Japanese boxwood combs are not simply tools for the coiffure but also hair ornaments for women. Combs have an ancient history in Japan. They are depicted on ancient clay tomb figures of the Jomon Period (up to 200 B.C.), and a boxwood comb is referred to in a poem in the Manyoshu. Boxwood combs became objects of luxury; some are beautifully carved and others are decorated with Makie (gold and silver sprinkling). They have been flattered women’s beauty all through the times.
Boxwood combs attract special attention in these days as effective hair care tools, for they don’t produce static electricity, they don’t cause split ends or hair breakage, and their strokes are smooth and gentle.
In Kyoto, the production of boxwood combs started in the Heian period (794-1192). Because softness and gentleness of boxwood are ideal not only to human scalps but also to many traditional handicraft materials, boxwood combs are used as tools for producing wide variety of craft products typical to Kyoto such as Tsuzure-ori (tapestry weaving) in Nishijin and Kyo-dolls.
Bingata is an Okinawan traditional paste resist dyeing technique. It was created in the 16th century as a dying process for the clothing of the royalty and the nobles of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Because of this, most of the dye-shops at the time were located around Shuri Castle and protected by the government. Although the word “bin-gata” literally means “red patterns” in Japanese, Bingata is generally multi-colored cloth dyed with various patterned stencil papers.
There are actually two methods of doing Bingata dyeing; “stencil dying” and “cylinder drawing.” In stencil dyeing, the boundaries of the patterns are set with the application of rice-paste resist through a stencil. In cylinder drawing, patterns are hand-drawn through what looks to be a pastry tube.
The bright colors produced by these careful hand processes fascinated the royalty and the nobility of the time. Especially the yellow color created by fukugi (Garcinia subelliptica) was allowed to be used only for the loyal family.
Today, Bingata resist dyed cloth is used not only for clothing but also for many other items such as bags and tapestries, all of which feature an exotic atmosphere of a southern land. Together with Yuzen dyeing, it is one of Japan’s representing dyeing techniques now.
Tapestry is a form of textile art done all over the world since the ancient times. There area a lot of works with high histiric and artistic values. It is said that the oldest tapestry was made by the Coptic in Egypt in about 1580 BC. The techniques of tapestry weaving were brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. The pieces of works brought in these eras are preserved at Horyuji Temple and Shosoin (the Imperial Repository). In the later years, decorative tapestries were woven at many Buddhist temples such as Ninnaji Temple and Honaganji Temple, which was developed into the techniques to make the cloth for obi-belts at Nishijin in Kyoto.
In general, tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving, in which a pattern drawing is placed under the hidden warp thread and the patterns are woven out by plucking the warp thread with weft thread passed through the shuttle.
In the most elaborate technique of Tsume-Tsuzure (literally meaning “nail weaving”), the cloth is woven by plucking the warp with fingernails, from which it is called “the brocade woven by nails.” It is such sophisticated skills and patience that have created ever fascinating beauty for as long as 3,000 years.
Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.
In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work
At Anrakuji Temple, there is a three-storied octagonal pagoda among the pine trees lining the road from Mt. Ogami in Ueda Shinshu.
Anrakuji Temple is said to have been established in the early Heian period, but its history before the Kamakura period is vague. This pagoda is the oldest building in the temple complex of Anrakuji. In addition, it is the only existing octagonal pagoda in Japan and also a very rare example of a Zen three-storied pagoda.
The pagoda is 18.75m tall. Its Zen architectural features include the connections between the pillars and the radial baulks that decorate the impressive octagonal roof. Even the Buddhist altar is octagonal. There is a Dainichi-Nyorai statue, which is very rarely seen in a Zen structure. The pagoda looks four-storied but the lowest roof is, in fact, a line of eaves called 'mokoshi'.
In 1947, the pagoda and Nagano Castle were the first buildings in Nagano prefecture to be designated National Treasures.
Izumo agate work is a traditional handicraft in Matsue City, Shimane Pref. It is selected as one of Furusato (hometown) Traditional Handicrafts of Shimane Pref. The origin of this craft is said to have been dated back to the mythological age. Curved beads, which were accessories of the ancient noble people, were made out of jade or agate. It is said that many of the ancient curved beads including Yasakani no Magatama, which is thought to be a part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, were made in Shimane. Agate work in Izumo area started in the late Edo period, and in the Taisho period, there were a lot of workmen engaged in this handicraft in various towns and villages including Tamayu Town. Later the number of the workmen decreased, and at the present time, the skills have been handed down at Agate Work Densho-kan (patrimony workshop). Accessories such as pendants and necklaces as well as curved beads for souvenirs are popular among tourists.
Kataoka Family Residence is an old residence in Uda, Nara Prefecture.
The residence is in a preserved area that includes 9 old houses that were probably made between 1619 and the early Meiji period. The thatched roof house was made in 1680 and the terraced house was made in 1832. The Oden was used to accommodate visitors and it is beautifully decorated.
In the garden, there are trees such as an 800-year-old zelkova tree and a gigantic weeping cherry.
Kataoka Family Residence is designated as an important cultural asset and visits are possible by advance reservation. The buildings are still used as residences, and retain the ambience of a former townscape.
In Japanese, the word 'koshi' is a mathematical term for equidistant segments and dividers. Generally, though, koshi is used to represent lattice doors or iron grates.
From olden times, Japanese lattice doors were doors of temple-style architecture. This changed during the late Heian period when double sliding doors became more popular. Black laquered sliding lattice doors are described in the 'Tale of Genji Picture Scroll' and the 'Annual Event Picture Scroll'.
Lattice doors can separate spaces, ventilate rooms, take in light and make rooms look more beautiful, all at the same time. All of these things connect to the introduction of shoji: paper sliding doors.