Genbee Yamaguchi is one of the most respected kimono makers. In 1981, he became the head of “Kondaya”, a long-established wholesale store of obi sashes that was founded in Kyoto in 1738. As the tenth head of Kondaya, he devoted himself to advancing obi making. His recent works, however, have been more involved in designing and making the whole kimono. He also takes an active role in revitalizing the dyeing and weaving technologies through such measures as the revival of Koishimaru - a specific type of silk worm cocoon found in Japan and the preservation of a unique village in the Philippines called “Dreamweaver”. In 2003, Yamaguchi received the Japan Culture Award. After successful collaborations with Kengo Sumi, an architect, and Hiroko Koshino, a designer, he released a new kimono line called Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu, in collaboration with UNITED ARROWS, a specialty retailer. It is an exciting and bold kimono collection for men.
Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu is inspired by the men of the Momoyam period (approximately 1568 to 1603) who loved to live a wild and flamboyant life-style. Japanese men in those days were respected as the toughest of the world. Kabukimono is expressive of that type of man who pursued an extraordinary and “cool” life style. The fashion of Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu evokes masculinity and the true “rock and roll” spirit of the time.
“If you keep on pursuing the basics, there will be a moment when you will suddenly see limitlessness revealed to you, as once Zeami (the greatest playwright of the Noh theater) said. Mastering the basics is the shortest road to freedom”
The vital life force and sexiness in Yamaguchi’s designs come from the inner depth of his creative process.
Nokami Hachimangu Shrine is an old and distinguished shrine located in Kimino-cho, Kaiso-gun, Wakayama Pref. It is said that the shrine dates back to the period during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (around A.D. 550). It is one of the 3 largest Hachiman shrines in Japan. As a branch shrine of Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, Nokami Shrine has been worshipped by people for a long time. The shrine is also known for a lot of nationally designated cultural properties including the Main Hall built in the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598), the Main Hall of Takeuchi Shrine (one of the branch shrines), and a sword. Brilliant vermillion of the Main Hall reminds us of its ancient flourishing times. At the autumn festival held on Sunday in the middle of October every year, flamboyant Shishimai dance (lion dance) is dedicated to the god and a lot of local people come to enjoy the festival.
When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine in Yawata, Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in 1607 by Date Masamune as the highest guardian god of the Sendai domain. The enshrined deities are Emperor Ojin and his parents Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu.
As the oldest structure ever built in the Toshogu style known as Gongen-zukuri, which brings the culture of the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598) to the present day, the shrine pavilion is designated as a National Treasure.
Nagatoko (the worshippers’ hall) is presumed to have been constructed a little later than the shrine pavilion. It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property as the oldest Nagatoko-styled structure in the prefecture.
The hall is 9 bays wide and 3 bays deep with a thatched roof in the Irimoya-zukuri (hip and gabled) style. The entrance has a Karahafu (an undulating bargeboard)-styled roof.
As it has an aisle evenly separating the building, it is called Wari-Haiden (the split oratory). Compared to the gorgeous Honden (the shrine main pavilion), it gives a sober impression.
Hikite is a door pull added to sliding doors to help open and close them with a pulling motion. Wood door pulls were common in ancient periods but in general door pulls were made of metal. Hikite is set in a sliding door so that it does not hit or scuff the other sliding door when the door is pulled open.
The original form of a sliding door first appeared in the 8th to 9th centuries, when the door had no pulls and people held the frame of the door to open and close it. A door pull appeared in the 13th century during the Kamakura period. Then in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when the Japanese tea ceremony was established, elaborate designs were given to sliding doors and door pulls. A door pull became an important element of interior decoration and elaborately decorated door pulls were made during this period.
Today, with the trend of new understanding of Japanese traditional culture, a Japanese-styled room has also attracted attention of young people and various kinds of door pulls are being made. Those include traditional ones with family crests, boat-shaped, and round ones. There are even white and square pulls in modern design, animal-shaped, and the ones made of cloisonné.
Yamanaka lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft handed down for 400 years in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture. This craft dates back to the Tensho era (1570-1592) during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, when wood turners from Echizen (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) moved to this area and taught turnery to the local workmen. In the Edo period (1603-1868), the techniques of lacquering and makie were introduced, by which the town became famous as the producing center of tea utensils.
Yamanaka lacquer ware is characterized by rokurobiki, or wheel wood carving skills, by which a block of wood place on a wheel is shaped into a bowl or a teacup holder. At the summit of wheel wood curving skill is kashoku-biki, or pattern adding wheel curving, in which quality of wood and beauty of grains are fully utilized. The turned pieces are perfect in shape without any deformation and they are works of art in themselves. In Yamanaka lacquer ware, the excellent skills of turners, which are beyond all imagination from the simple appearance of the finished works, are hidden behind the application of lacquer.
Mantokuin Temple located in Kita-Hiroshima-cho, Yamagata-gun, Hiroshima Pref. is a nationally designated historic site. This temple was established in 1575 by a grandson of Mori Motonari, Kikkawa Motonaga, who was a powerful warrior in Aki province (present-day Hiroshima Pref.) from the Warring States period (1493-1573) to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). It is said that he built it for purification of his own sin that he had committed as a warrior. He also wished to be buried at this temple. The original building was a small country house in a quiet mountain; however after his death, his younger brother, Hiroie proceeded with a large-scale construction of a temple with the front approach, stone walls, and annex halls so that it should be befitting to his family temple. In 1600, when the Kikkawa clan was transferred to the Iwakuni domain (present-day Yamaguchi Pref.), Mantokuin Temple was also dismantled and reconstructed in a new domain, from which there was only a vacant lot left in Aki province. Now the ruin site has been arranged into a historic park, where stands “Guidance Hall Aomatsu,” which was modeled in full-scale after the main hall of the old temple. The park is visited by a lot of citizens who are interested in history.
The haneri is a spare collar, which is sewed onto the collar base of nagajuban (the underwear for kimono). The origin of haneri dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). As it was originally used for protecting the collars from getting dirty, most of haneri were black in color. However, in the Meiji period, it was thought fashionable to be particular about collars and the haneri with various colors, designs, dyeing techniques and even embroidery works were produced. There were even specialty shops for haneri in those days. The haneri is basically a 1 m long rectangular cloth. The white one is still used at formal occasions. As it is painstaking and expensive to wash kimono, people usually unsew only the haneri off the nagajuban and wash it. Today, various types of haneri are produced including Date-eri (double collars) and the one with embroidery, which are enjoyed in the combination with kimono. The haneri is also used as a scarf today.