This craft involves the carving of natural semiprecious stone for art objects, craft products and accessories. Its techniques in carving and polishing have developed throughout a long history and highly appreciated not only in Japan but also in many other countries.
This craft started in the Heian period (794-1192), when quartz was found in the deep mountain beyond Mitake Shosenkyo Gorge. When it was first discovered, it was used as an ornament, but by the Edo period (1603-1868), master craftsmen from Kyoto were invited to this area and they taught local craftsmen the techniques of making raw material into gems, which developed into the present Koshu crystal carving.
The production reached its peak with export growth in the postwar period, but today ornaments and items of jewelry for domestic customers are being produced. Many of these pieces have been created to make the most of the transparent colors and brilliance of the natural gem stone. They are not merely beautiful but have an uplifting feeling and sense of being alive.
Shinran was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the early Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Jodo Shinshu of japanese Buddhism. Born in Hino (now a part of Fushimi, Kyoto) in 1173, Shinran had been a monk of the Tendai school of Buddhism at Mt. Hiei, where he studied for 20 years since he was at the age of nine. In 1201, Shinran met Honen and became his disciple. He arrived at the conviction that “Tariki Nenbutsu (reciting Buddhist invocation to takes refuge in the other power of Amida Buddha)” is the only way to lead us to the Pure Land.
Shinran together with the desciples of Honen spread this new doctorine in the streets of Kyoto, but their movement was banned by the Imperial court. Eight monks including Honen and Shinran were exiled. Shinran was sent to Echigo province (present-day Niigata Prefecture) and was stripped of his religious name.
After Shinran was pardoned, he left for Hitachi province (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture), where he spent 20 years being engaged in missionary works. He took a stand that he was neither a monk nor a layman.
In 1224, he authored his most significant text, “Kyogyoshinsho,” which is a series of selections and commentaries on Buddhist sutras pertinent to Pure Land Buddhism. The sayings of Shinran, “the Tannisho (the Lamentations of Divergences)” is still read by many people today.
In 1234, Shinran returned to Kyoto, where he died in 1263 at the age of 90. The Japanese imperial court awarded Shinran the honorific designations “Kenshin Daishi (Great Teacher Kenshin)” in 1876.
Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.
He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.
94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
Nichiren was a Buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Born in Awa province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) in 1222, Nichiren began his Buddhist study at a nearby temple, Seichoji, at the age of 12. He was formally ordained four years later at 16. Then he visited temples in Nara and Kyoto including Shitennoji Temple and Koyasan Kongobuji Temple for more in-depth study. Through the study of Nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), Zen and Shingon (esoteric practice), he became convinced of the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra. In 1253, he founded his own sect of Buddhism at Seichoji Temple and recited “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” for the first time. He changed his name to Nichiren, wherein the kanji character for nichi (日) means “sun” and that for ren (蓮) means “lotus.”
In 1260, he wrote “the Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise on securing the peace of the land through the establishment of the correct),” in which he criticized all the other sects of Japanese Buddhism. It prompted a severe backlash, especially from among priests of other Buddhist sects and the Kamakura Shogunate. Nichiren was harassed and exiled four times in his life. When he was exiled to Sado, an island in the Japan Sea, he wrote two of his most important doctrinal treatises, “the Kaimoku Sho (On the opening of the eyes)” and “the Kanjin no Honzon Sho (The object of devotion for observing the mind in the fifth five-hundred year period).” It was also during his exile on Sado, in 1272, that he inscribed the first Gohonzon, the mandala that he intended as a graphic representation of the essence of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren spent the rest of his life at Minobu, where he and his disciples erected Kuonji Temple and he continued writing and training his disciples. In 1282, Nichiren died in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The Japanese imperial court awarded Nichiren the honorific designations “Nichiren Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Nichiren)” in 1358 and “Rissho Daishi (Great Teacher Rissho) in 1922.
Hama Rikyu Garden, or Hama Rikyu Onshi Teien, located in Chuo-ku, Tokyo is a public garden designated as the Special Place of Scenic Beauty and the Special Historic Site. The garden was originally a villa built by Matsudaira Tsunashige, a grandson of Ieyasu, in 1654. Then it became a villa of the Shogun Tokugawa family and had been reformed many times during the Edo period. After the Meiji Restoration, it became a detached palace of royal families and officially named Hamarikyu (a detached palace on the coast). With the end of the World War II, it was opened as a public park managed by Tokyo Metropolitan government.
This garden is a typical Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) garden in the Edo period with a tidal pond (Shioiri-no-Ike) and two wild-duck hunting sites (Kamoba). On the left side past the entrance stands a 300-year-old black pine tree, which is the largest pine tree inside Tokyo. Its dignified shape with thick branches extending low is really impressive. Moving on forward, you will get to a peony garden and the field of flowers, which is covered with 300,000 stocks of rape blossoms in spring and cosmea in fall. There are also a lot of cherry trees, which are lit up for night for cherry blossom viewers at night. Full of flowers and greenery enjoyable in every season, Hamarikyu Garden is an oasis of Tokyo Metropolis.
Usa Shrine, a National Treasure, is the mother shrine of the 40,000 Hachiman shrines located all over the country. The shrine stands, along with Ise Shrine, as the two main shrines of the Imperial Court, and was built in its current location in the year 725 during the Nara period.
The structure of Usa Shrine was rebuilt from 1855 through 1861 and was restored in 1985. The shrine features crimson pillars, white walls and uses Japanese cedar bark. The inner structure and the outer structure are of Kiritsuma-style roofing and between them, a gold-colored rain trough, more often known as the Golden Trough of Usa, runs through.
The architecture of Usa Shrine is representative of Hachiman-style architecture. Apart from the religious structures, there are countless ancient remains and graves excavated here, along with remains of the airstrip and aircraft hangars of the Usa Naval Air Corp used during World War II. Here, at Usa Shrine, history from ancient to modern times can be felt.
Yusoku Weaves are the techniques of weaving used for fabrics for the ancient formal clothing in Japan. Yusoku patterns are created by the weaving techniques including nishiki (Japanese brocade), aya (twill weaving), uki-ori (float weave), futae-ori (double technique brocade), and sha (silk gauze). These techniques, taking twists and turns, have been handed down up to the present time, used in the clothing for imperial ceremonies, shrine priests’ ceremonial costumes, Buddhist priests’ gowns, and Shinto shrines’ sacred treasures. The fascination of Yusoku Weaves lies in their beautiful colors as well as in their enchanting woven patterns. Hyoji Kitagawa (1936-), a recognized authority on Yusoku Weaves, was designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure) in 1999. He was born as the second son of Heiro Kitagawa, who was also a designated Living National Treasure and the head of Tawaraya in Kyoto, an old and established weaving shop in Nishijin, Kyoto. Hyoji succeeded his father as the 18th-generation head of Tawaraya in 1988. His skills and techniques are highly evaluated, and up to now, he has made textiles for a lot of imperial ceremonies including the coronation ceremony of Emperor Heisei and the marriage ceremony of Prince Akishino. Thinking of making Yusoku Weaves popularized to the general public, he has now energetically engaged in making kimono obi (sash).