Shitoro ware is pottery made in Kanaya, Shimada City, Shizuoka Pref. This craft dates back to the late Muromachi period (in the 1500s), when a potter from Mino province (present-day the southern part of Gifu Pref.) built a kiln in this town. The craft was given a vermillion-seal certificate for pottery industry by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1588 and thrived through the early Edo period. Shitoro ware leaped to fame when Kobori Enshu, a notable artist and tea master of the time, nurtured this pottery as one of Enshu Seven Kilns. Shitoro ware is sober in color and has a taste of antiquity. A good point of this pottery is that you don’t have to care about compatibility with other vessels or flowers to be put in. It is well-known that the authentic ancient vases of Shitoro ware have exergues of “Sobokai” or “Ubagafutokoro” on their bottoms. As Shitoro ware is solid and tolerant to moisture, it is suitable for tea caddies and other tea utensils.
Miyazaki lacquer ware (Miyazaki Shikki) is a traditional handicraft, which is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Miyazaki Prefecture. The history of this craft originates in Ryukyu lacquer ware, which started in present-day Okinawa in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and the techniques of which we can see in the Shuri Castle Gate in Naha City.
In Miyazaki Prefecture, the lacquering techniques were introduced by some lacquerers, who came to live in this prefecture from Okinawa. Lacquering industry started in this area as the means of promoting local employment and developed as far as to produce the independent lacquer ware Miyazaki Shikki.
The high temperatures and ample humidity of Miyazaki's climate are well suited for drying the pieces, which are applied several times of lacquering; undercoating, middle coating and top coating. These processes are essential for making products strong and durable.
The distinctive way of applying the decorative pattern called Tsuikin characterizes Miyazaki lacquer ware. In Tsuikin techniques, pigment is crushed and mixed with transparent top-coat lacquer and hit by a hammer until it becomes gummy. This is then cut out according to the patterns and attached to a base board.
The outstanding beauty of the vermillion patterns is treasured by a lot of people all over the country. Presently products such as trays, teacup holders, candy dishes and letter boxes are being made.
Ogaki Castle located in Kuruwa-machi in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture is a flatland castle. It is said that the castle was constructed in 1500 by Takekoshi Naotsuna, a descendant of Sasaki Nobutsuna, who was a warrior in the early Kamakura period and was a member of the Genji Family descended directly from Emperor Uda. After 1559, when Takekoshi Shigeyoshi was defeated by Saito Dozo, the castle had been resided by many castellans including Ishida Mitsunari, who led the Western army in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600). After his defeat, the castle had been abandoned until the early Edo period (1603-1868). In 1635, Toda Ujikane was transferred to Ogaki as the lord of the Ogaki domai. Since then the Toda clan resided in this castle till the end of the Edo period.
The castle escaped being dismantled after the Meiji Restoration and remained in its original form until World War II. The castle had a donjon with 4 stories 4 floors. Its strong but elegant appearance was renowned all over the country. The castle was destroyed by fire during the World War II and rebuilt to the present form in 1959. The donjon is used as a history museum, where citizens can touch on first-hand sources of the city’s history.
Kaga Fishing rod is a high-quality fishing rod handed down in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture since the Edo period (1603-1868), when fishing was promoted as a healthy outdoor activity for samurai. Only samurai were allowed to fish Ayu (sweetfish) in those days. As the movements of the rod were similar to those of swords, fishing was a kind of secret training of swordsmanship. Fishing-pole makers began to appear around the era of Genroku (1688-1704) and produced robust fishing rods to meet the needs of samurai. In time, rods came to have lacquer finishes and be decorated, which led to the establishment of elegant and robust Kaga fly rods.
In the making of Kaga fishing rods, the two year old bamboo is heated at high temperature to makes it strong. The rod is then given repeated lacquering and polishing. As they were made for samurai, they needed to be of subdued appearance. The basic product was black and finished with roiro (high-gloss lacquering) technique. The strong but supple Kaga fly rods have once again become popular among anglers as a top class fishing rod.
Okawa paulownia chest is traditional furniture made in Okawa City, Fukuoka Pref. Furniture production in Okawa City has a history of 470 years and the city is Japan’s largest furniture production center. Okawa, which is located on the downstream of the Chikugo River, used to be a distribution center of lumber. Furniture production in this area started in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when Kumenosuke Enokizu applied his knowledge of ship carpentry to wood work. Then in the late Edo period, Kasaku Tanoue, who learned furniture making techniques of China and Holland, established the foundation of furniture-making in Okawa. The Paulownia chest is generally known for its damp-proof and fire resistive properties together with the beautiful grains. In addition to these merits, Okawa paulownia chest has a burglar-proof mechanism inside, giving special contrivance to metal hardware. Okawa paulownia chest is made of the top quality straight-grained boards, which gives massive appearance. It is a high-finished traditional product.
Ushikubi-tsumugi is a silk fabric made in the Ushikubi area of Shiramine in Hakusan city, Ishikawa prefecture. Ushikubi-tsumugi uses only pure river-bed water from the Tetori River and rare silkworm cocoons called “Tama-Mayu” in its process. The silkworm cocoons are first boiled down, spun by hand, and then elaborately weaved. All aspects of the process are done by hand and the fabric is famous for its strength among other silks. The origins of Ushikubi-tsumugidate back to the Heian period when the technique was first introduced to the locals by the wife of a Minamoto clan warrior named Oobatake. Oobatake became a fugitive after the Minamoto clan were defeated during Heiji no ran, or the Heiji Rebellion. Ushikubi-tsumugi was highly regarded for its durability and much sought after during the Edo period. From the middle of the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa period, silk production steadily increased, however with Japan facing economic depression and eventually war, production soon rapidly declined and the authentic silk industry disappeared all together for a time. After the war, silkworm breeding was resumed and the craft of Ushikubi-tsumugi was successfully revived. Today, Ushikubi-tsumugi is appreciated as one of the highest quality silk fabrics in the world.
Nagoya Black Dyeing is the art used to make formal kimono. The black dyed cloth is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Aichi Pref. The history of this art is dated back to the early Edo period (the 17th century), when Owari clan started to control dyeing industry for making clan banners and labarums. Later the dyeing of a black cloth with family crests for clan members and commoners began at the end of the Edo period (the 19th century). In order to make the outline of reversed-out family crest clear on black dyed cloth, a paper stencil is used. The mon-ate amitsuke technique, which is peculiar to Nagoya, is used. To create rich black color, the cloth is immersed in the dyestuff with low concentration for 30-40 minutes. The main products today are kimono cloth, haori, and mourning kimono. Kimono with a family crest is usually worn on formal occasions. Especially, mourning kimono is still worn by most people as the nation’s traditional clothing.
Murayama Oshima-Tsumugi is a tough and high-quality fabric woven in Musashi-Murayama City, Tokyo, and has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Asset of Tokyo.
It is said that this fabric was first woven in the mid-Edo period. It is made by combining the cotton Murayama-kongasuri and the silk Sunagawa-futo-ori techniques. In the 1920s, this was further adapted with the addition of crisscross splashed cotton threads and became one of the main products of Oshima-tsumugi.
Murayama Oshima-tsumugi has been woven using the original Murayama and Sunagawa village looms since the mid-Taisho period. The warp and weft threads are dyed separately, and there is no difference between the front and back sides of the cloth.
Over the years, the relentless efforts of the pioneering craftspeople eventually paid off, as testified in the high quality and toughness of this fabric.
In 1975, this fabric was designated by the Minister of International Trade and Industry as a Traditional Handicraft.