Yuutaro Oono was born in Tokyo in 1935. He is currently the CEO of Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd.
After graduating from Hokunoujima Technology High School, Mr. Oono was employed by an 8mm film company. In 1978, he started Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd which specializes in making gears. He also dedicated himself to bringing back Karakuri dolls , which were popular in the Edo period, to modern times, using the advanced techniques of modern gear making.
Mr. Oono first learned about Karakuri in an engineering book and he became passionately interested in them. He had acquired a copy of “Karakuri-zui”, an illustrated compendium of mechanical devices written by Hanzou Hosokawa, a legendary karakuri artisan of the Edo period. Mr. Oono began studying the book intensely and, for the last 20 years, he has been reproducing the Karakuri dolls most loved by people in the Edo period such as “tea serving doll”, “shinan guruma” and the “Karakuri clock”.
Each doll is made using about 80 different parts, not counting its face and clothing. The dolls are created in such a way as to preserve traditional methods as much as possible. The fusion of the Edo period and modern times shows both beauty and functionality.
Mr. Oono’s next project is to bring back “Yumihari Warawa, or “ Boy Archer”, which shows a boy shooting an arrow at a target. His tremendous respect for the Karakuri artists of the Edo period motivates him to try to recreate the Karakuri Dolls most beloved in that period, so that people can remember and appreciate their heritage.
The word Karakuri was used to describe traditional Japanese mechanical devices. In the Edo period especially, gears from clocks were first used to make moving dolls and the elaborate Karakuri doll tradition began.
It was Hanzou Hosokawa from the Tosa region who first revealed to the general public the way the Karakuri work, using easily understood illustrations. His book, Kkarakuri-zui, had a tremendous impact on many artisans who later developed their own techniques in the field. This book is considered to be the foundation of Japanese robotic technology.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin was invented and the Karakuri techniques were handed down to Yuutarou Oono. Mr. Oono not only successfully revived Hosokawa`s Karakuri but, in a similar spirit of openness, he made them out of transparent acrylic. It is exciting to see a doll in a beautiful kimono bringing and serving tea but people were doubly delighted to to see the dolls’ inner workings as well. The transparent gears developed by modern technology allowed this to be possible.
It is the spirit of true Karakuri artists to honor the people’s desire to know and also create such beautiful dolls that are totally in keeping with the Japanese people’s sense of esthetics.
Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en or The Open Air Architectural Museum is located inside Koganei Park on the western outskirts of Tokyo. It is a spacious and bright open-air museum that showcases 27 historical and cultural buildings from the Edo period to the beginning of the Showa period. It first opened to the public in March, 1993.
Its vast area of 7 hectares is divided into roughly three sections: buildings from downtown Tokyo in the east, Yamanote residential areas in the west and historically intriguing buildings in the middle.
Along with these historically important buildings, a whole town was reconstructed and the tools used in daily life are exhibited inside as well as outside the buildings. Visitors can then enjoy a more complete experience of what life must have been like from the beginning of the Edo period to the Showa period.
Among the buildings transferred from their original locations and reconstructed in the museum are the residential house of the Mitsui Family, the Bathhouse Kodakara-yu which inspired the popular movie Spirited Away, the residential house of Kunio Maeda, an architect, and the residential house of Korekiyo Takahashi, a politician from the beginning of the Showa period.
At the museum, visitors can travel beyond time and feel their past heritage.
Kamezuka Tomb is located at the eastern end of Niyuu Plateau which is on the left bank of the estuary of Niyuu River that runs through Sakanoichi Town, Ooita, Ooita Prefecture.
The tomb is a keyhole-shaped tumulus with the front facade facing southwards. It is thought to be built in the early 5th century during the Tumulus period. There are scores of other burial mounds nearby and the whole area is now recognized as a Kamezuka Tomb Cluster.
The tomb is built on three levels, and has a total length of 120m, with its rounded rear part 64m wide. It is known as the largest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Oita Prefecture.
In ancient times, the area was controlled by the Amabenotami people who ruled Bungo Channel, traveling and trading freely through it, leading to a theory that Kamezuka Tomb belongs to the head of Amabenotami.
In 1996, the tomb was designated as a historic location and excavation began. More than 150 artifacts were found there including Magatama, earthenware, glass beads, swords and compasses.
After the excavation, the area was restored as a park with replica Haniwa burial mound figurines, so visitors can imagine the ancient times in their heyday.
There is a stone-paved road remaining in Ochiai, Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture. In the late Edo period (1603-1868), stone-pavement work was given to the road between Ochiai Jikkyoku Pass and Magome-juku Post Station of the Nakasendo Road, because this section was very steep and difficult to go through.
According to the historical record, the pavement was repaired for the procession of Princess Kazunomiya, who was on her journey to Edo for the marriage to the emperor in 1861. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), a part of the pavement was cleared away for a construction work, as a result of which only a part of the original pavement remained.
In 1988, a restoration work was given to the section of 840 m in total length. Together with the historic sites of Honjin and the large iron pot in Ochiai-juku Post Station and the stone monument inscribed with “Kisoji Road, further ahead” written by Toson Shimazaki, a novelist in the Meiji period, this stone-paved road will bring the travelers back to the old times.
Kaminoseki Bansho is the old guard station located in Nagashima, Kaminoseki-cho, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The guard station was established by the local government to keep an eye on ports and inspect shipping cargo during Edo era.
Because there are very few remnants of buildings preserved from the administrative arm at the beginning of Edo era, Kaminoseki Bansho is of significant importance. It was moved from inside the port where it was once located to its current address in 1996 and reconstructed as it looked originally.
The western side of the Setonaikai Inland Sea had several guard stations for cargo inspection and the region, currently Yamaguchi Prefecture, wasn’t exceptional. They had three stations which were called, in order of distance from the capital, “kaminoseki”, “nakanoseki” and “Shimonoseki” respectively.
Kaminoseki guard station has an overall length of 11.66m and width of 3.86m. It is a wooden building with Irimoya tile roof style and has “geya” (a lower roof) on all sides. The station is designated as a tangible cultural asset by the prefecture.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
To the south of the famous 365 stone steps that lead to the Daimon Gate of Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture stands the Old Konpira Oshibai Kabuki Theater, which is popularly called “Kanamaruza.” As the oldest existing Kabuki theater in Japan, it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1970 and moved to the present place in 1976, when it was restored to the original form with a large amount of funds including government subsidy.
Since its original construction in the Tenpo era (1830-1843), Konpira Oshibai Kabuki plays at Kanamaruza Theater were enthusiastically seen by pilgrims to the Kotohira-gu Shrine, for entertainment was extremely scarce in those days. The theater was comparable in size to those in big cities such as Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. It is said that all the nationally famous actors were eager to perform at Kanamaruza, which proves that Kotohira was prosperous as a gateway town.
The Shikoku Konpira Oshibai has been performed at Kanamaruza since 1985, and the revival of the Kabuki performance has attracted a great deal of interest from all over the country. When no performances are held, the inside facilities of the theater are open to sightseers.