Hakata Textiles is a traditional handicraft with a history of 700 years. The technique was first founded in this area in the Kamakura period. Later, during the Edo Period (1603-1867), Kuroda Nagamasa, the feudal lord of Chikuzen Province (presently Fukuoka prefecture), sent tributes (kenjo in Japanese) of Hakata textiles to the Shogunate, which led to the cloth also being called Kenjo Hakata and its geometric designs are called kenjo design.
There are 3 types of Kenjo-designs, each of which is characterized by the striped-patterns in the motif of Buddhist objects of tokko and hanazara. Hakata textiles are gusty but soft and flexible. Presently, there is a concern about the successors of these precious weaving techniques. Kisaburo Ogawa, the recognized authority on this technique, was designated as a holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property in “Kenjo Hakata Textiles” in 2003. Now as a visiting professor at Department of Craft Art of Kyushu Sangyo University and a member of Hakata Textile Industrial Association, he is giving lectures at symposiums and talking at panel discussions held all over the country to help regeneration and development of this traditional handicraft.
Neriagede is an artistic technique for creating ceramic pottery by layering or blending of clay of different colors to create a striped or marbleized effect. It requires high level of pottery techniques. Quite simply saying, it can be a little like making a tiered cake (baumkuhen).
The Neriagede shaping process comprises the steps of stacking alternately a plurality of clay boards differing from each other in color, which creates beautiful striped or marble-like patterns. In order to avoid cracking and breaking which come along with mixing a variety of different kinds of clay or during firing, high level of thechniques and extensive experiences are required.
The thechnique of Neriagede is said to be derived from the marbeling tchnique (called “Kotai” in Japan) in the Tang Dynasty China in the 7th century. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the Azuchi-momoyama period (1568-1598), for there are several pieces of Neriagede pottery, which were supposedly made in this era, have been found.
In recent years, the techniques to color the clay itself is invented and more complex and highly artistic works are being created. New “layers” of the techniques are overlapped on to the traditional “layers,” which continuously propels the development of this high-leveled ceramic ware.
Itoire (literally meaning “thread insertion”) is a technique employed in the making of Ise-katagami (paper stencil patterns), which is a traditional handicraft handed down in Mie Prefecture. Ise kimono stencil is made of Japanese washi paper with a persimmon stringent liquid, onto which elaborate and elegant kimono patterns are hand-carved.
In the case of patterns such as stripes, where there are substantial spaces between the uncut areas of the stencil, threads are fixed to the stencils to strengthen them and prevent movement during use, which technique is called “itoire.”
As itoire is an elaborate technique to require a long period of training and painstaking efforts, successors of this technique are decreasing in number and the technique using silk gauze (called “sha-bari”) are now replacing it. The itoire craftsperson Mie Jonokuchi was designated as a Living National Treasure together with 5 other Ise-katagami craftspeople in 1955; regrettably all have passed away now.
"Tanzen” is a thickly-padded over-kimono worn in winter for lounging. It is also called “Dotera” in the Kanto region. Tanzen or Dotera is usually worn over yukata. It is also fastened with an obi belt just like kimono. The striped patterns are popularly employed for Tanzen, which are called Tanzen stripes.
It is said that Tanzen became popular in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when men in the town in Edo competed in attracting attention of a yuna (a female bathing attendant at a public bathhouse) named Katsuyama. She worked at a public bathhouse Tanzen-buro, helping the customers by scrubbing their backs or combing their hair during the day. However, the customers could have sexualintercourse with yuna at night, a lot of men visited to see her. As she liked unique ways of dressing, the men began to wear very wide obi belts to pretend to be a personof tastes.
Tanzen later became popular among servants working for samurai, and was gradually worn by the commoners.
Yasutaka Komiya was born in 1925. In 1978, he was designated a Living National Treasure for his work in 'Edo-komon' dyeing.
His family was in the dyeing business and had a factory. When he graduated from elementary school, he was apprenticed to his father, Kosuke (also a Living National Treasure), from whom he gained a strong grasp of dyeing techniques.
Through his training, he realized that he should study more about paper patterns and dye in order develop his skills. His efforts paid off and he became accomplished in colored komon dyeing, in which patterns are dotted as finely as fog.
It is said that Komiya is the best Edo-komon artist and everyone who likes tea knows his name. But he is modest, saying, 'it is impossible to make good komon-dyeing by my power alone'. He says that by working together with other fine craftsmen, such as paper-pattern-makers, that he is able to achieve the excellent quality he does.
Fukumi Shimura was born in Omihachirin, Shiga Prefecture, in 1924. In 1990, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in Tsumugi-fabric.
When she was 17, she started learning weaving from her mother. When she was 30, she decided to work independently as a Tsumugi-fabric craftsman and divorced her husband. She learned plant-dyeing on her own and made lively works one after another.
Her work's charm is in its harmony of rich colors, carefully extracted from nature's plants. She integrated traditional patterns, like stripes, with plant-dyed silk and developed Tsumugi-woven kimonos into art. Her efforts and accomplishment have been highly valued.
Shimura has made many works on the theme of historical stories; she chose 'The Tale of Genji' in particular as her lifetime work. Her gracefully woven tsumugi with plant-dyed silk presents heartfelt images from these stories .
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.
Yaeyama minsa is a fabric made on the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. This fabric often features a design of alternating five-and-four square 'kasuri' (scratched) patterns on indigo-dyed material. The centipede-like lines are highly individual.
The origin of this fabric dates back to before the 17th century, and the Okinawan word 'minsa' derives from the words 'sar' ('sash') and 'min' ('cotton'). The alternating five-and-four kasuri design is said to mean 'wish you will be with me for eternity'. ('Eternity' in Japanese is 'itsu-no-yo': 'itsu' sounds like the word for 'five' and 'yo' sounds like the word for 'four'.) This symbolised the weaving woman's feelings for her lover.
Yaeyama minsa is woven from cotton thread dyed with natural plant dyes in a southern manner. Sashes, neckties and bags are woven.
The dyed color is usually indigo and the contrast between white and dark blue is vivid and beautiful.