Amagoi Kasa-odori is a rain dance ritual performed at Noda Shrine in Noda Town, Kariya City, Aichi Prefecture, in late August every year. The dance is dedicated in front of the altar after the holy sake and candles are offered. The rain dance has been handed down for nearly 300 years since 1712. Although it was discontinued in the early Show period (1926-1989), it was revived by the local preservation group and has been performed to this day. It is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the city.
When the singers start to sing the rain-making song and the shrine priest performs the purification ritual, the dancers in yukata with the bottoms tucked up into the obi belts and the sleeves tucked up with red tasuki sashes and wearing the wide-brimmed straw hats appear in the dancing field. They stand face-to-face on both sides of the drums with short drumsticks called “Tsuroro” in their hands and start to dance in a refreshing manner. During the dance, the dancers look up at the sky to the blowing of the conch horns.
Do-gyoretsu Drum Parade serves as the annual festival of Matsue Shrine held on the 3rd Sunday in October every year in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. “Do” is a special drum made of paulownia tube and cow skin. It is a huge drum with a diameter of about 2 meters.
The origin of a Do drum dates back to 1724, when Princess Iwahime of the Fushimi-no-miya family, a branch of the Imperial Family in Japan, married into the 5th lord of the Matsue domain, Matsudaira Nobuzumi. The townspeople made a huge drum and beat it loud to celebrate their marriage.
On the day of the festival, two or three Do drums are placed on dozens of large floats, which are pulled by children in happi jackets and parade through the city. The parade is joined by about 2,000 citizens, accompanied by flutes and copper clappers called “Changara”. On the floats are young drum players beating the drums powerfully with fantastic quill techniques. The spectators can enjoy not only viewing the parade but also listening to the sound of this energetic festival echoing through the city.
Okawa paulownia chest is traditional furniture made in Okawa City, Fukuoka Pref. Furniture production in Okawa City has a history of 470 years and the city is Japan’s largest furniture production center. Okawa, which is located on the downstream of the Chikugo River, used to be a distribution center of lumber. Furniture production in this area started in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when Kumenosuke Enokizu applied his knowledge of ship carpentry to wood work. Then in the late Edo period, Kasaku Tanoue, who learned furniture making techniques of China and Holland, established the foundation of furniture-making in Okawa. The Paulownia chest is generally known for its damp-proof and fire resistive properties together with the beautiful grains. In addition to these merits, Okawa paulownia chest has a burglar-proof mechanism inside, giving special contrivance to metal hardware. Okawa paulownia chest is made of the top quality straight-grained boards, which gives massive appearance. It is a high-finished traditional product.
Paulownia geta are Japanese wooden clogs made from expensive Aidu paulownia in Fukushima Prefecture.
Aidu domain traditionally encouraged people to plant paulownia. Aidu paulownia is highly valued because of its beautiful grain and strength, a result of the Aidu's uniquely severe climate.
Sticky and glossy, silvery white wood, beautiful straight grain, high-density, clear annual rings and hardness; these are Aidu paulownia's characteristics. Paulownia geta make the best use of Aidu paulownia. Straight-grained wood that is glossy and beautiful is said to be the best.
Paulownia is light and absorbent. The white grain is pleasant and the geta are comfortable to wear. The 'karan karan' sound of paulownia geta is also airy and fresh.
In 1997, the making of paulownia geta was designated as a Fukushima Traditional Handicraft.
Nobuko Akiyama was born in 1928. Her real name is Nobuko Imai, while Nobuko Akiyama is her working name. She was designated a Living National Treasure for her 'costume dolls'.
In 1956, she studied under Obayashi Sono, a dollmaker. At this time, she absorbed the ways to work with traditional materials and techniques of dollmaking such as 'tuso' (a mixture of clay and paulownia), 'gluing with paper' and 'graining'. The costumes for her dolls are made with cloth from traditional late-Edo and early-Showa kimonos. In addition, the posture of her dolls can be freely adjusted.
The sophistication of the dolls and their costumes could only be possible because of the traditional materials she uses and her highly-trained skills. The character of the dollmaker appears in the dolls they make. Akiyama's dolls somehow have a 'warmth' as well as style.
Edo Kimekomi Dolls are made in Tokyo and Saitama. They are made by tucking and fixing cloth (usually brocade) costumes to grooves on the doll's body.
The first doll of this kind is said to have been made by a priest at the Jogamo Shrine in Kyoto, who fixed scraps of cloth to a notched piece of wood.
After that, kamo-hina dolls spread to Tokyo, where they came to be called Edo Kimekomi. By the end of the Edo period, many dolls of this type were being made.
The body of the doll is made from toso, which is paulownia powder mixed with wheat starch glue. Then, the body is notched and the costume is fixed to the grooves.
Edo Kimekomi Dolls have long, lean shapes and fine, delicate features: the contrast with the plumper Kyoto dolls is very interesting.