Junichi Takano works as the Store Manager at the Shirakiya Nakamura Denbei Store, an old store established in 1830. Mr. Takano supports Satoru Nakamura, the seventh successor who inherited the name and the store.
Along the side of the Kyoubashi River in Tokyo that is now an expressway there once was, in the Edo Period, a commercial river port called “bamboo river bank” where 50,000 to 60,000 sticks of bamboo were unloaded every day. It was also a trading hub for all sorts of materials used for daily products.
The founder of the Shirakiya Store, Toubei, began making houki brooms from bamboo and houki-morokoshi (millet), and this “Edo-bouki” (as Toubei’s houki are called) has been created in the same traditional way and at the same place since.
Junichi Takano initially came in as a part time delivery boy. He was soon fascinated by the “practical beauty” of Edo-bouki and the work being done by master houki maker Seiichi Takagi. Since then, he fell in love with making houki himself and he has now become an indispensable talent for the store.
A houki, unlike some modern disposable tools, lasts a long time.
The craftsmen, anticipating all the possible ways the houki might be used, give it lightness, firmness and pliancy. The user understands that the houki is a tool to purify a house and as he or she sweeps the tatami mat from inside to outside, he or she “collaborates” with the houki. The relationship established between the user and the tool is a further development of the relationship already established between the craftsman and the craft.
Using fine materials, expert techniques and human ingenuity, as an artist, Mr. Takano takes elaborate efforts to continue to preserve the relationship between human and tool and pass it on to the next generation.
Kaiko no Mori, located in Uzumasa, Kyoto, is officially called Konoshimanimasu-amateru-mitama Shrine. It is also affectionately known as Konoshima Shrine by the local people.
It is believed that this shrine was built in the year 604. Kaiko no Mori, which means “silkworm shrine”, was thought by Hatashi, an expatriate from the Korean Peninsula, to be the location of the deity of sericulture, or silkworm raising and also the deity of the textile industry. The shrine was burned in a number of wars and the current structure was most likely restored after the Meiji period.
In the west of the shrine is a spring-water pond called Mototadasu Pond. In the middle of this pond stands a torii called Mihashira Torii. Torii are large gates, erected at the entrance to Shinto Shrines or other sacred places. The Mihashira torii has an unusual design and it is considered one of the “Kyoto Three Torii”. It has three columns and it looks triangle-shaped from above. In the middle is a holly seat where the spirit of the deity sits. The origin of the torii is not known, but the current torii is thought to have been built in 1831.
Kaiko no Mori still has many followers especially from the silk-reeling industry. It is also worshiped as the location of the guardian deity of the town.
Capes on Okushiri Island had been considered holy places where people offered prayers to gods in the ancient times. Among such capes is Cape Miyatsu Benten. If you go northward on the east side of the island, you will see the cape with a shrine atop of it.
It is Bentengu Shrine, the history of which dates back to 1831, when local fishermen enshrined the statue of Benten at the watch house located here and prayed for a good catch. The shrine building was built in 1927 and since then Benten has been guarding the people of the nearby villages.
The cape commands a magnificent ocean view with the main land of Hokkaido seen in the distance. Surrounding sea is so cleat that you can see the bedrocks. The cape rises in mystic tranquility and only the lapping of the waves can be heard.
Toridejuku was a post station on the Mito Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). In1687, the residence of the Someno family, Nanushi (village officer) of Toridejuku, was designated as honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) by the Mito Tokugawa clan. The original building was burned down by fire in 1794 and the existing main building was built in the next year.
It is a large-scale private house in Yosemune-zukuri style, with 19 m wide and 13.3 m deep. The bargeboard on the Irimoya-styled roof (hip-and-gable roof) over the wooden step at the entrance hall gives a dignified impression. The inside of the residence was divided into two sections; the honjin section for lodging and the private section. As did the formal honjin, the honjin section had Jodan-no ma, which was the special room for the nobility and daimyo, and the suite of three rooms.
In the garden stands a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Tokugawa Nariaki, the 9th lord of the Mito domain, in 1840, when he was on a boat going down the Tone River on his way back to Mito. The stone monument was later presented to the Someno family from the Mito domain, which shows the close connection between the Mito Tokugawa clan and the Someno family.
To the south of the famous 365 stone steps that lead to the Daimon Gate of Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture stands the Old Konpira Oshibai Kabuki Theater, which is popularly called “Kanamaruza.” As the oldest existing Kabuki theater in Japan, it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1970 and moved to the present place in 1976, when it was restored to the original form with a large amount of funds including government subsidy.
