Sado Tarai-bune or tub boat is a traditional fishing boat that was developed in Sado city, Niigata prefecture. It was in the early Meiji period when tarai-bune, made from a washtub, first appeared and they are still used for fishing in some places, although they are regarded as quite unusual among the fishing boats used in coastal areas.
The coastline of the Ogi peninsula in Sado is covered with many sunken rocks and small inlets and it has long been a source of kelp and turbans. There tarai-bune have been especially effective as they have a tight turning circle. In this area, tarai-bune were once so important that they would be part of a bride’s wedding trousseau.
At Yogi Port, there are some tarai-bune for tourists to ride or row.
When operating the boat, people are advised to stand the T-shaped paddle upright and, while looking at the desired destination, row the paddle as if they were drawing the number eight.
Sado tarai-bune are a traditional and practical fishing boats that were born of necessity, in response to local geographical features.
At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
Niigata lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Niigata and Kamo in Niigata Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. As a port used by Kitamae ships in the Edo period (1603-1868), various cultures were brought into this town both by land and sea, which contributed to the development of various craft techniques in this area.
It is said that the making of lacquer ware in Niigata started during the Genna era (1615-1624). In 1638, an authorized specialist area for selling lacquered goods was established under the name of “Wan-dana (bowl store)” in present-day Furumachi-dori Shichibancho.
Niigata lacquer ware is characterized by a number of different styles, which have been developed since the Meiji period (1868-1912). These techniques include take-nuri, which simulates the appearance of bamboo, contrived by Kyuhei Yoshida, kinma-nuri using gold leaf by Heikichi Meguro, isokusa-nuri (expressing sea-grass), hana-nuri (lacquering without grinding), nishiki-nuri (with patterns of gold) and ishime-nuri (with stone-like appearance). Among them, the solid and elegant take-nuri style is the most famous as the original lacquering techniqeu of Niigata lacquer ware.
Nishiki-goi, developed from black carp, are ornamental, brightly colored carp. They were initially bred in the area of Nagaoka and Ojiya City in the Niigata Prefecture.
The earliest account of these carp was found in Nihonshoki, the second oldest book of Japanese history, in which it was said that Emperor Keiko (71~130) intentionally released carp to a pond. This is now regarded as a proof that carp were already bred by people at that time.
Nishiki-goi were born from mutated carp that were raised for food in Nagaoka and Ojiya City during Bunka Bunsei period (1804~1830).
The villagers noticed and became fascinated by these brightly colored carp and they started to breed them for ornamental purposes. Since then, carp have been developed in more than 80 colors and patterns.
Nishiki-goi, which, translated literally, means brocaded carp, was said to be so named after a remark by the head of the Nigata Prefectural Fishery Agency who, astonished with their beauty, exclaimed “ This is the very brocaded carp!”
Nishiki-goi can now be appreciated around the world which the Japanese people can take pride in.
Blade forging industry in Yoita area in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, has a history of about 400 year. The products are well known for being sharp and trouble-free.
The making of Echigo Yoita forged blades dates back to 1578, when a retainer of Uesugi Kenshin invited wordsmiths from Kasugayama to the area and asked them to make various kinds of forged blades. In the Kyoto era (1716-1736), carpentry tools from Yoita became known as Tohi-nomi and Hyobu-nomi. At the start of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the wordsmiths in Yoita turned their hand to making plane blades, which soon became famous all over the country.
In 1986, chisels, planes, axes and chona (a Japanese ancient hand ax) were designated as a Traditional Craft Product, Echigo Yoita Forged Blades by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present METI).
Yoita forged blades are made by traditional hand forging even today, in which the hard steel being laid on the soft metal is heated, and then it is taken out of the forge and beaten with a spring hammer. Careful and hard-working efforts are made in these repeated tempering processes, which result in creating such reliable tools.
Tokamachi Akashi crepe is a traditional handicraft handed down in Toka-machi, Niigata Prefecture. This elegant fabric is suitable for a summer kimono due to its distinctive thinness and lightness like the wings of a cicada.
The weaving technique of Akashi crepe dates back to around the end of the 19th century, when a crape wholesale merchant brought back a sample roll of crepe cloth to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. He asked a local textile worker to create a new type of crepe fabric here in Tokamachi by studying the sample and adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya (silk crepe).
A great deal of effort was made to make an improvement in the ways of tightly twisting up threads, resulting in creating sukiya chirimen, which was named Akashi Chijimi, or Akashi Crepe. Even after that, several improvements such as waterproof finish were added to the product. Tokamachi Akashi crepes dominated the market with annual production of 200,000 rolls of fabric in the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Thread made of raw silk and dupion are used. In order to give the cloth its distinctive crepe effect, the weft is coated with starch and then put on a twisting machine and tightly twisted. Finally, the crepe effect is produced by rubbing the cloth in warm water, which produces its original winkling called “shibo (wave-shaped winkling).” Because of this winkling, the cloth does not stick to the skin and keeps you feeling cool. The climatic conditions of the town; the heavy snowfall, high humidity and little strong wind and the zest of local weaving workers have produced this elegant crepe fabric.
Mumyoi ware is a type of pottery made of mumyoi clay, which contains ferrous oxide and is obtained near the ancient goldmine on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. Originally, mumyoi was used for medical purposes such as relieving symptoms of palsy, digestive problems, burns, and helping to stop bleeding.
The pottery was first produced in 1819, when they were fired at relatively low temperature. The large-scale production adopting high-temperature firing was started in 1857. Unlike other clay wares, Mumyoi ware requires extra processing efforts such as raw-polish, a process that polishes the products with cotton cloth before firing, and a process of polishing with sand after firing.
As Mumyoi pottery is fired in a kiln at a high temperature, it becomes exceptionally hard. It is well-known that Mumyoi ware produces a clear metallic sound when tapped. The more it is used, the glossier it becomes. Mumyoi ware is more suitable for daily use rather than for decorative purposes.
Katakai Festival serves as the autumn festival of Asahara Shrine in Katakai Town in Ojiya City, Niigata Prefecture. It is a historic festival handed down for 400 years. Held for two days from September 9 to 10 every year, the festival is famous for its impressive fireworks, which are considered contributions to the shrine as offerings to the deities.
During the festival, the shrine performs the rituals such as Tama-okuri, at which a firework's explosive device is presented as an offering to the shrine, and Tsutsu-hiki, at which a tube for launching fireworks is offered to pray for the successful shooting of fireworks.
As the town of Katakai is the birthplace of 3-shaku dama (round fireworks with a circumference of about 90 cm), numerous 3-shaku dama fireworks are gorgeously shot up into the sky during the festival. The 4-shaku dama (120 cm in circumference) fireworks, which create an illumination of 800 meters in diameter in the sky, have also been successfully set off and recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest fireworks in the world.
As many as 15,000 fireworks in total number are displayed during the 2-day festival period. The giant fireworks blooming in the night sky above the town symbolize the pride of pyrotechnists in Katakai.