It is said that Sendai Chests were created by a local carpenter during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). They are solid, yet elegant chests made of zelkova or chestnut wood. The surface of the wood is finished with kijiro lacquer to create transparent coating to bring out the beauty of the grains.
As Sendai Chests were originally made for warriors, they are contrived to contain long things such as a sword or a hakama (a formal men’s divided long skirt). They are also characterized with elaborate metal fittings on which patterns of dragons, Chinese lions, peony flowers and arabesques are hammered out. About 70 to 80 iron fittings are attached to one chest. This elaborate ironwork adds elegant and artistic flavor to a solid chest for men.
Further improvement has been made in skills and techniques, and products in new styles that fit the modern life have been added to the traditional product line. Going through a history of 500 years, they still keep on changing to add colors to people’s lifestyles.
Ichikawa Danjuro is a stage name taken on by successive Kabuki actors of the Ichikawa family. Its yago (guild name) is Naritaya. The design of the Ichikawa family’s jomon (the formal crest) is “mimasu,” in which three squares nested inside one another, and the most frequently used kaemon (the sub-crest) is “gyoyo-botan (a peony flowere surrounded by apricot leaves).” Prior to taking the name Danjuro, an actor frequently had the names Ichikawa Shinnosuke, then Ichikawa Ebizo.
Ichikawa Danjuro I (1660-1704) was the founder of the aragoto style of the present Kabuki performance. Borrowing an idea from Joruri (Japanese-styled puppet play), he came up with the scenes of fierce god or demon appering at the finale of the traditional aragoto style of the dramas dealing with a valiant warrior, and created a new style of aragoto, which is typical to the Kabuki Juhachiban (a collection of 18 plays of the Ichikawa Danjuro line of actors) still performed today. Among them, Shibaraku, Jayanagi, Narukami, Fuwa and Kanjincho were first played by Danjuro I. He also wrote many Kyogen plays under the name of Sanshoya Hyogo. Ichikawa Danjuto XII is the current holder of the name Ichikawa Danjuro.
Ueno Toshogu Shrine located in Ueno Park in Taito-ku, Tokyo is a shrine where the three shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu (the 1st), Yoshimune (the 8th) and Yoshinobu (the 15th) are enshrined. In 1616, when Ieyasu fell into a critical condition, he told, as his last will, Todo Takatora and Priest Tenkai to build a place where he could rest eternally. Following his will, Takatora built a shrine in his premises in Ueno in 1627. Later in 1651, the 3rd Shogun, Iemitsu, rebuilt it to the present form.
A large torii gate in Myojin style stands at the entrance. Along the front approach stand 200 stone lanterns and 48 bronze lanterns dedicated by daimyo all over the country. Walking along a quiet path through the lanterns, you will be impressed with the course of history. Honden (the main hall), Haiden (oratory) and Kara-mon Gate are designated Important Cultural Properties. Things pertaining to Ieyasu are preserved at Heiden Hall (offering hall). In the peony garden next to the shrine, visitors can enjoy peony flowers both in winter and spring.
Himetani Ware is one of the three earliest Iroe (decorated with colorful underglaze painting) porcelains in Japan. Others are Imari and Kutani wares. This porcelain was made by a small number of potters including Ichiemon for only a short period of time in the late 17th century.
It is characterized by the colorful patterns painted on the surface of thin white porcelains, leaving enough margins. The motifs include red maple leaves, a peony flower on a branch or Sansui landscape painting with a flying goose. The paintings look all the more beautiful for the simple composition and plain brushwork.
This Wabi and Sabi aesthetics is favored by the art collectors today. Its excellence was acknowledged and designated as a Hiroshima Important Cultural Property in 1971.
This pagoda was constructed in 1328 at the end of the Kamakura period. It houses the statues of Dainichi Nyorai and the attendants, which are designated as the Important Cultural Properties of Onomichi City, Hiroshima Pref. The images of Shingon Hasso (the eight founder of the Shingon sect) are painted on the walls. Compared with other Tahoto pagodas, this pagoda is relatively large in size. It is characterized by the large rotund, white, plaster-covered form extending above the lower roof. Detailed decorations are given to the nosings that appear as an extension of a tie beam of the lower story and the bracket arms and the tail rafters of the upper roof. Gorgeous brattishing with peony flowers and arabesque design is given to the frog-leg struts. Its well-balanced shape is comparable to the excellent pagodas at Koya-san Kongosanmai-in Temple or Ishiyamadera Temple. As the structure representing the late Kamakura-period architecture, the pagoda is designated as a National treasure.
Taimadera Temple located in Taima, Katsuragi City, Nara Pref. is a rare type of temple that belongs to both the Shingon sect and the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is the Taima Mandala (the depicted paradise of Amida). This is the 11th temple of the Shin-Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage Temples.
It is said that the temple originates in Manpozoin Zenrinji Temple, which was founded in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka) in 612 by the Imperial Prince Maroko, a brother of Prince Shotoku. It was moved to the present location in 681 by Taima no Kunimi, a grandson of Prince Maroko. Since then it had been a family temple of the Taima clan.
Taima Temple first belonged to the Sanron sect, an ancient Buddhist school. Later in the Heian period (794-1192), when Kobodaishi Kukai stayed here and trained himself at this temple, it was converted to a Shingon sect temple. Then in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), with the spread of Jodo Buddhism, it belonged to the Jodo sect as well. Since then the temple has belonged to the both sects.
The temple is famous for the original Taima Mandala woven by Lady Chujo and peony flowers. This is the holy place where visitors can feel the benevolence of Buddha.
Sekkoji Temple, or popularly called “Somedera,” located in Someno, Katsuragi City, Nara Pref. is a Jodo sect temple. The main object of worship is Miroku Nyorai Bosatsu. Legend has it that in about 630, some villagers, who found three glittering stones at this place, grubbed up earth to find Miroku Nyorai Bosatsu. To hear this, the emperor ordered En-no-Ozuno to establish a temple here and named it “Sekkoji.”
In the precinct is a well named “Some-no-I.” One day Lady Chujo, who wanted to weave the Mandala, immersed thread made of lotus stems in this well and then the thread was immediately dyed in five colors. The cherry tree beside the well is named “Itogake Zakura,” on which she hung the tread to dry.
The temple is known as a viewing spot of peonies. From the end of April through the early May, about 500 species of 4,000 peonies are in full bloom. In front of Nan-mon Gate remains the foundation stone of the pagoda existed in the Nara period. The senbutsu (the image of Buddhist deity on a clay tile) of the Hakuho Culture (the end of 7th C. to the early 8th C.) is preserved as the temple’s treasure. Sekkoji Temple is a temple of legends and flowers.
Yuko Tamanaha was born in 1936 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'bingata' dyeing work.
Bingata is a splendid dyeing craft that symbolises the culture of the Ryukyu dynasty. Its color reflects the colors of Okinawan nature. Professional artists compete with each other to succeed and pursue these traditional skills. And Bingata is a dyeing craft that is unique to Okinawa.
Tamanaha studied dyeing under Eiki Shiroma, the 14th in the Shiroma family and one of the three head families of Bingata. When he was 34, Tamanaha began to send his work to exhibitions and received many prizes for excellence.
His career is brilliant but his work is a steady repetition of tasks. The handiwork requires finesse and endurance and considerable effort leads to beautiful work.
Tamanaha is now engaged in making bingata with his family at his studio: the Tamanaha Bingata Institute in the village of Yomitan.