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.
The word “chise” in the Ainu means “a house,” which could be seen in the Ainu Kotan (village). It was normally built in Yosemune-zukuri style（a square or rectangular building.）The building materials of an Ainu house varied according to geographical and climatic conditions. Bamboo leaves, wild grasses, thatch, reed grass and tree bark were used for roofs and walls, which were tied with grapevine or tree bark. The wood of chestnut, Japanese Judas tree and Amur maackia were used for supporting pillars, which were directly set up without foundation stones. A chise has three windows; the one in the back is a rorun-puyar (god’s window), through which the gods entered, the one on the right is for letting in light, and the one near the entrance is for cooking ventilation. The orientation of the houses in a kotan (village) is identical; in most of the cases, a house is oriented from east to west with the god’s window facing the east. A chise was 33 to 99 square meters in area. It was a warm and comfortable home of the Ainu in the old days.
Edo sudare blind-making is a traditional handicraft which uses natural materials like bamboo.
In her 'Pillow Book', the Heian-period authoress Sei Shonagon confirms that sudare were used at court. By the early Edo period, the main techniques of sudare-making were firmly established and there were expert sudare craftsmen.
Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), the famous Ukiyoe (woodblock-print) artist often depicted sudare in his works, such as 'Coolness in Hyakka-en', 'A Beauty behind a Sudare' and 'Fuzoku Sandan Girls'. Indeed sudare were common features in the Edo period.
Edo sudare directly express such natural materials as bamboo, lespedeza (Japanese clover), cattail and reed. Bamboo is the most popular material and it is picked between the autumn and spring equinox, when it is firm and takes on beautiful colors.
Edo sudare are still used today as a cool interior decoration and are essential to the elegance of summer.
Kunenan located in Kanzaki-machi, Saga Pref. is the villa and garden with an area of 68,000 square meters, which Yataro Itami, a very successful businessman in this prefecture, spent 9 years from 1892 in building. The villa has an Irimoya style (hip-and-gable) thatched roof, clay walls with sugi-koshibari (cedar boards to finish the lower part), renmado (windows with bamboo lattice), and nure-en (shallow veranda), which creates rustic atmosphere. The garden is known for its scenic beauty of the season. Azalea in spring and red leaves in autumn are outstanding but more exquisite is the mosses naturally growing all over. It looks as though a green velvet carpet is spread and creates the ambience of Wabi-sabi aesthetics. Kunenan is open to the public only for 9 days (November 15 to 23) when trees in the garden turn red. It was designated as a national asset in February 1995.