sacred and stepping it over or on them was avoided as it would incur divine punishment. Such customs still can be seen today all over Japan.
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はりみ(紙製ちりとり) Harimi(Kamisei-Chiritori) Harimi (Paper Dustpans)

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When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.

Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.

Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.

Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
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2008/8/7


伎楽面 Gigaku-men Gigaku Mask

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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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