Miyamoto Musashi was a famous Japanese samurai of the early Edo period (1603-1868). In recent times, he is also recognized as a great thinker, who left the writings on art of living well and cherished mottos.
Musashi was born in 1584. At the age of 13, he fought a duel for the first time and won. Then he left his village and spent his time traveling and honing his skills in swordsmanship. During this time, he engagrd in as many as 60 duels, in which he never lost. His most famous duel is the duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
His swordsmanship was characterized by practical strategics. He was always seeking for the meaning of life through swordsmanship. Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called Niten-Iichi (meaning “two heavens as one”).
Musashi’s cleverness in the use of hands and his acute sensitivity brought him to the field of at, sculpture, calligraphy, and handicraft. Records also show that he had skills in town planning and landscape architecture.
Just before his death, he completed “Go Rin no Sho (the Book of Five Rings),” a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy, which is still studied today.
Edo kiriko is a glass-cutting handicraft that began in the late Edo period. The origin of this craft dates back to 1834, when a craftsman, Kagaya Hisabe, first created a new technique of cutting glass with powdered emery.
In the late Edo period, transparent lead glass (crystal glass) was the main glass material used for this craft. The patterns were familiar ones seen on kimonos, such as bamboo fencing, chrysanthemums and hemp.
Now, many Edo kiriko pieces are made using faded glass. The layer of colored glass is thin and vivid.
In 2002, Edo kiriko was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Paulownia geta are Japanese wooden clogs made from expensive Aidu paulownia in Fukushima Prefecture.
Aidu domain traditionally encouraged people to plant paulownia. Aidu paulownia is highly valued because of its beautiful grain and strength, a result of the Aidu's uniquely severe climate.
Sticky and glossy, silvery white wood, beautiful straight grain, high-density, clear annual rings and hardness; these are Aidu paulownia's characteristics. Paulownia geta make the best use of Aidu paulownia. Straight-grained wood that is glossy and beautiful is said to be the best.
Paulownia is light and absorbent. The white grain is pleasant and the geta are comfortable to wear. The 'karan karan' sound of paulownia geta is also airy and fresh.
In 1997, the making of paulownia geta was designated as a Fukushima Traditional Handicraft.
Kisaburo Ogawa was born in November 30, 1936. He is recognized as the holder of the important intangible cultural heritage of kenjyo-hakata-ori and was designated a living national treasure in 2003. Kisaburo Ogawa is also a guest professor of fine art at Kyushu Sangyo University.
Kenjyo-hakata-ori or Hakata weaving dates back 700 years to the Kamakura period. It gets its name because it was a gift bestowed annually by the Kurota clan to the government in the Edo period.
The weaving's trait is the thick-layered fabric and its silky touch, and was mainly used to weave sashes. Although this traditional craft is woven on a loom, the industry faces a dilemma in that there is no successor. The Hakata Weaving Association is making products other than sashes, to keep and develop the tradition. For example, they are making bags and wallets to attract younger people. Mr Ogawa, being a member of the association, works energetically as a panel member in symposiums and gives speeches.
Yoshino handmade Japanese paper (washi) is a traditional handicraft, and representative of Nara. It is sometimes called uda paper, misu paper or kuzu paper, and is known for its outstanding texture and strength. It is also designated as a traditional handicraft of Nara.
The history of washi dates back more than 1300 years and is said to have been begun by Oamano-oji (later Emperor Temmu) who taught the village people of Kuzu the art of papermaking. Oamano-oji is also known for gathering an army and fighting at Yoshino during the Jinshin rebellion in 672.
Yoshino paper began to spread nationwide in the Edo period. The paper was named uda paper because merchants from Daiwa Uda-cho sold it throughout Japan, and it was found useful for mounting or backing paper or fabric.
The handmade paper of Yoshino is very thin, yet sturdy. There are currently 12 families who still protect the tradition and techniques of papermaking here, and who make an important contribution to the making of paper for shodo sliding doors and for repairing national treasures.
Ise-katagami are traditional handmade dyeing stencils that developed around Shirako in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture. These stencils were used in dyeing yuzen, yukata, and for komon (family crest) designs and patterns on kimono fabrics.
There are four traditional stencil techniques: 'sui-bori', 'tsuki-bori', 'shima-bori', and 'dougu-bori'. These techniques involve varying processes for the cutting of the fine, complex-patterned stencils from thick paper that is made by gluing several sheets of Japanese washi paper together.
The history of these stencils goes back a long way, although the origins are not clear. All agree, however, that ise-katagami already existed by the late Muromachi period (around 570). With the start of the Edo period, and the promotion of dyeing as an independent industry under the protection of the Tokugawa Kishuu clan, katagami salesmen were free to do business all over the country. This is how the ise-katagami from Shirako came to be well-known throughout the country.
Ise stencils were designated by the Agency of Cultural Affairs as an Intangible Cultural Treasure in 1952. They were also designated as a Traditional Handicraft Equipment by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1983.
Headwaters' Forest (Genryu no Mori) was established for nature protection and human interaction and is located in Nishiokitama, Yamagata prefecture. The mountain area around Gosai, Iide and Asahi was designated as the Headwaters' Forest area and the district is supposed to be a forested arcadia of the 21st century.
'Let's go to a forest!'
You can feel soft sunshine, pure air and fresh wind on an adventure experience here. You can also make some original artwork by trying your hand wooden handicrafts, ceramics and sculpture in the Forest Studio. The studio is part of the Forest School, where parents and children can participate in 'studies' and stay overnight. You don't have to be parents or children to join in some of the other programs.
Headwaters' Forest is a place to 'interpret' nature and aspects of traditional Japanese culture.
Yomitanzan Hana-Ori is a unique flower-patterned textile, woven in the village of Yomitan in Okinawa.
Around the 14th and 15th centuries, Yomitan actively traded with China at Nagahama bay. Textiles were also introduced at this time, and later Hana-Ori began to be woven in Yomitan.
It is said that, apart from the people of Yomitan, ordinary citizens were not allowed to wear Hana-Ori, since it was a textile reserved for royalty.
The lovely and detailed flower patterns of Hana-Ori are accentuated by the colored thread. There are more than 30 patterns of the Kasuri type that reflect the tastes of Okinawa. Handkerchiefs woven in Tebana styles were considered special. They used to be called the handkerchiefs of prayer, or of love. These handkerchiefs were made to be presented as a gift to someone special. They were woven as a prayer for the safety of the family, or for a loved one.
Yomitanzan Hana-Ori is a beautiful and a lovely textile that expresses the heart of the weaver.