NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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山王 日枝神社 Sanno-Hiejinja Sanno Hie Shrine

Jp En

Hie Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The enshrined deoty is Oyamakui-no-kami, the god of Mount Hie in Shiga prefecture. It is said that when Ota Dokan constructed Edo Castle in 1478, he erected a Sanno-Hie Shrine in the compound for a guardian deity of the castle. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was enfeoffed with Edo (present-day Tokyo), he relocated it to the grounds of Edo Castle, and worshipped the deity as the protector of Edo. The citizens of Edo also had strong faith in Hie Shrine as the founding god of their town. In 1607, when Ieyasu’s son, Tokugawa Hidetada, planned to make improvement on the castle, he moved the shrine out, so the people of Edo could worship there.

Sanno Festival held in June every year is one of the three great festivals of Edo; the others are Kanda Festival at Kanda Shrine in Chuo-ku and Fukagawa Hachiman Festival at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa in Koto-ku. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Sanno Festival and Kanda Festival were also called “Tenka Matsuri,” which means the Shogun’s Festival, because the festivals were protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the festival processions were allowed to enter the grounds of Edo Castle for the Shogun to view them.

The high-spiritted Edokko (natives to Edo) would have said, “Sanno Festival is too refined, isn’t it?” Any way, why don’t you try experiencing one of these great festivals of Edo, if you have time?
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重箱 Jyubako Jubako Lunch Boxes

Jp En

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.
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金刀比羅宮 Kotohiraguu Kotohira-guu Shrine

Jp En

     Konhira-guu is a shrine built halfway up Zouzui-zan Mountain in Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa Prefecture.
     Like Oise-mairi, which was a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine and a popular leisure time activity among common people during the Edo period,  Konhira-mairi also drew many visitors from all over the nation.
     Konhira-guu Shrine is worshiped as a deity of shipping and seafarers and dedicated to Oomononushino-kami.
     Konhira-guu was recognized as a shrine in 1010 following the restoration of its main building and torii by Fujiwara Saneaki by order of the emperor.  The shrine was known as Konhira-daigongen prior to the Meiji period.
     In the middle of the path to the shrine stands a grand gate built by Matsudaira Yorishige, an elder brother of Mito Mitsukuni and the first lord of the Takamatsu Clan.  After the gate there is a stone stairway with 365 steps leading up to the shrine.
     Inside the shrine is Asahino-yashiro, made from Keyaki trees which has Dou-gawarabuki tiles and a Nisou-irimoya style roof. The building is a designated Important Cultural Property. After passing Yashiro visitors arrive at the imposing main shrine.
Konhira-guu is one of the most famous sites in Shikoku.
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尾鷲わっぱ Owase-wappa Owase Wappa

Jp En

Owase wappa is a traditional handicraft in Owase City, Mie Prefecture. It was widely used as a lunchbox by common people in the Edo period (1603-1868). Located in a part of ancient Kii province, which was called “Country of Tree,” Owase was known as a production center of high quality lumber. Owase wappa is made of wood from locally grown Japanese cypress trees. This lunchbox has been and is still favored not just because it is beautiful but because it is so durable as to be used for scores of years and its lacquer coat has bactericidal effect. As it is contrived to vent the air inside, it keeps food warm in winter and prevents rot in summer. In the making of Owase wappa, it is impossible to mechanize any one of the processes, so the manufacturing processes of as many as 45 different stages are all done by hand even today.
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日野椀 Hino-wan Hino Lacquered Bowls

Jp En

Hino lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Hino-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture. The craft dates back to 1533, when Gamo Sadahide, the castellan of Hino Castle, planned to build a castle town. He assembled woodcraftsmen and lacquerers working at the foot of Mt. Watamuki and made them live in the specially arranged blocks of Nusi-machi (lacquerers’ town) and Kataji-machi (woodcraftsmen’s town), where the making of Hino lacquered bowls started.

As Sadahide’s grandson Ujisato was transferred to another place in 1584, the making of this craft declined for a short time. However, as Ohmi-Hino merchants were willing to sell Hino bowls as their staple merchandise, the production of Hino bowls started to grow again and its name came to be widely known. Most of the early products that are still existing today are vessels for ceremonial use. They are characterized by the heavy body and thick foot rim.

In 2001, efforts to revive this traditional craft started by volunteers in the town. They are now working on the production of lacquer ware that can be durable for daily use.
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松川だるま Matsukawa-daruma Matsukawa Daruma Doll

Jp En

Among Sendai Hariko (papier-mache), a kind of toy made from molded and colored paper, probably the most common item is the Matsukawa Daruma doll. This daruma is colored ultramarine around its face, and the body is decorated with a relief motif of a bringer of good luck such as a treasure ship, the god of wealth, the pine, bamboo and plum trees, Ebisu, a carp swimming up the waterfall, and “Ichi-fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi (Mt. Fuji at the first, hawk at the second, eggplant at the third).” It is distinctive that real hair is used to make its eyebrows and it has glass-made eyes. This daruma is a long-beloved item as a mascot or a bringer of good luck.

According to one widely-accepted opinion, Matsukawa Daruma was named after Matsukawa Toyonoshin, a retainer of the Date clan and the person who created this daruma about 170 years ago. The daruma dolls were produced by low-ranked warriors of the domain as their side jobs. Different from daruma dolls made in other areas, Matsukawa Daruma has black eyes. According to one opinion, this was because warriors were concerning about their one-eyed lord, Date Masamune.

Matsukawa Daruma was originally made in a much more simple style. It was Takahashi Tokutaro (1830-1913), or the Buddhist sculptor Mentoku II, that improved it into the present gorgeous doll.
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登米能 Toyoma-nou Toyoma-Noh

Jp En

Noh performance pertaining to the Date clan has been handed down in Toyoma Town in Miyagi Prefecture for 230 years.

During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, Noh of the Konparu Okura school was given generous protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords.

In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class.

After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople. While many Nohgaku in the territory of the old Sendai domain died out, Noh was inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh. As a precious cultural heritage that hands down traditional Noh and Kyogen to the modern age, it was designated as a folk cultural property by the prefecture.

Toyoma-Noh is presented to the public as Takigi-Noh (traditional plays put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires) twice a year, in Shinryoku Takigi-Noh in June and on the eve of Toyoma Autumn Festival in September. Elegant plays performed by the light of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
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白磁 Hakuji Hakuji White Porcelain

Jp En

Hakuji is porcelain created by applying transparent glaze to white paste, then firing it at high temperature.  Hakuseiji, on the other hand, is created by glaze containing small amount of iron.
Hakuji originated at the end of the 6th century in China during the Northern Qi Dynasty. Later, in the Tang period, its popularity took off and demand surpassed that of Seiji. By the 10th century, its use became widespread among the populace as it was being improved with a more sophisticated style while maintaining a down-to-earth feel.  
Japanese Hakuji evolved under the international influence of China and Korea. In Edo period, Imari-yaki, the first Hakuji in Japan, was introduced.  However, Hakuji was mainly used as a white canvas to paint vivid colored motifs. It was not until after Maiji period that Hakuji as self-colored became more popular when Japanese ceramic artists who studied and loved Hakuji from Song period in China and Joseon Dynasty era in Korea further evolved the Hakuji technique.
It is extremely difficult to burn pottery to pure white because iron powder easily comes out even when using the best quality clay. This is why, even for Kakiemon pottery which is famous for its vivid vermilion color motif, Hakuji with no trace of iron powder is more rare and expensive than pieces with painting.
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