NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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調べ緒 Shirabe-o Shirabeo

Jp En

Shirabeo, or formally called Shirabe, is a set of ropes used for Kotsuzumi (a small hand drum), Otsuzumi (a large hand drum) and Shime-daiko (a rope-tuned drum). Shirabeo does not only hold the drum heads in place but also tunes the pitch of drums. The pitch can be varied by squeezing the ropes with the left hand while striking the drum with the right. Shirabeo is an indispensable part of drums used in classical Japanese music such as Noh, Kabuki and Nagauta and folk music.

For a long time until around 1877, when a professional tuner came into existence, any durable strings on hand were used for tuning. Today, a code for Shirabeo is made of two Japanese linen ropes twisted each other, after which as many as 25 detailed processes are given. The rope used for Shirabeo must be elastic so that it comes back to its original place after being pulled by the player and at the same time it must be soft so that the player’s hand skins are not damaged after playing for a long time. Highly elaborate techniques and long experience are required to produce such ropes.
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とんぼ玉 Tonbo-dama Dragonfly Ball

Jp En

'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string.  In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.

The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.

They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed.  Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
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【環】 Kan The Character for Cycle, Ring, Surround

Jp En

'Kan' (as in 環境 'Kankyo': environment, surroundings) has a form that shows a rather deep meaning. The upper part of the character is 'eye.' ○ means 'gem' or 'precious stone.' Apart from the character form made up of these three elements, there is also a character form with the 'gem' classifier. The 'gem' classifier (the character's radical on the left) takes the form of a 'cord' passing through three 'gems.'

Actually, 'Kan' is related to funeral customs and the belief in resurrection from death and faith. As the 'eye' above is open, it symbolizes resurrection from death. In antiquity, it was the custom to bury a dead person with his or her possessions. This character takes the form of a gem around the neck of the deceased's dress. As can be seen in the character 含, there also was a custom of placing a gem in the deceased's 口 mouth.

Dr. Shirakawa mentions, in works such as 'Koshiden: The Life of Confucius,' that Zhuang Zi (in 'The True Classic of Southern (Cultural) Fluorescence') often describes such customs as above. However, as is to be expected from a leading Daoist, he is rather critical and negative. For example, in Zhuang Zi's 'Miscellaneous Chapters, Esoteric Things,' he satirizes Confucians who retrieve gems attached to corpses following exact descriptions of the deceased's possessions in 'The Book of Odes,' which later Confucians have regarded as a moral authority. Dr. Shirakawa has pointed out that in the work of Nishida Kitaro, a representative philosopher of Japan, one can see good influence from Zhuang Zi, who, in a sense, has philosophized the world of Chinese characters. In this respect, Kanji have a dimension that connects the past with the present.

環境 'Kankyo: environment' is closely related to the fate of mankind. Wouldn't it be a really appropriate character to think about when maintaining a healthy environment?
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民芸陶器(縄文象嵌) Mingei-touki(joumon-zougan) Minge Pottery, Jomon Zogan

Jp En

Mingei is an abbreviation of “minshu-teki kogei,” which menas  “hand-crafted art of ordinary people.” The Mingei products are mostly ordinary and utilitarian objects. The word “Jomon” literally means “patterns of rope” and “Zogan” is a damascene technique. Mingei pottery Jomon Zogan is a style of pottery which involves using silk rope to make impressions in the wet clay and filling the patterns with white slips of clay, which creates clear contrast with the black color of the buisque.

Jomon Zogan style of pottery was created by Tatsuzo Shimaoka (1919-2007), a designated National Living Treasure. He studied pottery in Mashiko, where he became an apprentice of Shoji Hamada, one of mingei’s founding proponents. Based on the techniques in clay kneading and glazing he acquired in Mashiko and the unpretentious creative spirit of mingei, he developed his own pottery of Jomon Zogan. His sober but innovative style of pottery has been highly esteemed at home and abroad.
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能面 翁 Noumen Okina Okina Noh Mask

Jp En

Although Okina Noh mask is one of the most significant masks in Noh plays, it actually existed before the formation of Noh play.
It is thought to originate from Kagura Dance which became popular in Yamato era and was performed by a head of the local clan at an occasion of cerebration. Okina mask was regarded as a mask of a god and considered sacred.
During the Heian and Kamakura periods when Noh was still known Sarugaku-noh, the play performed by Sarugaku troupes was called “Okina Sarugaku”. The play took the shikisanba form in which celebration dances by three Okina characters: Okina, Sanba Sarugaku and Chichii, were performed. This style became the base of today’s Okina Noh play.
Okina mask, also known as Hakushikijou, has a distinctive ancient look that is not seen in other Noh masks. The mask has raggedy eye brows as if balls of cotton were attached, a happy smile with letter “へ” shaped eyes and the detached chin style called Kiriago. This sacred elderly mask is believed to be a god who brings peace, rich harvests, family prosperity and longevity.
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能面 黒色尉 Noumen Kokushikijou Noh Mask Kokushiki-jo

Jp En

Kokushiki-jo is one of the Okina (a holy old man) masks used in Okina Sarugaku, which was the original form of Noh performance before Noh was given its final form in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The Okina masks include Hakushiki-jo, Nikushiki-jo, Chichi-no-jo and Enmei Kaja. Each expresses a rich laughter and all except Enmei Kaja display special features, such as the separate jaw part, and the form of the eyes and eyebrows. Kokushiki-jo has an especially long jaw and has an expression of a big laughter. This mask represents the god of rich harvest. Though looking like Hakushiki-jo, Kokushiki-jo has a wild and powerful impression. In the play “Okina,” shite (the main role) uses Hakushiki-jo or Nikushiki-jo, while Kokushiki-jo is used by the Kyogen actor dancing “Suzu-no-dan” for the part of Sanbaso.
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うさぎの吊るし飾り Usagi no tsurushi-kazari Rabbit Hanging Ornament

Jp En

Hanging ornaments such as these are known as 'tsurushi (hanging) kazari' or 'tsurushi hina'. These ornaments have been part of traditional culture since the Edo period, and the custom is rooted in the Izu-Inatori Onsen region. During the Hina (Girls) Festival, parents prayed for their daughter's happiness through a thread taken from a piece of old clothing. It is this hina hanging ornament that swings from both sides of the tiered stand used for the presentation of the hina dolls.
   This custom is called 'sagemon' in Yanagawa, Kyushu, 'kasafuku' in Sakata, Yamagata, and 'hanging hina' in Izu-Inatori. Only these three districts have inherited this historical patrimony, documents and photos.
   People entrust their wishes to the ornament. Some 110 ornaments have separate meanings. For example, the red eyes of a rabbit are supposed to have the power of causing and curing diseases. A rabbit is said to be the servant of a deity.
   It is lots of fun to decorate with ornaments that suit each season. Your favorite small objects will colour your life and enrichen your heart.
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袴 Hakama Hakama

Jp En

Hakama is a traditional Japanese clothing to cover the lower part of kimono. It is tied at the waist with attached belt. Until the Edo period it was worn only by men, but since the Meiji period it was also worn as a school uniform of girl-students. Hakama is in many cases worn in formal occasions, but dressing it is rather simple. It used to be daily clothing for samurai and is suitable for active movements. There are several kinds of Hakama; the umanori (horse-riding) type, which is divided like trousers, the andon (portable lantern) type like a skirt, no-bakama (field hakama) with narrowed bottoms, and tattsuke-bakama (with narrow calf coverings). Hakama is still worn on ceremonial occasions and martial arts like Kendo or Kyudo (Japanese archery).
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