Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
Himetani Ware is one of the three earliest Iroe (decorated with colorful underglaze painting) porcelains in Japan. Others are Imari and Kutani wares. This porcelain was made by a small number of potters including Ichiemon for only a short period of time in the late 17th century.
It is characterized by the colorful patterns painted on the surface of thin white porcelains, leaving enough margins. The motifs include red maple leaves, a peony flower on a branch or Sansui landscape painting with a flying goose. The paintings look all the more beautiful for the simple composition and plain brushwork.
This Wabi and Sabi aesthetics is favored by the art collectors today. Its excellence was acknowledged and designated as a Hiroshima Important Cultural Property in 1971.
Fukushima kokeshi dolls are a unique handicraft of Fukushima Prefecture.
A kokeshi is a wooden doll made on a lathe. Its history dates back to the end of the Edo period and it was first sold as a souvenir to tourists visiting hot springs in the Tohoku region.
Kokeshi dolls lost their popularity as toys in the Taisho period because of the rise of new toys. However, adults began to collect kokeshi as a hobby. There are 10 different kinds of regional kokeshi and the Fukushima one is called 'tsuchiyu'. The main production areas of these kokeshi are Tsuchiyu Hot Spring, Izaka Hot Spring, Dake Hot Spring, Fukushima City and Koriyama City.
The defining features of Fukushima kokeshi are a ring on the head and a red pattern called 'kase' between the forelock and the hair. The body is patterned mainly with lines.
Fukushima kokeshi is a cute traditional handicraft that is more than beautiful.
In the ancient times, a Japanese sword was more than a weapon for a samurai warrior. It was the symbol of “the soul of bushi.” Therefore, to keep a sword always sharp, polished and serene represented the bushi’s heart and pride. A bushi warrior sat in front of his sword and silently asked for a teaching when he was in doubt or in trouble. Today Japanese swords are loved by a lot of people all over the world as works of art. The name “Japanese sword” can be seen an old record in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) in China, and it is said that Japanese swords were already exported to foreign countries as early as in the Heian to Kamakura periods. Akitsugu Amata (1927-), a contemporary master swordsmith in Niigata Pref. was designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in 1997. He was fascinated by fine swords made in the Kamakura period and since then he has been making efforts to realize his goal of duplicating the ancient steel to create an excellent sword. He has visited the ruins of ancient iron mills and made several experiments to make iron with the duplicated blast furnaces. He is still making persistent efforts to create his ideal sword.
Shikki (lacquerware) is a traditional Japanese craftwork where layers of lacquer are coated carefully on to a vessel or artifact. There are many aficionados who collect Kyoshikki (Kyoto lacquerware) for its high quality and the beauty of what the Japanese call wabi and sabi that the craft embodies. Kyoshikki has several characteristics, such as the elegant and sophisticated design accompanied with solidness, and a structural beauty both on the surface and in the round, and the fine look of the completed product. Today, it is not used for the household, but more as a luxury item used mainly in tea ceremonies.Its history goes back to the Nara period. Influenced by Tang China, new techniques had been devised using the technique of maki-e (in which gold and silver powder is sprinkled on before coating with lacquer). When the Heian court established its capital on the site of present-day Kyoto, the art of lacquerware continued to developed there. After the Muromachi period, Kyoshikki spread out as the practice of tea parties became morepopular in Kyoto. Kyoto achieved nationwide recognition as the center of the lacquer industry. The motivating force for this recognition was the work and techniques that a number of masters, such as Korin Ogata and Kouetsu Honami, had developed, and the high quality and artistry that the skilled hands had created.
Nambu Diamond Embroidery is the needlework handed down in Nambu district centered around the present Hachinohe City, Aomori Pref. This craft dates back to 200 years ago, when the farmers were only allowed to wear clothes made of hemp or ramie, and cotton must be used only as thread. The women in the farming villages then contrived the way to reinforce the fabric and retain heat by stitching cotton thread into the hemp cloth. The skill has been handed down up to the present and become traditional crafts. It is characterized by various kinds of beautiful diamond patterns. There are collectors who have collected Nambu Diamond Embroidery works made in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods. Currently it is not only popular among handicraft lovers but also among known to ordinary consumers all over the country.