Karakuri Ningyo or Karakuri Dolls are traditional mechanical dolls of Japan.
“Karakuri” means a mechanical device to amuse people and they were originally found in China around 10th century. Karakuri Dolls are said to have been introduced to Japan in the Muromachi period.
In the Edo period, the gear mechanisms used for clocks began to be used to make moving dolls and the production of Karakuri Dolls began.
At first, they were made as toys mostly for the upper class. They gradually became a popular attraction at amusement parks and widely seen in all over Japan.
In 1662, Oue Takeda began a touring Karakuri-Doll-theater, something unique at the time and during the Kyoho period (1716~1735), Karakuri Monya, using the best Karakuri techniques then available, made a four-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pedaling.
At the end of the Edo period, Hisashige Tanaka, known as Karakuri Giemon, created “Yumihiki Douji” (the Boy Archer), which is regarded the highest standard of Karakuri dolls made in Edo period.
Karakuri dolls are traditional Japanese precision machines considered to be the foundation for today’s industrial robots.
This character cannot be seen among the tortoise plastron, bone, or bronze inscription characters but from the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script on. Certainly, it can be divided into a left and right part. It, however, would be too rash to jump to an A+B style mathematical explanation. Dr. Shirakawa summarizes: “The meaning is to realize an oath.”
Rather than a mere superficial interpretation like that of a 言 ‘kotoba: word’ that 成る ‘naru: realizes,’ one has to take the customs and religion of ancient China into consideration here. As was pointed out in the explanation of 信, the 口 of the lower part 言 is a vessel for putting in prayer writings. The meaning of the upper part with its four horizontal lines is hard to understand from the form of the Common Use Kanji. Its original form and meaning has to be understood in the context of the tattoo and ritual body painting culture. It shows the form of an instrument, a needle with a handle for tattooing. Already this part 言 only has the meaning of words of oath to the gods.
The part 成 shows the form of the ritual of completion performed after the making of a 戈 ‘hoko: halberd’ is finished, adding a decoration. This means that the left and right character parts have their origin in religion.
Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones. Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
Kumanodo Bugaku is a folk performing art performed at the annual spring festival of Kumano Shrine in Takadate Kumanodo, Natori city, Yamagata Prefecture. Bugaku is a repertoire of dances of the Japanese Imperial court, derived from traditional dance forms imported from China, Korea, and India.
It is said that the Bugaku dance was introduced to the Kumanodo area by the Hayashi family in Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, but there is no precise records concerning its origin. The Hayashi family was the hereditary musician family serving the Japanese Imperial Court. As the Hayashi family moved to present Yamagata Prefecture before Bugaku was japanized in the mid-Heian period, the old dancing style of the imported dance has been precisely handed down in the Kumanodo Bugaku dance. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
In the Kumanodo Bugaku dance, neither dialog nor words are employed in the dances and songs. It is a kind of pantomime in dedication to the god. Although it has an origin in the Shinto dance, it also has several features of the dances performed by Shugendo practitioners.
The 3.6 m square temporary stage is built over the pond in the precinct. In back of the stage, the ensemble composed of one drum, one pair of large clappers and one Japanese flute play the music.
Kosenji Temple in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an historic temple pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1321, after the fall of the Taira clan, a descendant of Taira no Shigemori, known as Komatsu Naidaijin (Inner Minister), disguised himself as a mountain practitioner and came to this village, escaping from his enemies. He founded a temple named Komatsu-dera Temple, where he placed the statue of Amida Nyorai, which was his family’s guardian Buddha, and held memorial services for his deceased ancestors. Later, the temple was changed its name to Kosenji Temple.
The principal object of worship, the statue of Amida Nyorai, was presented to Shigemori by the temple in Auyung in present Ningbo City in China, and treasured as the guardian of the family. After it was enshrined at this temple, it has been named Komatsu Nyorai after Shigemori, and worshipped by local people.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties such as the statue of Idatenjin, the Jizo statue carved by Kaikei and the 12 ancestral tablets including the one for Shigemori, which make us think of the rise and fall of the Taira clan, who once ruled the country.
Shizuka Shirakawa was a world-leading scholar of “kanji”, or Chinese characters.
Mr. Shirakawa was born in 1910 in Fukui Prefecture. He became fascinated with Kanji in his mid teens and subsequently worked voraciously to acquire more knowledge about the subject.
He published “Kanji”, a kanji dictionary in 1970, which established his unique viewpoint undermining commonly accepted theory in Kanji study.
Since then, he published “Shikyou”, “Kinbun no Sekai” and “Koushiden” all in which he introduced his original and innovative interpretation of Chinese philosophy and culture. “Jitou”, published in 1984, was a kanji etymology in which he studied the origin of letters. He pursued his unique approach to kanji study in which he found some magico-religious meaning in the composition of kanji. “Jitou” was followed by two more publications; “Jikun” and “Jitsuu”, all of which became highly influential as his trilogy on kanji studies.
In 1997, he was appointed the director at Institute of Letter and Culture. The following year, he was named as “Bunka Kourousha”, a recognition given to a person who has performed distinguished services in the field of culture.
In 2004, he received the Order of Cultural Merit, one of Japan’s highest honors. He passed away on October 30th, 2006, at the age of 96.
His insatiable quest in the universe of Kanji has influenced many scholars and his ideas are still being developed and advanced today.
It is believed that far in the future, Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings.
The most well-known statue of Miroku Bosatsu in Japan is the one housed at Reihokan (the temple museum) of Koryuji Temple in Uzumasa in Kyoto. This Miroku Bosatsu Hankashi-yui-zou statue represents the seated Miroku with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing. The mystic smile and the gentle and sensitive finger put on the cheek are breathtakingly beautiful. The round outline gives feminine-like impression. The smile on its face is generally called an archaic smile.
It is said that this red pine wooden statue used to be decorated with gold powder. There are two theories as to where it was carved; one theory states that it was brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula judging from the facial expressions and the material wood, and the other theory states that it was carved in Japan. The argument is yet to be settled. The clear eyes seem to suggest that it was brought from the continent.
Facing the Sea of Japan in Kaminokuni, Hokkaido, are the remains of a medieval fort-mansion ('tate'). The fort comprised three halls: Hanazawa, Suzaki and Katsuyama halls, all of which are located in Kamino and which have been designated as an important asset of Hokkaido. The remains of Katsuyama hall, the largest of the halls, have helped solve several mysteries about Hokkaido in the middle ages, following excavations and studies of important artifacts since 1979.
Katsuyama hall was built by the father of the Matsuyama clan, Takeda Nobuhiro. In 1457, he overpowered the local Ainu people, and built this fort-mansion as a feudal residence. Excavation of the hall ruins revealed a trench, the remains of a dwelling and some crockery, as well as records showing that more than 200 people of both Japanese and Ainu race lived together here. Such evidence of racial harmony has drawn a lot of attention.
Some 45% of the ceramics and pottery unearthed here was made in China, which shows that there was active trading and exchange with China.
The Kaminokuni fort-mansion is a very important ruin, which not only has an aura of romance, but has helped historians fill in missing links in Hokkaido's past.