A Chashaku is a spoon-like utensil used to scoop maccha tea powder into a tea bowl.
The chashaku originally came from a metal medicine spoon used in China, which had a potato leaf shaped scoop. The other end of the stem was rounded in order to crush medicine easily.
In the Muromachi period, when the tea ceremony was established, people began to think that metal teaspoons might damage the tea set. They then started to make Chasaku from bamboo.
Upon the ascendance of Sen no Rikyu as the most influential tea master in the Sengoku period, Keishuso first designed a chashaku with a joint for Rikyu. Hochiku, who studied under Keishuso and who became a chashaku artisan for Rikyu, completed the establishment of chakasu design as an art form.
The bamboo most commonly used for chashaku is from the Nigatake bamboo family, especially Sarashitake bamboo.
Chashaku is 17~21cm in length. The end used to scoop tea powder is oval-shaped, 1cm width and 2cm length, and it is bent to make the scoop.
Chashaku is considered to be essential to the traditional tea ceremony and it is as beautiful as it is functional.
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.
Candle making was first introduced to Japan from China during the Muromachi period. The Chinese method was then further developed in Japan to create a very original version, which became known as the Japanese candle. These candles enjoyed their peak popularity during the Edo period.
First, the core of the candle is made from stalks of the rush plant wrapped with Japanese paper and then coated repeatedly by hand with mokurou wax. This method is called shoujyoukikake and the whole process is done carefully by hand. There is another method, called katanagashi in which a mold is used instead of layers of coating.
While western candles use paraffin made from petroleum oil, mokurou wax, the main ingredient of Japanese candles, is made primarily from the dried berries of Rhus trees (known also as Wax Tree and Sumac Tree). Mokurou wax produces less soot than paraffin. There are two shapes of traditional Japanese candles - pole shape and anchor shape both of which are designed to prevent the melting wax from obstructing the light.
Japanese candles are a fixture at temples and shrines where they emit a mystical glow that transport visitors to another time and place.
Buke-zukuri is an architectural style used for residences of the bushi, warrior class, during Kamakura period.
Buku-zukuri is considered a simplified version of Shinden-zukuri which was a residence for aristocrats during Heian period. In Shinden-zukuri, a main building called shinden was built facing the south garden. In the east and west of the sinden were sub-buildings called tainoya which were connected to the shinden by corridors called wataridono. Each taiya building had another corridor toward the south to connect to another building called tsuridono, which literally means a fishing building, that formed a bridge over the pond of the garden. Buku-zukuri had a similar but much simpler style using a roof structure covered with boards or planks and wooden board flooring. It is also believed that the buke-zukuri house had a kind of castle like facility to protect itself from the outside. However, no such example has ever been found so details are not known. Thus, buke-zukuri is not commonly accepted as an original style.
Shoin-zukuri in Muromachi period was believed to be based on buke-zukuri. Kinkaku-ji Temple built in the early Muromachi period showing fine harmonious blends of three different architectural styles: shinden-zukuri on the first floor, buke-zukuri on the second floor and Zen Butsuden-zukuri on the third floor. The temple shows the transition of the style to shoin-zukuri which is more evident in Ginkaku-ji temple that was built later.
It should be noted that Buke-zukuri is sometimes confused with buke-yashiki in Edo period, but it is a completely different style.
Suibokuga is a type of painting drawn with ink and brushes using mostly monochromatic color. It uses ink to draw not only lines but also to describe a three dimensional space by applying a brushstroke technique of shading to create a sense of depth with light and dark.
Ink painting that does not use graduated shading, blotting or blurry style is called Hakubyou and is regarded as a separate style from Suibokuga.
The origin of Suibokuga dates back to the end of Tang Dynasty in China and was established as one of the techniques of Sansuiga, Chinese-style landscape painting. It was during Sung Dynasty that Zen Buddhism began being broadly accepted and the fact that Buddhism fables and phrases and portraits of priests were usually drawn with black ink helped Suibokuga to become widely known to the general public in China.
Suibokuga was introduced in Japan along with Zen Buddhism in Kamakura period. As Zen Buddhism was protected and promoted by Ashikaga Clan, a ruler of Japan during Muromachi period, Japanese Suibokuga saw its golden age.
During that time, Suibokuga had gradually developed and serious landscape paintings started being drawn. Toward the end of Muromachi period many prominent artists emerged such as Josetsu, Shuubun and Sesshuu whose work still fascinates people today and are evidence of the excellence of Suibokuga.
A monochromatic world expressed only with black and white is simple yet possesses a sense of infinite profundity. It captivates viewers and brings them to a simpler graphic world.
Looking as if it has no connection to this world, Kannonshoji Temple stands quietly near the top of Mt. Kinugasa, a 433 meter high mountain located on the eastern side of Lake Biwa. The temple is the 32nd of the Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage Temples, which are located in 6 prefectures in the Kinki region and Gifu Prefecture. This pilgrim route is said to be Japan’s oldest pilgrim route.
According to the temple record, Kannonshoji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622). Then, in the Kamakura (1192-1333) and Muromachi (1336-1573) periods, it thrived under the protection of the Rokkaku clan and gained power of influence. During these periods, there were as many as 33 attached temples in the mountain.
In the later periods, the temple was involved in wars and relocated to another place. However, in 1597, it was moved again to its original location. Though having receded into the background today, the temple is visited by a lot of worshippers who offer prayers for good relationship in life.
Zeami, also called Kanze Motokiyo, was a Japanese aesthetician, actor and playwright in the early Muromachi period (1336-1573). He was born in 1363 as a son of Kan’ami, a master Noh player. His childhood name was Oniyasha. He named himself Zeamidabutsu, a Buddhist name of the Jishu sect, which was later contracted into Zeami. However, he was commonly called Saburo.
When Kan’ami’s company performed in Kumano for the 3rd Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the 18-year old Shogun was fascinated by Zeami, who was at the age of 12. Since then Zeami was patronized by the Shogun and his accomplished performance was highly appraised by the nobility and high-ranking warriors. Nijo Yoshimoto, the regent and a famous renga poet of the time, was also impressed by his talent and presented him with the name Fujiwaka.
Being in contact with aristocratic culture and arts, Zeami enhanced his aesthetic thory. He established the Noh theater in the present form with his father and succeeded the title, Kanze-dayu, after his father’s death.
He wrote a lot of Noh plays, which are still performed in the same forms today, and also wrote practical instructions for actors including Fushi Kaden and Hanakagami. His aesthetic senses represented by the words “Hisureba hana nari, hisezuba hana naru bekarazu to nari. (If the secret of the flower becomes known to the public, it is not a true flower anymore.)” give vivid impression even to the people living today.
Jubako lunch boxes come in various shapes such as cylindrical or hexagonal, but the most common is square.
Jubako are basically lunch boxes for food. They may have up to 5 layers. Officially, these layers represent the 4 seasons, so there are usually only 4 layers. Jubako may hold special food such as 'osechi' at New Year, or for hanami cherry-blossom-viewing picnics, or during athletic festivals.
It is believed that jubako developed from 'food baskets' ('shilong') introduced from China. However, there are references to lunch boxes in Muromachi-period documents, therefore, it could be said that jubako have a long history.
During the Edo period, jubako came to be used by common people, too, and their real manufacture began in 1610. Samurai and daimyo used them as lunch boxes during leisure outings, such as hunting expeditions. Later, they started to be lacquered and decorated. Even now, this traditional item is commonly used in Japan.