These dolls appeared in 1810, when Tsugaru Yasuchika, the 9th lord of the Hirosaki domain, invited a potter Takaya Kinzo from the Chikuzen region of Kyushu. A kiln was then prepared for him at Shitakawara, where he produced daily necessities. As it snowed heavily in winter, potters could not make pottery during this time. Then Kinzo created earthenware dolls when he had no work to do, hence the beginning of the earthenware dolls in Shitakawara.
In the making of this doll, red earth and sand are mixed together to form clay, which is put into a plaster to shape the doll. It is then fired at high temperature for several hours, and then painted to create the finished design. Shitakawara dolls features three colors of yellow, purple and red, which are applied on the pure white base color. The pigeon whistles and the dolls of zodiac figurines, warriors and Manekineko (Lucky Cats) are famous. All are made in the traditional hand-making techniques that have been handed down for a long time.
Kakiemon is a preeminent Japanese porcelain brand and is well-known worldwide. The most remarkable feature of Kakiemon is called “nigoshide”.
Nigoshide is the fine milky white base color developed to emphasize the beauty of paintings by Kakiemon. “Nigoshi” is a dialect of Saga, where Kakiemon wares are produced, and means “water after washing rice”, which is not pure white but a warm milky white color. It is this background color that enables the viewer to realize the beauty around the drawings that Kakiemon style is famous for. This technique was established at the beginning of Edo period by the fifth generation of Kakiemon when many wares were produced. However, mainly due to the high shipping costs, the production was discontinued temporarily. Later when there was an overwhelming demand by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and enthusiasts in general, production was revived around 1952 by Kakiemon XII and Kakiemon XIII.
In 1971, Nigoshide technique was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset. Kakiemon X IV, a Living National Treasure, continues making new products blending traditional techniques passed on through generations with new modern techniques.
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.
Seiroku Nakamura is a craftsman in Imari-Arita ware, a traditional handicraft in Saga Pref. He was born in Hasami-cho, Nagasaki Pref. in 1916. He was designated as a Traditional Craftsman in 1979 and an Important Intangible Cultural Property by Saga Pref. in 1990.
The origin of Imari-Arita ware dates back to the end of the Warring States period (the beginning of the 17th C), when a Korean potter, Li Sanpei discovered fine porcelain stone in Arita. It is characterized by the gorgeous blue patterns drawn on the pure white surface. The porcelain used to be called differently as Imari ware and Arita ware, but being made in the same processes, they are commonly called Imari-Arita ware today.
Mr. Nakamura turns a large wheel with excellent skills and creates his own delustered porcelain. The beautifully curving lines and clam white color give the impression of delicate warmth. He always looks forward and munificently hands down his creative mind, which he himself learned from his teacher, to the younger generation. His graceful attitude is fully reflected in his works.
Agano Ware is magnificent pottery made in Agano, Fukuchi-co, Tagawa-gun, Fukuoka Pref. It has a history of 400 years and was designated as a National Traditional Craft Product in 1983. Agano Ware dates back to 1602, when Hosokawa Tadaoki, who had learned the art of the tea ceremony directly from Sen no Rikyu, became the feudal lord of the Kokura Province and ordered Korean potter Sonkai to construct a climbing kiln in Agano Village. In the Edo period, the Agano kiln became one of the seven kilns favored by Enshu, who was a famous tea master. Its distinctive warmth was favored by a lot of tea masters at the time. In the Meiji period, however, the Agano kilns had gone into a decline for some time, but it was restored in 1902. Compared with other ceramics, Agano Ware is thin and light in weight. It is characterized by the variety of glazes and the changes which occur during firing and usually no painting is given to create patterns.
Tokoname ware handed down in Tokoname City, Aichi Pref. is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. Tokoname ware has such an old history that it is included one of the Six Old Kilns in Japan. Its history is dated back to the Heian period (794-1192), when there was a custom of burying a piece of paper with mantra written on it in the ground. The first Tokoname ware is said to have been used as a vase called Kyozuka-tsubo in which this paper was put. Later on, tea ceremony utensils and flower vessels began to be made. Products for commoners’ daily use came to be made in the Edo period (1603-1868), and at the present time, a lot of products for industrial use are also being made. As the clay used for Tokoname ware is composed of fine particles and has viscosity, it is easy to process. The clay contains a lot of iron, which gives a ware deep red color. The main products today are tea utensils, flower pots, ornaments, and vases. Items for other than industrial use are still made by hand.
Isui-en is a garden in Nara City. It is separated into two parts: the former garden and the later garden, and the age of each garden is different according to when they were established.
The former garden is derived from a sub-house built by a Nara tradesman, Kiyosumi Michikiyo, in the Enpo period (1673~1681).
The later garden was built by a tradesman, Kanto Jiro, in Meiji 32. The garden has beautiful borrowed scenery such as Mt Wakakusa, Mt Kasuga and the big roof of nearby Todaiji Temple.
Sanshu-tei, a pavilion in the former garden, was built by the Zen monk Mokuan. It remains to this day, and you can have meals and tea there. Nara Art Museum annex has preserved ceramics and paintings from Japan, China and Korea.
This park is very rare because you can enjoy at the same time two parks that are different in age and taste.
Tatsuzo Shimaoka was born in 1919, in Tokyo, and studied ceramics at Tokyo Industry University. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure because of his work in 'jomon zogan'.
Jomon-zogan is a ceramic technique invented by Shimaoka; a pot is patterned using a thin rope, then painted with white 'deisho' (mixture of pot clay and water). After drying, the pot's surface is shaved with a plane. Then, the white Deisho remains in the impressed areas and the jomon pattern appears.
After he was demobilized, Shimaoka studied under Shoji Hamada and, in 1953, he established his own kiln. His belief was to have 'his own distinctive style, not an imitation of others'. He learned through trial and error, and he integrated the jomon technique with zogan, a popular Korean technique. His work is practical and beautiful, unique with his identity.