When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.
Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.
Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.
Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
Toto-Awase is a memory game in which the players have to match two cards to create a complete fish illustration and the kanji character that represents the name of the fish. Each card also has a brief description of the fish depicted. These fish are all familiar species in Japan and their illustrations have been beautifully done with colorful paper patterns. The game was created by Toto Koubou in Tango Uocchikan Aquarium, located in Miyazu City, Kyoto.
Since its début on the market in the Spring of 2003, Toto-Awase, with its beautiful illustrations, has gained popularity. The game has the added benefit for children of teaching them the various fish species and their respective kanji characters. The total sale of Toto-Awase games has now exceeded 100,000. The game received a Good Design Award in 2005 and a Good Toy Award in 2006. Currently there are eleven different sets of the memory game according to different regions. The illustrations are elaborate collages with colorful papers of traditional patterns and the box containing the cards is decorated in vermillion and ultramarine - the quintessential colors of Japan. An English version is also made under the name “Card Game Sushi Bar” and it is popular as a souvenir for people to bring abroad.
Ralph Kiggell is a British artist who was born in Zambia in 1960. He is a woodblock printer, whose work is strongly influenced by East Asia.
Since he was a child, he had always been interested in Japanese woodblock prints. Works by masters such as HOkusai and Utamaro could be seen periodically in special exhibitions at the British Museum in London.
In 1990, Ralph Kiggell came to Japan to study woodblock printing. He first studied at the Yoshida Hanga Academy in Tokyo under Tsukasa Yoshida, the son of Toshi Yoshida, and the grandson of Hiroshi Yoshida. Later, he learned contemporary woodblock printing techniques at Kyoto Seika University and at Tokyo’s Tama Art University.
Kiggell enjoys the sensitivity of Japanese woodblock printing, because the whole process is carried out by hand using hand-made and natural materials. There is an organic connection from hand to wood to paper. Kiggell thinks that in the digital age that we live in, woodblock printing has particular resonance as an important medium for contemporary artistic expression.
Karakami is the woodblock-printed paper mainly used for Japanese sliding doors. Karakami made in Kyoto is called Kyokarakami. The origin of Karakami, which literally means “Chinese paper,” dates back to the Heian period (794-1192), when Japanese craftsmen in Kyoto began to make paper by modeling after the paper brought from China. Karakami was first used to write poems on it and then in the later periods it came to be used for Japanese sliding doors.
Karakami greatly developed in the middle of the Edo Period (1603-1868). In the book illustrations depicting craftsmen of this time, drawn in 1685 by Hishikawa Moronobu, a Kyokarakami craftsman working in his studio is included.
Kyokarakami is used for sliding doors at historical sites such as Katsura Detached Palace and temples, Japanese tea house and other traditional places. However, there is only one Kyokarakami producing studio in Kyoto today. There, more than 600 woodblock patterns made in the 17th century, each of which is elaborately hand-carved, are preserved and used according to the purpose of use.
The pigments are mixed with mica dust and an adhesive to create paint. The paint is brushed onto a fine mesh sieve covered with gauze and applied on the woodblock pattern by gently patting the sieve. The Washi paper is then pressed down with a gentle sweep of the hands and then carefully peeled away.
Mica dust in the pigments creates gentle and graceful gloss. It is exquisitely beautiful when the patterns on the paper twinkle softly along with flickering flames of a candle.
Wahon, or Wasohon, is a book bound in a traditional Japanese bookbinding style. In the old days, school textbooks were also bound in the Watoji style. Even today, Watoji is used for some books on religion including sutras, culture, art and hobbies.
Watoji techniques were developed from the techniques used for rolled books and fold books in China. There are several kinds of Watoji, which includes Yamatotoji (used for paper printed on both sides), Yotsumetoji (bound four times), Asanohatoji (decorated with hemp-leaf patterns), Kikkotoji (decorated with hexagonal patterns) and Kokitoji (the Kangxi Emperor style). The most commonly used style is Yotsumetoji.
Watoji developed mainly in Kyoto, which had been Japan’s economical, cultural and religious center for a long time. The tradition of using Watoji together with warm-felt Washi paper and gorgeous Kinrandonsu (Woven decorated silk) covers has been handed down in this ancient capital.
Tono washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Tono-cho, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. This paper originates in the writing paper used by samurai, who were working at Edo Yashiki (the daimyo’s residence in Edo).
Taking advantage of the clear streams of the Same River and the Iritono River, paper making had been done in this area for a long time. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Tono paper was known as Iwaki Washi paper at the market in Edo.
This paper is characterized by its softness, durability, and color; it becomes whiter across the ages. Only paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. It is said that the whole processes, which are all done by hand, take about 80 to 90 hoours. The traditional manufacturing procedures of cooking, beating, forming and drying create this beautiful paper with elegant gloss.
Kami-Kawasaki washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Kami-kawasaki, Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. It is designated as a prefecture’s Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The making of this paper dates back more than 1,000 years to the era reigned by Emperor Reizei (967-969). During the Heian period (794-1192), the paper from Kami-Kawasaki was highly valued by nobles as “the paper from the Deep North.” It is said that “Mayumi-gami,” which was praised by the famous female writers, Murasaki Shikibu and Seisho Nagon, was made in this town.
In the Edo period, the Niwa clan, the lord of the Nihonmatsu domain, promoted washi making and gave the town a license to produce paper, which led to the development of the present handmade washi paper industry.
Locally grown paper mulberry and tororo-aoi (the forming aid made from the roots of the tororo plant) are used as materials. Kami-Kawasaki washi paper has been made in the same processes and techniques of manufacture as was written in the Kamisuki Chohoki (the handbook of paper making) written in 1798.
Tozan washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Higashiyama, Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture. There are several opinions as to its origin, but it is presumed to have started in the late Heian period, when the Fujiwara clan in Hiraizumi (in present-day Iwate Prefecture) was defeated by the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. Some of the Fujiwara’s warriors, who escaped from Hiraizumi, settled down in the area around Higashiyama and began to make paper as one of their daily commodities. In the city of Ichinoseki, there is a town named “Kamiagari,” which means a paper producing village in Kanji, from which this town is thought to be the birthplace of Tozan washi paper.
Only locally grown paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. The original techniques have been precisely handed down to create high quality handmade washi paper, which is characterized by its natural color of paper mulberry, elegance, and durability. This simple-tasted paper is use for many purposes including Japanese sliding door paper, caligraphy, name cards and certificate paper. Tozan washi paper is a part of cultural heritage that was left by the Fujiwara clan of Hiraizumi.