Keiko Yoshida is the owner of Yoshida store in Daito-ku, Tokyo, that creates and sells Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rakes, which are sold only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. Ms Yoshida was born in 1921 and is a master craftswoman recognized by Nihon Shokunin Meikoukai, the association for the Japanese Master Craftsmen.
Yoshida is currently the only store that creates Takarabune-kumade employing traditional methods, and Ms Yoshida continues to use the methods passed down since the Edo period. She initially started making the rakes to help her husband who was originally a carpenter. After his death, she became the head of the store and single-handedly manages the business.
Takarabune-kumade made by Yoshida store uses only natural materials of bamboo and paper. The whole manufacture process including cutting bamboo, cutting paper using a pattern, coloring, drawing faces, painting exterior, and insertion are done by hand. These techniques have been handed down to Ms Yoshida’s daughter, Kyoko.
Tori no Ichi, or Tori Fair, is a religious fair that takes place every November and is believed to have originally started at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa. Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rake, is a harbinger of good luck, coming from a belief that rakes gather up good luck and prosperity, and they are available only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. The Takarabune rakes are currently made only in Yoshida store in Asakusa. The size of the rakes varies from 6cm to 3.4m. The store starts making the rakes immediately after the fair, taking a whole year to prepare for the following years event.
At first, paper is cut using a pattern, then lines are drawn followed by coloring. After the faces of Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, are drawn, they are inserted into the treasure ship with other decorations and finely balanced to finish. Drawing faces with their unique looks for the seven deities is the most difficult part. This hand drawing technique has been passed down for years since the Edo period. It is now practiced by Keiko Yoshida, head of Yoshida store, and her daughter, Kyoko.
Takarabune-kumade has brightly colored decorations of the seven deities, treasures and a sea bream. Although it is a rake with the tip of a straw festoon arranged to look more like a bow of a ship, it is created to have the look of a treasure ship. The rake, with its dominant red color, is referred to as a “red type” amulet. Takarabune-kumade is one of the most popular good luck charms in the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine.
The Omagari Fireworks Competition is held in Omagari, Daisen City in Akita Prefecture on the 4th Saturday every year. It started in 1910 as a local fireworks display of the annual festival at Suwa Shrine. In 1915, the association of fireworks manufactures in 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region hosted the fireworks display to raise the level of fireworks technology, changing the name to the present one.
The competition is held on the banks of the Omonogawa River. The most overwhelming is the association’s display of 1,500 fireworks, which are shot up into the night sky with powerful sparks. Solemn back ground music increases the magnificence.
Many prizes such as the Prime Minister’s Award are given to the excellent fireworks manufactures. The best of the best fireworks manufacturers come from all over Japan and battle for the title of “Best in Japan.”
Urushi-ring is an acrylic based ring with a lacquered top created by Masako Ban, an internationally acclaimed accessory designer. Her innovative application of materials and appreciation for Japanese craft techniques has taken her design to a new frontier. The simply designed yet profoundly deep urushi-ring distills the essence of modernism in Japanese craft work today. Manufacture requires highly skilled techniques to lacquer on the small surface of the ring. and achieving the perfect color and texture takes considerable time. After much trial and error, using different craft artists, each expert in their own acrylic and lacquer techniques, and combining the sum of their skills, she perfected this unique piece in which two materials; acrylic and lacquer, delicately complement each other. This is a ring which over time as the piece ages, the gloss and colors change subtlety and the more you can appreciate its beauty.