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.
The custom of Mizushugi (Water Celebration) has been passed down in the Koizumi area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a water celebration ceremony held on February 2 every year.
Mizushugi used to be held in many places in the prefecture but most of them were already discontinued. It is now preserved in the original form only in the Koizumi area and this custom is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Newly married couples and the couples who have lived in the village for 1 full-year are invited to the ceremony. They are all formally clothed. When they walk under the torii gate made by the locals reaching each other’s arms and worship Dosojin (the guardian deity of the community) enshrined in the hall, they are allowed to be the members of the locals.
After that, the kanji representing “water” is written on the foreheads of all the participants with Japanese ink. Then all the participants drink sake together to celebrate the new membership and to pray for household safety and safe delivery.
When the ceremony is over, all the participants visit each house in the village and throw up water at the roofs with dippers, calling words for fire extinguishment.
Kanmachi Houin Kagura is a music and dance performance held on the second Sunday of October each year. The performance takes place during the Mamekarasan Festival at the Inari Shrine in Toyosato-cho, Tometo, Miyagi Prefecture. The performance has been designated as an important cultural entertainment of the prefecture.
Houin, who trained in Tometo, established a kagura group and performed kagura as prayers for good harvest in the Edo period. The performance was adopted by the shrine devotees in the mid-Meiji period.
During the Mamekara Festival, Kanmachi Houin Kagura, such as Iwadohiraki, Douso, Maou and Ubuya, are performed over 8 hours as part of the shrine ablutions. A shrine ritual then takes place. Many visitors approve of the traditional splendor of kagura. The local people call it 'Mamekara Myoujin', and it is a familiar event for them.
The Hina Festival of Murata is an event that takes place on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of March in Murata, Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture.
During the late Edo period, Murata flourished with the harvesting of thistle saffron. The town prospered through the trade of saffron and various goods between other regions of Japan.
The elegant hina doll is one item that was traded. During the hina festival, people adorn their houses and storehouses with old-fashioned dolls as well as dolls that were made after the Meiji period up to the present day.
The Hina Festival of Murata has been beloved and passed on from generation to generation.
Kurokawa Noh drama is a traditional form of folk theater that is performed in Tsuruoka district (or in the Kushibiki Ooaza Kurokawa area), Yamagata Prefecture. It is designated as an important intangible cultural asset.
This Noh drama has been performed for 500 years as a dedication to Kasuga Shrine, the tutelary shrine of Kurokawa. The main difference between this Noh drama and other forms of Noh is that it was not a sophisticated drama performed for people of the samurai class.
In fact, Kurokawa Noh was traditionally a drama form beloved and enacted by farmers. There are further differences to other Noh, such as the separation of seats. At present, Kurokawa Noh is performed by about 160 actors, and has 230 masks, 400 typical Noh costumes, as well as 540 repertoires and Kyogen numbers.
Undoubtedly, Kurokawa Noh is a traditional folk performance on a huge scale. Annually, it is performed 6 times at the shrine and over 10 times outside, in response to demand.
The word for wrapping in Japanese is 'tsutsumu' and has the kanji character '包', which is derived from a Chinese pictogram of a pregnant woman with a baby inside her. Therefore, the word 'tsutsumu' carries the sense of tender motherhood.
In Japan, tsutsumu will remind you of furoshiki, the cloth for wrapping things. One furoshiki cloth can freely be used to wrap many things of varying shapes. It gives a feeling of flexible softness and tenderness.
包 can also be read as 'kurumu'. You could say 'be tsutsumu-ed in a fog' but never 'be kurumu-ed in a fog'. The word 'kurumu' is used mainly in the sense of 'wrapping your belongings'. Kurumu also means 'wrapping like rolling' and is matched with furoshiki and other cloths.
Following Japanese tradition, you can carry and give a gift 'tsutsumu-ed' in wrapping paper and 'kurumu-ed' in furoshiki; such a gift would be wrapped in double tenderness.