Temari is a traditional Japanese thread ball that was used as a toy ball for children. While playing with the ball, children used to sing a temari song. The most loved of these temari songs was “Antagata dokosa” which came from Higo Temari, traditionally from Kumamoto Prefecture.
Higo Temari, whose beauty is characterized by bright colors and biometric patterns, was first made by the court ladies working in their clan’s palace in Edo, Tokyo, as a pastime. This skill was eventually passed down to their local regions.
Higo Temari, which was traditionally made by local women in Higo region, began disappearing as rubber balls took over the market in the middle of Meiji period. In 1968, Higo Temari Club was founded and began formally preserving the temari making method.
The core of a temari ball is formed with dried sponge cucumber which was cut at an angle. Thin yarn is wrapped over the core, and then thread is randomly wrapped around the outside of the ball which produces a cushioned surface and helps create a perfect spherical shape. French Embroidery threads are applied to decorate the surface which creates superb color schemes and a rich variety in designs.
The Higo Temari song mentions a place called “senba”, which is on the bank of Tsuboi River that was once abundant with small shrimps. Mt. Senba nearby was once inhabited by raccoon dogs and the surrounding area was said to be a dense grove and bamboo thicket.
Chichibu Meisen is the silk fabric made from Chichibu silk that has been manufactured since ancient time in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
The origin of Chichibu Meisen dates back as early as the Emperor Sujin era (BC149~BC29) when Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto taught the technology of sericulture and the weaving to local people.
The fabric uses yarns taken from silkworm cocoons called Tama-mayu as well as Kuzu-mayu, debris of the cocoons. This thick yarn is woven horizontally, which makes the fabric durable. Sericulturists used to make the fabric for their own working clothes.
Chichibu Meisen uses a simple weave form called Hiraori (literally, flat weave) which has no difference between front and reverse side, thus, allowing people to turn the clothes inside-out to renovate the dress when the color wears out. With its durability and utility, the fabric became popular among common people and developed further.
Samurai warriors also valued the fabric and helped its development. Over the decades, Chichibu Meisen was improved and the technology advanced while it kept its tradition. It reached its period of peak popularity during Meiji era and the beginning of Showa era.
Chichibu Meisen, which won the hearts of many people in Meiji and Taisho era with its rich design style, still draws attention and is woven with great care while preserving its long history.
Tsumugi are silk textiles woven by hand using thread collected from the floss of the cocoons.
The floss is made from debris of the cocoons and spun by hand into thread. Because the thread is called “tetsumugi ito” or “ tsumugi ito”, the textile made from the thread became to be known as tsumugi.
Tsumugi is characterized by its unique texture and dull gloss coming from subtle variations of the tetsumugi threads. It is extremely durable and has been used for everyday clothes and working clothes since ancient times.
Thus, tsumugi, although it is silk, was not used for formal wear. However, during Edo period, many stylish, fashionable people liked tsumugi’s color palate and texture with its muted gloss despite it being silk. They found it expressed an austere elegance and considered it a stylish fabric that expressed their good taste nonchalantly. They generally wore it as outer clothing and dressing up in tsumugi became popular.
Though tsumugi is durable, because the newly woven cloth is hard and quite uncomfortable to wear, it is said that wealthy merchants had their clerks wear them first to break them in.
It could be fun to try a newly woven hard tsumugi and act cool like a rakugo comedian.
Itoire (literally meaning “thread insertion”) is a technique employed in the making of Ise-katagami (paper stencil patterns), which is a traditional handicraft handed down in Mie Prefecture. Ise kimono stencil is made of Japanese washi paper with a persimmon stringent liquid, onto which elaborate and elegant kimono patterns are hand-carved.
In the case of patterns such as stripes, where there are substantial spaces between the uncut areas of the stencil, threads are fixed to the stencils to strengthen them and prevent movement during use, which technique is called “itoire.”
