'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Usui Checkpoint was built at Usui Pass in present-day Matsuida-cho, Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture as one of the checkpoints, which the second Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada ordered to build on the Nakasendo Road in 1623 to control “Irideppo ni Deonna” (guns coming into Edo and women leaving Edo). It was referred to as one of Three Great Checkpoints in the Edo period. It had functioned as the most important checkpoint on the Nakasendo Road until 1869, when the checkpoint system was abolished.
In 1959, the eastern gate of the checkpoint was restored to its original form after the design by Gaijiro Fujishima, a professor of Tokyo University and Doctor of Engineering. The posts and door boards of the original building were used for the new gate. It is made of zelkova wood, and metal fittings are used to reinforce the structure.
On the second Sunday in May every year, Usui Pass Checkpoint Festival is held, where people come to enjoy listening to Yagibushi song and Japanese drums as well as seeing the local children in the costumes of checkpoint officers.
Minakuchi-juku (presently Koga City in Shiga Prefecture) was the 50th post station of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). Minaguchi had been flourished as a lodging village for the pilgrims to Ise Shrine since the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Then, it developed into a castle town of the Kato clan in the Edo period. Located at the southern foot of Mt. Kojozan, the town was divided into two parts; the area to the east of the stone bridge was a post town with a three-forked road, while the western part was a castle town, where a street bents at a right angle. Minakuchi Castle was also known as “Hekisui (deep blue clear water) Castle,” from its reflecting image on the surface of the water moat. The specialty products of the town are rattan work, tobacco pipes, and a dried gourd shaving, which was depicted in Hiroshige’s “The 53 Post Stations of the Tokaido Road.” The town was so flourished and bustling as to be called “The No.1 place to gather people on the Tokaido Road.” Today, there are several historical spots including the castle ruins and the old street light, which remind you of the town’s prosperity in the old days.
Ishibe-juku was the 51st post station of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). There are several opinions as to the origin of the town. One of them states that 5 nearby villages were consolidated into the town of Ishibe in 1571 under the governance of Oda Nobunaga. Another states that the town was established in 1597 by the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi to provide couriers and horses for transporting commodities to Zenkoji Temple in present Nagano Prefecture. Still another states that it was established according to a shuinjo (red-seal letter) of 1601 to order every post station of the Tokaido Road to requisition the horsed for official use.
Travelers who left Kyoto usually spent their first night at Ishibe-juku. Located at the interchange point of the Tokaido Road and the Ise Shrine Pilgrimage Road, the town was bustling with a lot of travelers. There was a gold mine (“kin-zan” in Japanese) near the town, and it is said that a Japanese metaphor “Ishibe Kinkichi” meaning a hardheaded person is derived from this place.
Presently, two free rest stations, Ishibejuku-eki and Dengaku-jaya, are provided for the tourists.
Kusatsu-juku in Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture was the 52nd of the 68 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). The town’s history dates back to the Heian period (794-1192), and in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), it had already been considered as an important point of traffic. The town was developed into a post station during the governances of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. Located at the interchange point of the Nakasendo and Tokaido roads, the post town thrived as the transportation center in the Edo period. The names of the renowned persons such as the members of the Shinsengumi or the masterless warriors of the ex-Ako domain are left in the guest books of inns.
The honjin (the lodging for daimyo and the nobility) standing on the old road is a beautiful building with white clay walls. It was built in 1635 and is a nationally designated Historic Site. It is now open to the public and visitors can see precious historic documents.
The specialty product of Kusatsu-juku, Ubaga-mochi, is a kind of Ohagi, a rice ball covered in bean jam. The famous Ukiyoe artist, Ando Hiroshige, also depicted the shop selling Ubaga-mochi, which was included in his work Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.
Gold foil, which is pure gold, is mixed with small amounts of silver or copper, so its color may change through years.
The square corners of the photo are where water vapor from the hot springs has bubbled over and they are continuously exposed to water. Moreover, because some of the water comes from the ‘natural hot spring’, the material is corroded easily. So, gold foil was applied to the back of the acrylic board to protect the surface.
You cannot find any spot of attachment glue on the gold foil.
Even though the foil is exposed to water, it has a beautiful gloss.
Seen from the lobby of the hotel, it seems as if a hot spring were bubbling up from a gold ingot.
■ Dormy Inn Kanazawa courtyard
* gold foil applied to the back of clear acrylic board with silicon coating
*size w55×d55×h45 cm
*designed by n.o.a
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
The Asaina-kiridoshi is an ancient passageway located between Junisho in Kamakura, and Kanazawa-gun in Yokohama, both in Kanagawa Prefecture. The passageway is designated a National Monument.
In Kamakura, there are many passageways for defensive purposes called kiridoshi. The Asaina-kiridoshi connects Kamakura with Kanazawa and Rokuura, and is said to be one of the seven greater kiridoshi in Kamakura.
The name Asaina-kiridoshi comes from Yoshihide Saburo Asaina who, during the 2nd year of the Ninji era (1241) and under the command of Masatoki Hojo, was said to have built the road in a single night.
The road was constructed during a time of dispute between the Hojo and Miura clans. The Hojo clan was in need of a road connecting with the Rokuura port, and leading to Boso without passing through the Miura Peninsula.
The Asaina-kiridoshi still retains its distinct historical atmosphere, and reminds those who walk on it of the culture and life of the Kamakura period.
The origins of Osaka Ranma (Transoms) is said to date back to the beginning of the 17th century. The original forms of this traditional wood working skill can be seen at Osaka’s Hijiri Shrine and Shiteno-ji Temple. Duringmid-Edo period, transoms were mainly introduced into merchants’ houses notonly for practical reasons of ventilation and lighting but also as homede´cor to keep the home decency.There are many techniques in Osaka transom woodwork, including chokokurannma (curved transom), which makes use of light presence of the grain of Yaku cedar, and osa rannma (reed transom) or kumiko rannma (latticetransom), which harmonize with beauty of a Japanese house. The materials of Osaka transoms are precious wood of Yaku cedar, other cedar from Kasuga, Yoshino, and Akita regions, Aizu paulownia, and Japanese cypress, and they are processed with tools peculiar to Osaka region. Even a small brush line drawn on a sketch is curved out by making full use of special tools and delicate expression is shown in form.