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.
Sakunami Kokeshi is a wooden doll and traditional craft product originating in Sakunami hot-spring area which is, along with Akiho hot-spring, the most popular resort in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.
Sakunami Kokeshi has a body slimmer than other kokeshi. It is generally a kind of cylindrical shape becoming gradually slimmer from shoulder to lower body.
Sakunami kokeshi has a relatively short history and is considered to begin appearing around the late Edo Period to the beginning of Meiji Period. Another characteristic that defines Sakunami Kokeshi is that it was developed in an urban area.
Material for the kokeshi comes from naturally grown trees such as itaya, mizuki (dogwood) and aoka in the Northeast region. Those trees have a fine white texture and the wood is difficult to break, which is why the kokeshi makers use the trees.
Circular patterns are applied to the shoulder and the bottom sections of the body and original designs of chrysanthemums are drawn between them. It is believed that the kokeshi was influenced by Toogatta Kokeshi also from the same Miyazaki Prefecture.
The kokeshi has a gentle and delicate facial expression and is far from flamboyant. It is the simplest kokeshi of all that evokes the warmth of natural trees and is still much cherished.
Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori are koinobori or carp-shaped brocade streamers made in Sakai City, Osaka.
Their origin dates back to the beginning of the Meiji period when a merchant who had a toy and stationery business, on his way back from a visit to the Ise Shrine, saw paper carp made in Nagoya. This gave him the idea of having a Japanese kite maker make the paper carp, which he then sold.
By the middle of the Meiji period, the paper carp were replaced by ones made with brocade cloth and the techniques evolved to accommodate the change in material.
Sakai Koinobori are usually done with a drawing of a boy from a folktale, known as Kintaro, riding on the carp. The traditional elaborate methods are still used, in which the pictures are drawn by hand, one stroke at a time. The brocade cloth is then dyed with the utmost care.
With its graduated shading, subtle brush work and forcible strokes all of which are done by hand, Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori is a notable craftwork that is still highly sought after.
Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori, was designated as a prefectural traditional craftwork by Osaka in 1986. The streamers are still now enthusiastically produced so they can grace the skies of Japan with their elegantly swimming carps.
Ralph Kiggell is a British artist who was born in Zambia in 1960. He is a woodblock printer, whose work is strongly influenced by East Asia.
Since he was a child, he had always been interested in Japanese woodblock prints. Works by masters such as HOkusai and Utamaro could be seen periodically in special exhibitions at the British Museum in London.
In 1990, Ralph Kiggell came to Japan to study woodblock printing. He first studied at the Yoshida Hanga Academy in Tokyo under Tsukasa Yoshida, the son of Toshi Yoshida, and the grandson of Hiroshi Yoshida. Later, he learned contemporary woodblock printing techniques at Kyoto Seika University and at Tokyo’s Tama Art University.
Kiggell enjoys the sensitivity of Japanese woodblock printing, because the whole process is carried out by hand using hand-made and natural materials. There is an organic connection from hand to wood to paper. Kiggell thinks that in the digital age that we live in, woodblock printing has particular resonance as an important medium for contemporary artistic expression.
Naruko lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Naruko Onsen, Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. During the Kanei era (1624-1643) in the Edo period, the lord of the Iwadeyama domain, Date Toshichika, dispatched a lacquerer, Murata Uhei, and a makie craftsman, Kikuta Sanzo, to Kyoto to develop their skills in order to promote the local lacquering industry. Naruko lacquer ware has been handed down by their descendents up to the present day.
The traditional lacquering techniques include kijiro-nuri, which enhances the beautiful grains of the wood, fuki-urusi finishing, and ryumon-nuri, which produces a marbling effect. Each product has limpid beauty brought out by these traditional techniques. As lacquer is applied and rubbed down repeatedly many times to create a thick surface, Naruko lacquer ware is durable for a long-term daily use.
Niigata lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Niigata and Kamo in Niigata Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. As a port used by Kitamae ships in the Edo period (1603-1868), various cultures were brought into this town both by land and sea, which contributed to the development of various craft techniques in this area.
It is said that the making of lacquer ware in Niigata started during the Genna era (1615-1624). In 1638, an authorized specialist area for selling lacquered goods was established under the name of “Wan-dana (bowl store)” in present-day Furumachi-dori Shichibancho.
Niigata lacquer ware is characterized by a number of different styles, which have been developed since the Meiji period (1868-1912). These techniques include take-nuri, which simulates the appearance of bamboo, contrived by Kyuhei Yoshida, kinma-nuri using gold leaf by Heikichi Meguro, isokusa-nuri (expressing sea-grass), hana-nuri (lacquering without grinding), nishiki-nuri (with patterns of gold) and ishime-nuri (with stone-like appearance). Among them, the solid and elegant take-nuri style is the most famous as the original lacquering techniqeu of Niigata lacquer ware.
Takefu Knife Village is a brand created in 1982 by local curter artisans in Takefu, the biggest cutlery producing district that proudly maintains over seven hundred years of history.
In 1983 with the collaboration of Kazuo Kawasaki, a design director who was born and raised locally, Takefu launched its new series of kitchen knives, ARTUS.
While using the traditional method to create the blade part and by utilizing a unique design to unify from the tip of the blade to the handle, it achieved a simple yet innovative, hygienic and highly aesthetic product.
ATRUS is made by “fire casting”, a traditional craftsman’s striking technique, which uses a three-layer structure with steel forged by hand that is inserted between stainless steel. It is this technique that enables the knife to be sharp and resistant to rust.
ATRUS was born from a great trinity: the seven policies based on the Takefu’s commitment to create wonderful hand-made products; its traditional cutlery making method; and outstanding design by Kazuo Kawasaki. Its excellence is evident as even more than 20 years after its initial introduction it is still sold without any modifications.
Jubako lunch boxes come in various shapes such as cylindrical or hexagonal, but the most common is square.
Jubako are basically lunch boxes for food. They may have up to 5 layers. Officially, these layers represent the 4 seasons, so there are usually only 4 layers. Jubako may hold special food such as 'osechi' at New Year, or for hanami cherry-blossom-viewing picnics, or during athletic festivals.
It is believed that jubako developed from 'food baskets' ('shilong') introduced from China. However, there are references to lunch boxes in Muromachi-period documents, therefore, it could be said that jubako have a long history.
During the Edo period, jubako came to be used by common people, too, and their real manufacture began in 1610. Samurai and daimyo used them as lunch boxes during leisure outings, such as hunting expeditions. Later, they started to be lacquered and decorated. Even now, this traditional item is commonly used in Japan.