As itoire is an elaborate technique to require a long period of training and painstaking efforts, successors of this technique are decreasing in number and the technique using silk gauze (called “sha-bari”) are now replacing it. The itoire craftsperson Mie Jonokuchi was designated as a Living National Treasure together with 5 other Ise-katagami craftspeople in 1955; regrettably all have passed away now.
Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with designs stitched in thread or yarn using a needle. The art of embroidery was introduced to Japan from China about 1,600 to 1,700 years ago. Since then, embroidery had been the only way to decorate kimono until the pattern dyeing techniques of Yuzen was introduced. A lot of embroidery techniques were developed in every area of the country for a long time, which led to the present elaborate form of Japanese embroidery.
In ancient Japane, it was thought that stitches had a magical power. For this reason, there was a custome to add an embroidery motif called “Semori” on the back of a garment for children. Semori literally means a back protector. And as children’s kimono had fewer stiches than those of adults, Semori was added as a kind of charm to protect children from evil spirits.
From the similar ideas, embroidery was added to the junihitoe dress, a formal court lady costume in the Heian period (794-1192) and armors for samurai. These religeous element became a part of the bases for the development of embroidery in Japan and “stitches up” the Japanese style of elegance.
Nomugi Pass is where many girls aged around 13 climbed over in the heavy snow at the risk of their lives to work in silk mills in the Shinshu region such as the towns of Okaya and Suwa. Having taken a rest at the tea house called “Otasuke Jaya (Saving Tea House),” the girls went down through the bushes of tall groundcover bamboo and headed for the Shinshu and Hida regions.
Now from the top of the pass, you can command a panoramic view of Mt. Norikura in the north and Mt. Ontakesan in the south. The bamboo (Sasa veitchii) growing in this pass was called “Nomugi (wild oats)” because it comes into ear once every 10 years, and it looks like a wheatear, from which the name of the pass was derived.
A one-year window display project was carried out at the gallery space “Dunhill Scope” of Dunhill Omotesando Boutique in 2006. The exhibition concept was created by Director Kenichi Otani and the whole project was managed by t.c.k.w. Inc. (represented by Yudai Tachikawa), which is known for its activities of introducing excellent craft techniques to architectures and designers. The photo on the left shows the work created with “Hanami (cherry blossom seeing) as the theme. The creator, having received the idea from Origami, used the objet d'art of cherry blossoms. Beautiful flowers and a cute bicycle create a unique and delicate visuality. The work on the upper right is entitled “Sewing the World,” expressing worldwide Dunhill shops, which continue activities to attach importance on tradition and concepts. Numerous colorful lines link the places on the world map made of various materials. Bright colors and a variety of materials represent nationality of each country. This beautiful work gives us a strong impression. (Produced and designed by Kenichi Otani, Promoted by ubushina and Yudai Tachikawa)
Kaga-nui is a traditional embroidery specific to the Kaga area of Ishikawa prefecture. It was during the Muromachi period that what would eventually become know as the kaga-nui technique was first introduced to the locals, along with Buddhism, from Kyoto. The embroidery technique was initially used for decorating a priest’s stole and the golden cloth that was laid in front of tablets of the deceased. The technique was further developed and, in the Edo period, the embroidery was used to decorate accessories and ceremonial garments used during battles for the lords of a feudal clan. Later it was also used to decorate women’s kimono. Successive rulers of the Kaga feudal clan valued arts and crafts and fiercely protected Kaga-nui. Along with two other famous local specialties; Kaga gold gilding and Kaga Yuuzen, Kaga-nui was perfected so as to become totally unique. Kaga-nui utilizes gold, silver and silk threads so skillfully that embroidered drawings and patterns are raised from the cloth in a three-dimensional shape. This humble yet graceful embroidery, born from delicate and detailed techniques, continues to be used to this day to decorate accessories, kimono and obi. Its elaborate method of hand stitching remains the same and so naturally, each work is different and unique.