Yagumo Honjin is the former residence of the Kowata family, which was one of the wealthiest land owner families in Izumo province (present-day Shimane Prefecture). Carrying on a brewing industry, the family also served as O-Shoya (the officer that ruled Shoya of each village).
This grand building with a floor area of 2,640 m2 standing on 3,940 m2 land was constructed in 1733. In the Edo period, the residence was used as honjin (an inn for the nobility and daimyo), where the lord of the Matsue domain stayed when he made an inspection tour around the domain territory.
After World War II, the residence was open to public as a Japanese restaurant and inn, where guests can enjoy its gorgeous interior furnishings. Yagumo Honjin was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1969.
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.
Ainu is an ethnic group on the Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Its culture uses a very distinctive pattern called Ainu-monyou or Ainu pattern for their clothes, furniture and ceremonial instruments.
Ainu have many differing designs largely based on two basic patterns: one is a swirl pattern called Moreu in Ainu language and the other is a parenthesis pattern called Aiuushi which means things with thorns. The patterns are designed not only for decoration, but also have some symbolic effect of warding off evil spirits. They are commonly embroidered in cuffs, collars and the hem of clothes. By looking at the pattern one can tell which region it comes from. There are many theories as to the origin of the patterns, but there is no definite explanation.
To express their fondness for the opposite sex, Ainu women used to give an embroidered tekunpe (a cloth to cover the back of the hand and wrist) and hoshi (a cloth to cover the shin) with Ainu pattern while men used to give menokomakiri (small sword) curved with Ainu pattern. Ainu people believed they imparted part of the soul to their handmade crafts and valued them accordingly.
Nowadays, Ainu patterns have more design varieties and have wider applications such as for skirts and blouses.
Even though a dining table is an item from a western interior, this table invokes nostalgia in people, the feeling you get when you experience something familiar. It is completely made of cedar(from 75mm thick planks), which comes from Miyazaki Prefecture. For the joint between the table surface board and leg, it uses the ‘Shikuchi’ method of joinery, which is commonly seen in Japanese architecture. ‘Shikuchi’ is a technique that links pillar and girder. The perfect interrelation of angle, surface and pillar makes the interior modern. The table reminds us of a pillar in a house that is present just beside us.
■ BEPPU Dining Table ・ Pure cedar (Oil Varnished) ・ W×D×H 1800mm×825mm×700mm ・ Designed by Makoto Koizumi
This geometric table with lacquer-coated carving was originally created as a display piece for the Milano Salone. Craftsmen were not used to working on the unusual patterns and size of a table such as this. In general, pictures were on the lacquer coated cravings, not geometrical designs. Some voices even exclaimed, “This project might be better done by machines!”. On the other hand, with a machine, there would be risks of pigments spreading into the grooves of the carving, during the lacquer coating.However, the craftsmen’s pride motivated them to create this table. When the table was completed, it gave a rich impression that could not have been machine-made. ‘It was difficult, though I had this chance to encounter a completely different set of values. This gave me a new idea in spatial craft making”, one craftsman commented with pleasure after completing the table. As a result, this table is a unique fusion of design and craft.A new state appears in which the environment is arranged to make design and craft combine and function together.
Table “Tenhan”・Lacquer-coated carving・ SizeW×D×H (mm) 800×800×25 (not including the leg)・ Designed byIntenionallies
This is a cabinet with doors made of flat bamboo material.
Most bamboo crafts have a softly curved shape that takes advantage of its elasticity. It is rare to use flat bamboo material for furniture like this. The way the bamboo is woven is called hemp-leaf weaving: three thin bamboos are run through a hexagonal bamboo shape that looks like a hemp leaf.
The cabinet is finished with coloring from carbonization; that is, the bamboo is turned to a dark brown shade after exposure to high-temperature and pressure steam.
The cabinet is finished with urushi (Japanese lacquer) that is layered on cloth pasted to the body. The colors of urushi and the carbonized bamboo create an impression of long-cherished antique furniture.
■ Cabinet (for private use)
・ hemp-leaf weaving, carbonization-coloring
・designed by ＭＬＩＮＡＲＩＣ ＨＥＮＲＹ ＆ ＺＥＲＶＵＤＡＣＨＩ ＬＴＤ
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Toyooka willow basketry is hygroscopic, moss-proof, and light in weight, and takes on more relish as it is used longer. Making of this willow craft has been handed down in Toyooka City and Yofu City, Hyogo Pref. for as long as 1,200 years. The craft dates back to the Nara period (710-794), and there is a willow basketwork box among the treasures at Shosoin Repository in Nara.
The area around the Maruyama River in Toyooka Basin was suitable for growing Salix koriyanagi, so farmers in this area started to make basketwork items during their agricultural off-season. Until about 40 years ago, it was common to pack personal belongings in a willow basket and send it by rail when young men go up to Tokyo from their hometown. However, willow baskets were replaced by plastic products with high economic growth. At the present time, these baskets have gained popularity again among the people who are interested in using traditional items with a new taste, mainly for interior decoration.
Yusoku Weaves are the techniques of weaving used for fabrics for the ancient formal clothing in Japan. Yusoku patterns are created by the weaving techniques including nishiki (Japanese brocade), aya (twill weaving), uki-ori (float weave), futae-ori (double technique brocade), and sha (silk gauze). These techniques, taking twists and turns, have been handed down up to the present time, used in the clothing for imperial ceremonies, shrine priests’ ceremonial costumes, Buddhist priests’ gowns, and Shinto shrines’ sacred treasures. The fascination of Yusoku Weaves lies in their beautiful colors as well as in their enchanting woven patterns. Hyoji Kitagawa (1936-), a recognized authority on Yusoku Weaves, was designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in 1999. He was born as the second son of Heiro Kitagawa, who was also a designated Living National Treasure and the head of Tawaraya in Kyoto, an old and established weaving shop in Nishijin, Kyoto. Hyoji succeeded his father as the 18th-generation head of Tawaraya in 1988. His skills and techniques are highly evaluated, and up to now, he has made textiles for a lot of imperial ceremonies including the coronation ceremony of Emperor Heisei and the marriage ceremony of Prince Akishino. Thinking of making Yusoku Weaves popularized to the general public, he has now energetically engaged in making kimono obi (sash).