NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/4/13


加賀獅子頭 Kaga-shishigashira Kaga Lion Head

Jp En

Lion Head is a traditional handicraft handed down in Ishikawa Prefecture for hundreds of years. Lion Head is an indispensable element for Lion Dances in Kaga, in which the performers dance with the lion heads in their hands. The origin of Kaga lion head was that when Maeda Toshiie, the founder of Kaga clan, entered into Kanazawa Castle, the townspeople of Kanazawa celebrated it by dedicating a lion dance. Lion dances flourished as a means of martial arts training and lion heads were placed in each town as guardians. Production of lion heads also flourished because of the custom in private homes of displaying a lion head in the tokonoma alcove to celebrate the birth of a boy.
The materials used in lion heads are paulownia from the foot of Mt. Hakusan. Sculptors or busshi (sculptors of Buddhist images) manufacture lion heads with Itto-bori (one-knife carving) techniques. Kaga lion head is characterized by its glaring eyes, which gives a gallant and powerful impression. As it is hand-carved, no two products are exactly alike. Craftsman’s neat skill is fully exerted in this craft product.
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2007/4/12


旧真野家住宅 Kyushinnokejutaku Former House of Shinno Family

Jp En

This farmhouse is presumed to have been built in the late 17th century or even earlier. Very old architectural style is used for this house. The three sides of the housed except the front are huge walls with a thickness of more than 20 cm. The lath used on top of rafters is made of round bamboo and other miscellaneous wood. The house has two main transverse beams, which are supported by pillars. Horizontal beams are used at two points to support the main transverse beams instead of the pillars when removed to and reconstructed at the present place. All the other pillars stand in the original forms. The pillars are made of square timbers of the same size, which were scarped with chona (a Japanese hand ax) and finished with a planer. The inner room called “dei” has an alcove, which was very rare in those days. As is seen in old-fashioned houses, the heavy lintels are used instead of tie beams to fit around pillars. To get less air circulation for the sake of warmth, doma (the earth floor space) and the adjacent room are partitioned with a wood door with a lattice window and the store room has a single sliding door.
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2007/3/12


旧杉山家住宅 Kyuu-sugiyamake-jyuutaku Former Residence of Sugiyama Family

Jp En

This is a designated National Important Cultural Property located in Tondabayashi-cho, Tondabayashi City, Osaka Pref. The Sugiyama family was one of the old families that founded and administered the town in the Edo period (1603-1868). The family carried on sake brewery business at this house from the Edo period to the Meiji period (1868-1912). At its peak, there were over 70 employees working for them.
The interior part of the house is in good a state of preservation. The scrolls picture of an old pine tree hung in the large alcove and the sliding door paintings were all painted by the Kano School painters, from which we can imagine the prosperity the family enjoyed. This house is thought to be the oldest existing tradesmen’s house in Japan.
It is also known as the birthplace of Tsuyuko Isonokami, a poet of Myojo School in the Meiji period. Her personal memento, letters and the description panel are displayed.
The former residence of the Sugiyama family is a historically important place that tells us the life style of townspeople in the near modern ages.
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2007/2/21


うそ替え Uso-gae Uso-gae

Jp En

Uso-gae is one of the Shinto rituals practiced on January 7th every year at Dazaifu Tenman-guu Shrine in Zaifu, Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
It is based on a homonymous word play of “鷽” (pronounced uso, meaning a bullfinch bird) and “嘘” (pronounced also uso, meaning a lie). Attendees to the ritual bring their own small wooden bullfinch.  They gather inside a sacred area of the shrine enclosed by straw festoons and exchange their wooden birds with each other saying “Let’s change, Let’s change”.
It is believed that, by doing so, people can cleanse themselves of all the lies they made unintentionally or circumstances forced them to make, and ask the deified spirit of Sugawara Michizane for forgiveness and to be given good fortune to start a new year.  
The exchanged wooden bullfinch is later enshrined in the household Shinto altar or a sacred alcove in the house to receive the year’s good fortune.
Uso-gae is a Shinto ritual similar to the concept of repenting in Christianity.
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2007/1/11


