The word Karakuri was used to describe traditional Japanese mechanical devices. In the Edo period especially, gears from clocks were first used to make moving dolls and the elaborate Karakuri doll tradition began.
It was Hanzou Hosokawa from the Tosa region who first revealed to the general public the way the Karakuri work, using easily understood illustrations. His book, Kkarakuri-zui, had a tremendous impact on many artisans who later developed their own techniques in the field. This book is considered to be the foundation of Japanese robotic technology.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin was invented and the Karakuri techniques were handed down to Yuutarou Oono. Mr. Oono not only successfully revived Hosokawa`s Karakuri but, in a similar spirit of openness, he made them out of transparent acrylic. It is exciting to see a doll in a beautiful kimono bringing and serving tea but people were doubly delighted to to see the dolls’ inner workings as well. The transparent gears developed by modern technology allowed this to be possible.
It is the spirit of true Karakuri artists to honor the people’s desire to know and also create such beautiful dolls that are totally in keeping with the Japanese people’s sense of esthetics.
Cape Sukai is one of the representative scenic spots of Rebun Island in the northernmost part of Hokkaido. You can get to the cape by sightseeing bus or by taking the 4 hour trekking route from Cape Sukoton via Cape Gorota.
The attraction of Cape Sukai is the beauty of the sheer cliffs and rugged coastline with many oddly-shaped stones and rocks as well as the plentiful alpine plants such as Ezo daylilies and Ezo gentians (Gentiana triflora var. japonica).
Looking down at the ocean below, you will be astounded by crystal clear water. The water is so clear that you will feel you can touch the bottom with your hand. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the sea of Rebun. The color of the sea changes to various colors such as light green and emerald green according to the depth of water and the course of sunlight. You will be so fascinated that you may not be able to turn your eyes away.
Nippo Coast is a 120 km ria coast from Saganoseki Peninsula in Oita Prefecture to Mimitsu Beach in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture in the eastern part of Kyushu. This ria coast was formed by the subsidence of the ground due to the crustal movement of the Kyushu Mountain Range, which separated Kyushu from Shikoku. The name “Nippo (日豊)” is the combination of the names of old provinces, Hyuga (日向) province (present Miyazaki Prefecture) and Bungo (豊後) province (present Oita Prefecture). The whole part of the coast is designated as Nippo-Kaigan Quasi-National Park.
Seen from Cape Hyuga, which is protruding in to the Hyuganada Sea, the white splashes of restless waves make an exquisite contrast with the continuing sheer cliffs. As the seawater is warm and clear, various marine animals such as table corals, Favia corals and stony corals inhabit in the sea.
This craft involves the carving of natural semiprecious stone for art objects, craft products and accessories. Its techniques in carving and polishing have developed throughout a long history and highly appreciated not only in Japan but also in many other countries.
This craft started in the Heian period (794-1192), when quartz was found in the deep mountain beyond Mitake Shosenkyo Gorge. When it was first discovered, it was used as an ornament, but by the Edo period (1603-1868), master craftsmen from Kyoto were invited to this area and they taught local craftsmen the techniques of making raw material into gems, which developed into the present Koshu crystal carving.
The production reached its peak with export growth in the postwar period, but today ornaments and items of jewelry for domestic customers are being produced. Many of these pieces have been created to make the most of the transparent colors and brilliance of the natural gem stone. They are not merely beautiful but have an uplifting feeling and sense of being alive.
Futo Coast on the west side of Izu Peninsula is a scenic coast with a total length of 900 meters. It is a beautiful coast with shining ocean and indented coastline with bizarre stone formation.
At low tide, pools of seawater are formed in the cove on the other side of the bathing beach, where you can enjoy watching or catching inshore fish and sea shells. With clear sea and good natural environment, it is one of the few distinctive diving spots in Izu Peninsula, a good hidden spot for surf fishing and marine sports. It is also a fine place to view the sunset. The sun setting among small islands is absolutely beautiful.
As the promenade is set out from the northern end of the coast to Tago, you can enjoy 1 hour walking while viewing oddly-shaped stones and the indented coastline with colonies of sea plants on the way. There are other sightseeing spots such as Dogashima and Cape Koibito-misaki in the vicinity.
Hida Shunkei lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Takayama and Hida in Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this craft dates back to 1606. A head carpenter, who were engaged in building temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, happened to discover beautiful straight grains, when he chopped a piece of sawara cypress wood apart. He made it into a tray and lacquered the surface. Because the coloring of this tray resembled “Hishunkei,” a famous tea ceremony tea jar made by master potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name Shunkei was given to this lacquer ware.
What makes Hida Shunkei lacquer ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is also characterized by its delicate technique of hegime (grooves that are carved out between the wood grains). When exposed to the light, the grains with hegime grooves glow gold through the transparent lacquer. The more it is used, the more gloss it takes on. Hida Shunkei is extremely appealing and robust form of lacquer ware.
Yukirinsai is one of the most painstaking pottery techniques. First, the glaze of the base color is applied to the surface of the vessel to be fired. Then gold leaf id applied onto it and it is covered with another layer of the transparent glaze and further fired at higher temperature so that the gold leaf is effectively sandwiched between two layers of glaze.
This adds to the durability of the gold decoration and makes the glitter of gold more contained and elegant. As the beauty of the finished work solely depends on the simple combination of the gold leaf and transparent glaze, careful attention must be paid to the hue of the base color and the layout of the gold leaf. It also requires a highly specialized technique to ensure that the gold leaf doesn't roll up or melt into the glaze during firing.
All these meticulous care comes into fruition of a highly elaborate work with the gold leaf decoration looking as if it emerges up to the surface of the vessel. Although most of the pottery techniques used in Japan were introduced from China, this Yurikinsai technique was invented by the hands of Japanese potters. What covers the glitter of gold may be the Japanese veneration for modesty.
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.