Since its original construction in the Tenpo era (1830-1843), Konpira Oshibai Kabuki plays at Kanamaruza Theater were enthusiastically seen by pilgrims to the Kotohira-gu Shrine, for entertainment was extremely scarce in those days. The theater was comparable in size to those in big cities such as Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. It is said that all the nationally famous actors were eager to perform at Kanamaruza, which proves that Kotohira was prosperous as a gateway town.
The Shikoku Konpira Oshibai has been performed at Kanamaruza since 1985, and the revival of the Kabuki performance has attracted a great deal of interest from all over the country. When no performances are held, the inside facilities of the theater are open to sightseers.
Ryokan was a Soto Zen Buddhist monk in the late Edo period (1603-1868). He is also known as a calligrapher and poet, who wrote both Japanese waka poems and Chinese classic poems.
He was born in in the village of Izumozaki in Echigo Province (now Niigata Prefecture) in 1758. He was much influenced by his father, who was a Nanushi (village officer) and poet. Ryokan studied under Omori Shiyo, a scholar of Chinese classics and became his father’s assistant.
Later he visited and stayed at Entsuji Temple (in present-day Okayama Prefecture), where he was ordained priest by the Zen master Kokusen. It was around this time that Ryokan also took interested in writing poems and deepened exchanges with many poets of the time.
Ryokan attained enlightment and was presented with an Inka (a formal acknowledgement of a student’s completion of Zen training) by Kokusen at the age of 33. He left Entsuji Temple to set for a long pilgrimage and necer returned to the monastery life. He lived the rest of his life as a hermit and taught Buddhism to common people in easy words instead of difficult sermons.
He disclosed his own humble life, for which people felt sympathy, and placed their confidence in him. A lot of artists and scholars also visited his small hut, Gogo-an, where he talked with them over a drink of Hannya-yu (enlightening hot water, namely Japanese hot sake). He died in 1831. His only disciple, Teishin-ni published a collection of Ryokan’s poems titled “Hasu no Tsuyu (Dewdrops on a lotus leaf).”
Ogawa Castle in Higashiura Town in Aichi Prefecture was constructed by Mizuno Sadamori, the founder of Mizuno clan, during the Bunmei era (1469-1487).
Sadamori, a descendant of the Ogawa clan, which ruled this area about 100 years before, changed his family name to Mizuno when he was staying at the place named Mizuno in the eastern part of Owari province. After the Onin War, he assembled the former vassals to restore his ancestor’s territory and constructed the castle in the ruins site of the old fort.
For about 130 years since then, the castle was resided by the five generations of the Mizuno clan. During the Warring States period, the Mizuno clan spent eventful years surrounded by the powerful daimyo clans such as Oda, Matsudaira (Tokugawa) and Imagawa. In the Edo period, the Mizuno clan became a Fudai daimyo (hereditary vassals of the Shogun) and was appointed to be the lord of domains all over the country.
Lady Odai, Tokugawa Ieyasu's mother, was born in this castle in 1528 as the daughter of Tadamasa, the 4th generation lord. The stone monument for her birthplace is erected in the castle ruins site. Mizuno Tadakuni, the advocate of the Tenpo Reforms (1844), was also a descendant of this clan.
As Tadamasa constructed and moved to a new castle, it has been called Fujiro, meaning “Old Castle” by local people. The ruins site was arranged into a park and only a part of the earth work on the north side remains today.
It is said that Owari Manzai originates in the comical play contrived by Muju Kokushi, the chief priest of Choboji Temple in present Nagoya City, during the Kamakura period (1192-1333) to make the teaching of the Lotus Sutra understandable to villagers. This comical play came to be called “Hokkekyo Manzai (the Lotus Sutra Manzai).” With the development of new schools of Buddhism in this period, four other Manzai plays were created in response to religious choices of families. Thus, five genres of Manzai became the fundamentals of Owari Manzai.
One of such genres is Jiwari Manzai, which was performed to celebrate a new construction of a residence. Goten Manzai was created from Jiwari Manzai during the Tenpo era (1830-1844). It is performed for a first-pillar erecting ceremony. It begins with the words of celebration: “We rejoice in the celebration of a crane living one thousand years and a turtle ten thousand years.” Then deities from every part of the country are invited into every pillar of the house and tiles are set onto the roof. It ends with a dance of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune.
Goten Manzai performance spread all over the prefecture, bringing the words of cerebration and laughter to people, and it had been handed down in many areas of the prefecture as an auspicious performing art. Owari Manzai was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1996 by the national government.