旧恵利家住宅 Kyuu-erike-jyuutaku Old Eri Family Residence

Jp En

The Old Eri Family Residence (Kyuu-Erike-Jyuutaku) is located in Ookawa-machi, Sanuki, Kagawa Prefecture, and is the oldest farmhouse residential building in all of Kagawa.
   It was built in the 17th century, and originally was found in Nina, Ookawa-machi. The Erike ancestors bore their surname from this land, and settled on the estate. Currently, the house has been relocated to the Miroku Natural Park.
   The layout of the house is known as 'sanma-madori' (three-room plan) and is harmonized by a style distinct to Eastern Kagawa. Its most distinguishing characteristics are the thatched roof, built using a technique called 'tsukudare', along with the simple decorations. The main beam of the house efficiently utilizes the bend of the tree, and is exposed at the ceiling. The ceiling of the house is formed by woven bamboos, covered with soil and clay. This kind of ceiling is called 'yamato tenjyo' ('yamato ceiling').
   An 8-jyo (8-tatami) Japanese-style room with a tokonoma (alcove) is laid out, along with a traditional porch that is flooded with warm, luminous sunlight. Seeing people bask in the sun on the porch somehow brings a feeling of nostalgia, giving the house a sentimental feel. It has been nominated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.
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2007/1/9


京表具 Kyo-hyogu Kyo-hyogu (Kyoto Picture-Framing and Mounting)

Jp En

Hyogu (picture frames/hangers) are commonly used for  Buddhist objects in temples and also for scroll pictures hung in the 'tokonoma' recess in Japanese rooms.

Hyogu have a history of 1200 years, during which time the techniques of making them became increasingly refined. Today, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has designated Kyo-hyogu as a traditional handicraft of Japan.

The history of mounting pictures to frames goes back to the Heian period, when picture scrolls from China arrived with the Buddhist faith. Those pictures that came from China were framed in Japan. Later, it became common to mount the pictures with cloth and paper to make them up as scroll pictures, 'byobu' screens, 'tsuitate' walls and 'fusuma' sliding doors for preservation and appreciation.

Nowadays, the techniques of framing/mounting are used in various ways. In practical areas of our everyday lives, they are used as 'fusuma' sliding doors and wall decorations. They are also used in arts and crafts, as scroll pictures, frame decorations, 'byobu' screens, picture albums and scrolls. The techniques may also be used in restoration, which requires high levels of technique and experience. Each area demands unique expertise.
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2006/11/29


瑞巌寺本堂(国宝) Zuiganji-houndou(Kokuhou) Zuiganji Temple (national treasure)

Jp En

Zuiganji Temple, located in Matsushima Town, Miyagi prefecture, was established by EnjinJikaku-monk. It is one of the greatest Zen Buddhism temples in Oshu, the northeastern region of Japan. It is famous also for having one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, the others being Amahashi-date and Miyajima.

Most buildings of the temple were built beginning in1609 during the Edo period by Date Masamune, using the style from the Momoyama period and construction took almost five years. He summoned 130 professional builders from Kyoto and Negoro in Wakayama prefecture and ordered high-quality wooden materials such as Japanese cypress, cedar and zelkova from Kumano. Using such a team and materials gives an indication of how powerful he was in Oshu. The details are extraordinary including luxurious and bright paintings on paneled doors, fan lights, sliding doors and recesses. The main building of the temple is designated as a national treasure and consists of 10 rooms.  It was built in Irimoya architectural style and special roof-tile way.  Kannon-bosatsu has been, in peace and quiet, dedicated in it.

The temple is very precious because it has the unique hallmark style of Momoyama.  It is the ultimate in beauty composed passionately by a strong military commander and expert workmen.
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2006/11/27


床の間 Toko-no-ma Tokonoma (alcove room)

Jp En

A tokonoma is a small raised alcove in a kyakuma, a Japanese style reception room, where hanging scrolls are hung and Ikebana (arranged flowers) are displayed. A tokonoma represents Japanese consideration for others. It has a raised floor and was originally used for the honored seat for a guest of high rank but with the time it has changed to the symbol of hospitality. In the Edo period having the tokonoma was considered luxury and townspeople were prohibited from it. In the Meiji era, however, making the tokonoma in kyakuma became very popular. In the present time, the custom of hanging a screen has gone out of style, and people often even omit making the tokonoma in their Japanese style rooms. On the other hand, some fashionable apartment houses nowadays provide a Japanese style space in a part of the room. Also “Tokonoma Set” is very popular at some interior decorating shops. “Japanese mind” will continue to take root in this country.
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