NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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山形鋳物 Yamagata-imono Yamagata Iron Casting

Jp En

In the middle of the Heian period, Minamotono Yoriyoshi visited Yamagata region in order to resolve the Battle of Abe Sadatou and Munetou. Foundry craftsmen accompanying Yoriyoshi discovered that the sand in the Mamigasaki River running through Yamagata City and the soil around Chitose Park were suitable for the iron casting process, and some of these people stayed and started production. This was the beginning of Yamagata iron casting.
It is reported that in 1356 when Shibano Kaneyori came to Yamagata and built Kasumiga Castle, nine local foundry men were ordered to make iron castings and offer their work to him.
In 1615, Seikichi Shouji, one of the nine most recognized craftsmen in Dou-machi, after visiting Kyoto to research the casting business there, invented “tatara”, a fan device that could be operated by foot. With this revolutionary device, the technology of Yamagata iron casting was established.
Around 1938, Dou-machi had forty production houses with about eight hundred workers. Both sides of the main street were mostly occupied by these manufacturers, continuously producing practical goods such as hibachi, tea kettles and Buddhist alter fittings.
In 1974, with continued prosperity, Do-machi, which had been the center of the casting industry for a long time, became too small to accommodate the flourishing businesses, and they were transferred to a new industrial complex called Yamagata Casting Industry Danchi in Imono-cho. The following year, Yamagata iron casting was recognized as a traditional art by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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京すだれ Kyou-sudare Kyosudare

Jp En

Kyosudare is a hand-woven bamboo blind, which is known as a luxury item. Today, most of these handmade blinds are made in Kyoto. It is a traditional furnishing item to create a cool and elegant atmosphere.

The origin of Kyosudare is Misu (literally meaning “Holy Blind”), an indispensable item at the Imperial Palace in the Heian period (794-1192). Since Misu were forbidden to be used for the homes of the townspeople, they used bamboo blinds with no edgings.

Bamboo blinds have been passed down through the ages as an art craft in Kyoto, where there are many shrines, temples, restaurants and other traditional places. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), the square angular bamboo rods became rounded and Zashiki-sudare (an interior blind), which had edges on all four sides, came to be known as Kyosudare and spread nationwide.

The reed blinds, whose materials come from the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, are thought to be especially of high-quality. Its practicality as a partition and sun shade and its charming design has made it a popular product, which has been exported to the West as well.
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郷原漆器 Gouhara-shikki Gohara Lacquer Ware

Jp En

Gohara lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Hiruzen, Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture. It is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture. It is said that the craft dates back to the Meitoku era (1390-1400) of the Muromachi period. The production reached its peak in the Edo period (1603-1868), when a lot of Gohara lacquer products were shipped to areas in the Sanin region.

Local chestnut wood is cut in a round slice, which is directly placed on a turner and shaped into a desired form, by which the grains of wood remain unimpaired. Then natural lacquer from Bicchu area (the southwestern part of the prefecture) is applied many times to create solid surface.

Because of its beautiful curbs of grains as well as the practicability for daily use, Gohara lacquered vessels are still loved by many people.
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仙台堆朱 Sendai-tsuisyu Sendai Tsuishu

Jp En

Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.

In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work
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小鹿田焼民陶祭 Onta-yaki-mintousai Onta Folk Pottery Festival

Jp En

Onta Folk Pottery Festival is held on the 2nd weekend of October every year in the mountain village of Sarayama in Ono Motoemachi, Hita City, Oita Prefecture. Onta pottery is a high-fired ceramic ware made in this area for more than 300 years. It is said that the first kiln was built in 1705 by a potter from the Chikuzen province (present-day Fukuoka Prefecture). Today, the traditional techniques are handed down by ten potters, who are producing practical and simple but very beautiful ceramic ware. The potters in the village were designated as a holder group of a National Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1995.

Onta Folk Pottery Festival is held in appreciation for the development of Onta pottery as well as for the founder, ancestral potters and customers who favors their products. Plates, dishes, tea cups, flower vases and so on are displayed in the garden of each potter’s work place and sold on the spot. A part of their works are displayed at Ono Folk Cultural Museum “Kototoi no Sato.” As people can get Onta ware at the prices much lower than usual, the quiet village of Sarayama, where one can only hear the grinding sounds of the “karausu (a crusher that uses river flow for molding clay),” is bustled with tourist on the festival day.
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加賀毛針 Kaga-kebari Kaga Artificial Fly

Jp En

The origin of Kaga's artificial fly fishing hook industry dates back to the Edo period, when fishing sweet fish was a privilege for the samurai class. Fishers made their own fishing flies and competed in not only the fishing results but also the beauty of their fishing flies. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the general public was allowed to enjoy fishing, and selling fly fishing hooks became businesses. Artificial fishing flies were used only in Kaga province in those days, but in 1890, when Kaga's artificial fly fishing hooks were displayed at Industrial Expo, they were praised for their beauty by the people all over the nation.
Making a fly requires exquisite and high-leveled techniques, by which elaborate work is given to a tiny fishing hook less than 1 cm long to create a perfect lure mimicking an insect in the water. Lacquering techniques or gold leaf techniques are sometimes used to give resemblance to worms swimming on or in the water. It is an artistic work made by master craftsman’s skills and high aesthetic feelings.
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駿河塗下駄 Suruga-nuri-geta Suruga Lacquered Wooden Clogs

Jp En

Suruga lacquered wooden clogs are traditional handicraft products made in Shizuoka Pref. In the Edo period, Shizuoka developed as the center of the Tokaido Road, where things in fashion in every part of the country were quickly introduced and so were foot ware. Making of lacquered wooden clogs dates back to the early Meiji period (around 1878), when a craftsmen, Kyujiro Honma, started to coat wooden clogs with lacquer. In the Taisho period (1912-1926), some craftsmen engaged in Suruga lacquer ware turned over to wooden clog making and gave various contrivances in their techniques. After the World War II, the demand for wooden clogs declined and wooden clogs became the articles of taste. Today, expensive products such as the ones with Makie (sprinkling of gold and silver) or hand-carved decoration or lacquered ones are popular. Shizuoka Pref. is now the top producer of high quality lacquered wooden clogs. This crafts is a fruitage of a fine tradition and craftsmen’s painstaking contrivance.
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鹿角細工 Shikatsuno-saiku Shikatsuno-Zaiku (antler-work)

Jp En

Shikatsuno-Zaiku (antler-work) is the traditional handicraft handed down in Nara Pref. in which deer horn is cut and filed into products and finished by burnishing. It is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by the prefecture. The origin of this craft goes back to the Edo period (the late 17th century), when an autumn event of Deer-Horn Cutting Ceremony began to be held in the town of Nara. In those days products for daily use such as spatulas for kimono sewing, chopsticks, and sash-clips were mainly made. Bow-grips were also made and dedicated on the occasions of the reconstruction of Ise Shrine. The color and transparency of a deer-horn subtly differs by the part such as root, tip, surface and core. It also gets glossy with the lapse of time. The main products today are accessories and ornaments as tourists’ souvenirs and daily necessities such as kashi-yoji (used instead of a knife) for wagashi (Japanese confectionary), key-chains, and letter openers.
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