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.
Gogatsu Nobori are banners that are put up on “Boy’s Day” - May 5th along with Koinobori, Kabuto helmets and Gogatsu Dolls. This is done to celebrate the boy and to pray for his success and prosperity in the future. The custom is still preserved in many local areas, each of which displays its own unique banner.
Nobeoka Gogatsu Nobori are one of this type of banner and they have been produced since the Kan’ei period, nearly 400 years ago. They are made in the Kyushu region, with a dye technique called Tsutsubiki Tezome which is rarely used in the region.
At first, rough sketches are drawn on high quality cotton fabric and the sketches are then hemmed with rice paste. The painting is done in an elaborate way, using traditional techniques and 20 different colors.
The motif of the drawings varies from The Genpei War, heroic warriors, Kintaro (from a popular children’s tale) or a venerable sage. On completion, the banners, with their unique color and tone, are solemn and imposing. They have been designated as a traditional craft by the Miyazaki Prefecture.
Megi-jima Island, which is a part of Setonaikai National Park and about 20 minutes ferry ride from Takamatsu Harbor, is often called by its nickname of Onigashima (Ogres' Island), which derives from a long cave located in the hillside on the island. Since it was discovered in 1930, it has been associated with the ogres’ den in the story of Momotaro.
From the platform above the cave, you can command a panoramic view of the Seto islands including Oshima, Kabuto-jima and Yoroi-jima as well as the attractive fishing village at the foot of the hill, where houses have high stone walls called “ote” to provide protection from cold wind called “Otoshi” in winter.
In Takamatsu City Onigashima Oninoyakata Museum at Megi port, many objects concerning ogres are exhibited.
Katsurai Festival is held on December 1 every year at Shiogama Shrine, which used to be listed as the highest-ranked shrine in the southern part of the Tohoku region.
As is also called “Kamimukae-sai (the festival to invite deities),” it originates in the ritual to invite Take Mikazuchi no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami and celebrate their feat of having brought peace and stability to the Tohoku region. Since then, Date Masamune and other powerful warriors who fought for the stability of the region dedicated the rice cake named “Katsurai-mochi” when they made triumphant returns.
Today, the rice cake called “Kabuto-mochi (the rice cake in the shape of a warrior’s helmet)” together with Zoi fish, abalone, pheasant and dried persimmon is offered to the deities and the Yamatomai kagura dance is dedicated. People bring a piece of Kabuto-mochi to their home as a talisman to prevent fires and bad luck and bring safe travels.
At “Naorai,” the feast in which the consecrated offerings of food and drink are consumed by priests and laymen, attendants were served with Zoni (the rice cake soup) with Kiji-mochi, which is made to resemble pheasant meat.
Obata in Kanra-machi, Kanra-gun, Gunma Prefecture used to be a castle town constructed around Obata Castle, which was built by the Obata clan enfeoffed with 20,000 koku of rice in the late Muromachi period (1336-1573). The town was flourished under the rule of the Warring-States-period powerful warriors including the Obata clan, the Oda clan and the Matsudaira clan. In 1615, Oda Nobukatsu, the second son of Oda Nobunaga, was enfeoffed with this area and became the founder of the Obata domain. The area had been ruled by the eight generations of the Obata clan for 152 years since then.
The reminiscence of the Edo period can be found in this small castle town. The Ogawazeki, a water channel built about 400 years ago, runs through the center of the town and cherry trees border the channel. On the left side of the street along the channel continue the residences with warehouses. The residences of the Edo-period warriors stand on both sides of the Nakakoji Street, which is as wide as 14 m. Their white clay walls are shining brilliantly.
Obata Cherry Festival is held on the 3rd Sunday in April every year. The magnificent parade of warriors wearing the armor and helmet and riding on horses, the gun troop and women warriors goes through the town. The demonstration of firing a harquebus and the performance of Shimonita Arafune Drums can be seen in the festival field.
Boy's Festival is held each year on 5th May to pray for a boy's growth. It is otherwise known as Tango or Shobu seasonal festival.
On the tango day, on the 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar, which was supposed to be the day when spring moved into summer, people in China and Japan prayed for their health and drank sake made of shobu (calamus: a medical herb). This is the origin of Boy's Day.
In the Kamakura period, shobu (calamus) doubled in meaning with the homonym for shobu (respect for samurai). Hence armor and shobu dolls were used as decoration and people prayed for the health of boys and their success as samurai.
Offerings on Boy's Day include rice cakes wrapped in in oak leaves. The significance of this is that oak will not wither until a new bud appears, which is a symbol that the family also will not die out.
Colorful carp banners are set in gardens. This comes from parents' wishes for their son's success. The carp are a symbol of success. In folk belief, carps swam up rivers until they reached a waterfall, where they transformed into dragons. Carp festivals are held in many places and the festival Carp Banners On the River by the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture is especially popular with over 500 carp banners flying over the river.
The Kintaro Asobi-ishi is a pair of rocks located in Yagurasawa, Minami-Ashigara City, Kanagawa Pref. The smaller one is called “Kabuto-iwa (feudal helmet rock)” and the larger one is “Taiko-iwa (drum rock).” Both rocks were the garden stones placed in the residence of a rich man called Shiman-chojya. Kintaro is said to have been brought up in this residence and played as jumping up and down these rocks. The legend has it that Kintaro was such a strong boy that he could easily lift up these rocks and throw a bear in Sumo wrestling. It is said that he often enjoyed Sumo wrestling with mountain animals around these rocks, calling “Hakkeyoi! Nokotta!” Near these rocks remains a stone called “Koshikake-ishi (sitting stone),” on which his mother Yaegiri sat and waited for her son, being worried about his late return. Your imagination will be sparked in front of these legendary rocks.
Edo braiding is a tasteful and graceful Tokyo specialty.
Japan makes extraordinarily sophisticated use of all kinds of threads. Not only do the Japanese bind and tie things together with strings and thread, but they also can show fortune, sex and status by the way the threads are tied together, by the choice of color and by the arrangement of the knots.
Braiding dates back to before the Edo period. It was originally imported from China or Korea. When the Shogunate was established in Edo, there was a demand for ceremonial clothing and therefore for braids. The Edo braid then developed a delicacy and a wabi-sabi quality (quiet simplicity).
Edo braiding is applied to many things, such as the obi sash for kimonos, haori (short jackets) and other essentials for our daily lives.
Braiding is also used to secure scrolls, on monks robes, on sashes worn by nobility, as decoration on traditional armory and on sword handles.