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.
Hida Shunkei lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Takayama and Hida in Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this craft dates back to 1606. A head carpenter, who were engaged in building temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, happened to discover beautiful straight grains, when he chopped a piece of sawara cypress wood apart. He made it into a tray and lacquered the surface. Because the coloring of this tray resembled “Hishunkei,” a famous tea ceremony tea jar made by master potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name Shunkei was given to this lacquer ware.
What makes Hida Shunkei lacquer ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is also characterized by its delicate technique of hegime (grooves that are carved out between the wood grains). When exposed to the light, the grains with hegime grooves glow gold through the transparent lacquer. The more it is used, the more gloss it takes on. Hida Shunkei is extremely appealing and robust form of lacquer ware.
Katte Shrine located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is one of the eight Myojin shrines in Yoshino. It enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Kami and Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto. Legend has it that in 672, when Prince Oama (later enthroned as Emperor Tenmu), who had stayed in Yoshino and gathered an army to battle with the crown prince, was playing the Japanese harp in front of the hall at this temple, a heavenly maiden appeared and showed him a lucky omen.
It is also said that in 1185, when Shizuka Gozen, who parted with Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Mt. Yoshino, was caught by the pursuers, she performed elegant dance in front of the hall at this shrine to make time for her husband to escape.
The main hall was once destroyed by fire and restored in 1776, but in 2005 it was burned down again by the fire of suspicious origin. Presently, only a part of wooden structure remains and there is little possibility of the restoration of this important cultural property.
Ainu bark-fiber is a woven cloth used for the traditional garments and costumes of the Ainu people of Hokkaido. These garments are some of the most representative and familiar forms of clothing worn by the Ainu, and are known as 'atoshi' in Ainu dialect.
Bark fiber used in this fabric is taken from the inner bark of the Manchurian elm, then woven on a loom. As cotton was more highly valued by the Ainu then, garments were considered to be more valuable when cotton was woven into cloth along with bark fiber.
Among the Ainu, the Hokkaido Ainu were the principal users of this fabric. It was worn for daily use, and was mass exported to the main island of Japan in the late 18th century due to its excellent durability and detailed weaving. Today, this fabric is still woven all over Hokkaido as a traditional handicraft.
The chair on the left shows a carpentry technique of shaving bark, while the chair on the right shows a technique in which leather is attached to a chair.
A wooden chair with a single-leg is unique. The leg is made using a technique in which bark is shaved by turning a piece of wood on a potter’s wheel. Its shape is generated by a rotary motion that looks as if the chair has started rolling,
As for the other chair, its candy-colored leather is modern and elegant. It was designed for an apparel retail store. Thick leather is wrapped around steel bars. The leather wrapping and sewing requires great skill.
■ Single-leg chair（left）
*Mahogany with oil finish
*Ｗ×Ｄ×Ｈ×ＳＨ （ｍｍ） ５４０×４４０×７１０×４５０
*steel flat bar/leather
*Ｗ×Ｄ×Ｈ×ＳＨ （ｍｍ） ６２２×６７０×７５０×４２０
*Both items are designed by Intentionallies
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
We usually think that only cloth or thread can be dyed with plant-derived colors, but this furniture has been given a natural finish with plant-dyes. The way to color bark with plant dyes was very rare in old times. The furniture expresses its natural color. The dyeing color, which is different from the coating color, makes you feel that the wood is breathing.
*solid Melapy wood with plant dye oil finish
*size W1080×D540×H360 (mm)
*designed by Kazuteru Murasawa
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
This huge cedar tree stands in the precinct of Suwa Shrine at Yamakuni-machi-Nakama in Nakatsu City, Oita Pref. There are many old and huge trees in this spacious shrine area with a width of 126 m and a depth of 180 m according to the ancient shrine record. Among them the cedar tree standing behind the main shrine is so remarkable that it is unparalleled in the northern part of the prefecture. The tree is presumably 500 years old, 9 m in circumference at the height of eye, 10 m in circumference at the bottom, and about 50 m in height. It is the second largest cedar tree after Oni-sugi (Demon Cedar Tree) in Mt. Hikosan, but some say it is the best in Kyushu in fineness of bark surface. Its imposing but elegant figure fascinates visitors. Some mysterious air flows around the tree as if a holy spirit resides in the tree. If you look up at the top of the tree, you will be overwhelmed by the branches strongly spreading out in all directions. This cedar tree was designated as a Specially Protected Tree by the prefecture in 1975.
Since ancient times, the Japanese cherry (sakura) tree has been deeply connected to the spirit and lifestyle of the Japanese people as the spiritual tree of Konohanasakuyahimenomikoto.
The cherry blossom is the representative flower of Japan and, generally said, the word 'flower' for the Japanese means cherry blossom. Sakura is also the official flower of the state of Japan.
For many reasons, too, the sakura tree is important for practical purposes. For example, an early-Jomon period bow excavated from the Torihama Shell Mound Site in Fukui Prefecture contains parts reinforced with sakura bark. In addition, people knew when to sow the fields and time the crops by following the sakura's blossoming.
Yet the sakura is more of an ornamental tree, and 'hanami' ('cherry-blossom viewing') is an annual spring event nationwide. Additionally, the beautiful and transient characteristic of the tree to blossom before foliating in a short space of time, before falling gracefully, has been the subject of countless poems. Furthermore, sakura is often the subject of conversations with a distinctively Japanese aesthetic.