It is believed that far in the future, Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings.
The most well-known statue of Miroku Bosatsu in Japan is the one housed at Reihokan (the temple museum) of Koryuji Temple in Uzumasa in Kyoto. This Miroku Bosatsu Hankashi-yui-zou statue represents the seated Miroku with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing. The mystic smile and the gentle and sensitive finger put on the cheek are breathtakingly beautiful. The round outline gives feminine-like impression. The smile on its face is generally called an archaic smile.
It is said that this red pine wooden statue used to be decorated with gold powder. There are two theories as to where it was carved; one theory states that it was brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula judging from the facial expressions and the material wood, and the other theory states that it was carved in Japan. The argument is yet to be settled. The clear eyes seem to suggest that it was brought from the continent.
Umoregi-zaiku (bogwood carvings) is a traditional handicraft handed down in Aobayama in Miyagi Prefecture. “Umoregi” is carbonized, or fossilized, conifer, which lay buried in the layers of 3 to 5 million years ago. It was found a lot in the areas of Aobayama. .
The history of this handicraft dates back to the late Edo period. In 1822, Yamashita Shukichi, a foot-soldier of the Sendai domain, discovered pieces of bogwood in Aobayama. He made all kinds of efforts and finally succeeded in making out a plate to put on vessels or votive offerings to deities. The making of this craft rapidly spread among the low-ranked warriors in the domain as their side jobs.
Umoregi-zaiku is a unique handicraft that isn’t done in any other part of the country, and Umoregi itself is a unique material for crafts that is difficult to obtain today. In the making of Umoregi-zaiku, a piece of wood is hollowed out into a desired shape with chisels. Then lacquer is applied with fuki-urushi (buffing of coated lacquer) technique to create gloss. After lacquer is applied and buffed out 7 to 8 times, the product takes on deep gloss and stately appearance. With its beautiful grain and graceful luster, this blackish brown Umoregi becomes a high-grade work of art. .
Paulownia geta are Japanese wooden clogs made from expensive Aidu paulownia in Fukushima Prefecture.
Aidu domain traditionally encouraged people to plant paulownia. Aidu paulownia is highly valued because of its beautiful grain and strength, a result of the Aidu's uniquely severe climate.
Sticky and glossy, silvery white wood, beautiful straight grain, high-density, clear annual rings and hardness; these are Aidu paulownia's characteristics. Paulownia geta make the best use of Aidu paulownia. Straight-grained wood that is glossy and beautiful is said to be the best.
Paulownia is light and absorbent. The white grain is pleasant and the geta are comfortable to wear. The 'karan karan' sound of paulownia geta is also airy and fresh.
In 1997, the making of paulownia geta was designated as a Fukushima Traditional Handicraft.
Hiromichi Osaka was born in 1937, in Kurayoshi, Tottori prefecture. In 1997, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his woodcraft work.
After graduating from the Tokyo Gakugei University art department, Hiromichi Osaka became a public school teacher. He also became a disciple of Himi Kodo, another Living National Treasure. Under Kodo, Osaka studied woodcraft techniques such as 'kara-sashimono'. After much hard work, Osaka's work won a prize at the Traditional Japanese Crafts Exhibition.
In 1980, when he was 43, he was appointed by the Imperial Household Agency to copy a treasure from the Shoso-in. At this point, he retired from teaching and concentrated on the restoration project. The restoration imitation of a shitan wooden box was completed in 1986 and placed in the Shoso-in collection. His usage of materials such as 'kokushi' and 'shitan' using techniques and motifs from the Shoso-in wooden pictures and carvings have been highly praised.
Miharu-goma horse toys are part of a traditional wooden-toy craftmaking tradition in Miharu, Tamura district, Fukushima prefecture. Miharu-goma, along with Yawata-goma of Aomori prefecture and Kinoshita-goma of Miyagi prefecture, are known as the three best wooden horse toys of Japan.
Wooden horse toys were first made following a legend that a wooden horse had appeared to help the Heian shogun, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, in a close battle with Emishi.
These toy horses come in two basic body colors, white or black, while the whip, saddle and accessories are painted in red, black, gold and purple.
These toy horses express the love the Miharu people have for horses. Miharu has traditionally been a horse-breeding area.
The wooden horses consist of two basic carved pieces that fit perfectly together using joints and notches. Several accessories are added to show the dynamism of the horse. When the white and black horse are placed together they are extremely cute. There is a Miharu wooden horse decorating the finishing post of the Fukushima racecourse.