Mononofu is an old term for a samurai warrior. It is also a brand name created by a man who loves history. The Mononofu brand expresses the uninhibited and innovative spirit of the Sengoku period or the Warring State period.
Hideki Tanaka, the creator of the brand, boldly joins two seemingly contrary elements: the promotion of modern art and the reproduction of traditional craftwork. Mr. Tanaka, who first saw a collection of unusual kabuto helmets for warriors at the National Museum, was struck by their appearance and this sparked the idea of incorporating their design into a new indie T-shirt business.
Since each of Monofuku’s T-shirts is an expression of the unique creativity and aesthetic sense of its artist, Mr. Tanaka sees parallels in the creation process of both his T-shirts and the kabuto helmets. He believes that, if the samurai warriors were alive today, they would embrace modern designs and materials in their expressions of beauty.
Japanese boxwood combs are not simply tools for the coiffure but also hair ornaments for women. Combs have an ancient history in Japan. They are depicted on ancient clay tomb figures of the Jomon Period (up to 200 B.C.), and a boxwood comb is referred to in a poem in the Manyoshu. Boxwood combs became objects of luxury; some are beautifully carved and others are decorated with Makie (gold and silver sprinkling). They have been flattered women’s beauty all through the times.
Boxwood combs attract special attention in these days as effective hair care tools, for they don’t produce static electricity, they don’t cause split ends or hair breakage, and their strokes are smooth and gentle.
In Kyoto, the production of boxwood combs started in the Heian period (794-1192). Because softness and gentleness of boxwood are ideal not only to human scalps but also to many traditional handicraft materials, boxwood combs are used as tools for producing wide variety of craft products typical to Kyoto such as Tsuzure-ori (tapestry weaving) in Nishijin and Kyo-dolls.
Masako Ban is an internationally successful accessory designer. After working at Ban Shigeru Architects she turned her skills to becoming a graphic designer. In 2001, while in London, self taught she started working with accessory design. Upon returning to Japan, she founded her own company, “acrylic”. In 2005, her first collection was selected for the MOMA Design Store in New York, and in November of the same year, she opened her own store also called acrylic in Tokyo. Her work is characterized by simplicity in design, with the materials and finish also playing a very important part in the final product. As can be seen from the cutting technique used with the acrylic and sponge, she shows appreciation and respect for Japanese craft techniques and prefers to manufacture in Japan. In the future she plans to focus on expanding various collaboration series with Japanese traditional craft artists.
Technology in Japan allows for the production of the world’s thinnest gold foil. It is so advanced that gold alloy the size of a ten-yen coin can be stretched to the size of one tatami (traditional Japanese flooring: approximately 1.6562 m2). The technology for creating foil is no longer limited to just gold, but to all kinds of metals, which allows for a wider variety of colors as well. The ring above is made of acrylic fiber, foiled with sterling silver. The integration of the foil’s thinness with the absolute clarity of the acrylic fiber results in a ring that has ice-like characteristics, it being light, airy and translucent. The thinly stretched silver foil gives this ring the appropriate hard texture and feel that sterling silver should have.
-Sterling silver-foil finish
Design: Masako Saka (acrylic)
Produced by: Ubushina,Yudai Tachikawa
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.
Iga kumihimo is a traditional braiding handicraft from the city of Iga in Mie Prefecture. Kumihimo braid uses silk threads for the main thread combined with gold and silver threads. It is woven in a traditional manner using kumidai braiding stands.
The origins of Iga kumihimo date back beyond the Nara period. In the Heian period, elaborate braids began to be used for Buddhist altar objects and ritual articles. When samurai became a prevalent class, kumihimo braiding was used on weaponry. Even after the Meiji period, the techniques of traditional kumihimo were still familiar in the world of Japanese kimono, being used on obi sashes, as well as haori and hakama from the Edo period.
The beautifully dyed silk threads intermingle with other threads, creating kumihimo braid's distinctive texture and quality. The special feature of kumihimo is its way of beautifully combining various elements. In 1976, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated Iga kumihimo as a Traditional Craft of Japan.
It is believed that the rosary existed before the birth of Buddha. In religious Brahman texts, it states that Tamonten (Vaisravana), Benzaiten (Sarasvati) and Bonten (Brahma) had an object called 'renju'. It is also believed that the 'renju' is the original form of the Buddhist rosary.
In ancient times a king is recorded as consulting Buddha for political measure. Consequently Buddha told the king to create a rosary and wear it. As told, the king made a wooden rosary not only for himself but for his men also. Later the people concentrated together for happiness. As a result, the rosary brought welfare and the people were happy.
Buddhist rosaries are made of crystal, a material known to clean everything, such as spirit and body. It is also said that crystal leads to tranquility and peace. These rosaries may remove misfortune from the owner.
Edo Bekko is a tortoiseshell handicraft made in Tokyo, applied to eyeglass frames, gold-lacquered objects and carvings.
Bekko has a long history: a biwa (Japanese lute) preserved in the Shoso-in imperial treasure house (dating to the C8th AD) features the shell of a hawksbill turtle. In the Edo period, more sophisticated gluing techniques led to more complicated effects using bekko.
Hawksbill turtle shell is the main material for Edo bekko, and is used to make a variety of stationery items and accessories.
Hawksbill turtles live in the vicinity of the equator and can measure up to 180 cm in length and 200 kg in weight after 50 or 60 years. The number of shells is always 13; the transparent part, which comprises only 10% of the shell, is treasured, the other parts, which are black, are called 'fu'.
Edo Bekko is a very valuable and graceful craft.