When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.
Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.
Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.
Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
Sando-gasa is a hat woven with bamboo or sedge.
Unlike most other hats that have a triangular pyramid shape, sando-gasa has a thin flat shape that is rounded towards the top and, seen head-on, it looks more like a thick horizontal line.
Sando-gasa is most commonly seen worn by yakuza, or gangsters, in Japanese period dramas. However, it was generally an express foot messenger who wore the hat regularly.
The messengers would travel both ways between Edo (Tokyo), Oosaka and Kyoto three times a month, and thus, were called “sando hikyaku” or three time messengers. The hats they loved were, accordingly, named sando-gasa.
The hat is wide enough to cover a person’s shoulders and can protect sufficiently from rain if the rain is not too hard. It is also very light and was often used by traveling merchants who wanted to avoid any excess weight other than their wares.
Inside, the hat is equipped with a circular head pedestal called atamadai which makes the hat fit quite well on the head.
Sando-gasa is a simple yet well designed hat filled to the brim with ancestral wisdom.
Buke-zukuri is an architectural style used for residences of the bushi, warrior class, during Kamakura period.
Buku-zukuri is considered a simplified version of Shinden-zukuri which was a residence for aristocrats during Heian period. In Shinden-zukuri, a main building called shinden was built facing the south garden. In the east and west of the sinden were sub-buildings called tainoya which were connected to the shinden by corridors called wataridono. Each taiya building had another corridor toward the south to connect to another building called tsuridono, which literally means a fishing building, that formed a bridge over the pond of the garden. Buku-zukuri had a similar but much simpler style using a roof structure covered with boards or planks and wooden board flooring. It is also believed that the buke-zukuri house had a kind of castle like facility to protect itself from the outside. However, no such example has ever been found so details are not known. Thus, buke-zukuri is not commonly accepted as an original style.
Shoin-zukuri in Muromachi period was believed to be based on buke-zukuri. Kinkaku-ji Temple built in the early Muromachi period showing fine harmonious blends of three different architectural styles: shinden-zukuri on the first floor, buke-zukuri on the second floor and Zen Butsuden-zukuri on the third floor. The temple shows the transition of the style to shoin-zukuri which is more evident in Ginkaku-ji temple that was built later.
It should be noted that Buke-zukuri is sometimes confused with buke-yashiki in Edo period, but it is a completely different style.
Old samurai gardens and residences have been carefully preserved in Chiran-cho, Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture. This district is nationally designated as a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. They are the reminiscence of the samurais’ residential district built about 260 years ago by the lord of Chiran Town, Shimazu Hisamine. As is represented by the words, “What defends the province is not a castle but people,” more than 100 residential districts of this kind were constructed as outer forts to defend the domain’s main castle during this period.
The residences are located along the delightful streets nicknamed Samurai Lanes, which are intentionally narrow and high walled to prevent would-be invaders. The seven gardens are open to the public. One garden is a pond garden with a miniature artificial-hill, and others are dry gardens in Karesansui-style. Those exquisite and elegant gardens fully represent intelligence and decency based on the Satsuma style simple and sturdy philosophy.
The 3rd Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate systematized “sankin kotai (alternate attendance)” by including it in Buke Shohatto (Laws for the Barons) in order to maintain the shogunate system. Basically, sankin kotai was a military service to the shogun, by which it required daimyo of every feudal domain to reside every other year in Edo and to leave their wives, children, and many retainers in Edo permanently as hostages. A daimyo’s procession occurred when a daimyo went to and from Edo.
The number of people that joined the procession and its detailed formation were set up in accordance with the assessment (by koku of rice) of the daimyo’s domain. As is seen in Japanese samurai movies, the procession goes with the usher calling “Shitani! Shitani!,” who was followed by m a factotum, couriers carrying hasamibako (briefcase) and soldiers with keyari (a haired pike), bows and guns, footsoldiers, men srvants of daimyo, the daimy in a palanquin, chief retainer, women servants and couriers carrying nagamochi (trunks).
According to one record, the procession of the Kaga domain, which boasted the largest kokudaka (the production of land assessed by koku of rice) in the Edo period, was composed of as many as 2,500 people. In the early Edo period, many daimyo seemed to enjoy the processions as occasions for displaying their wealth and status. However, it gradually became simplified due to the financial strains on daimyos.
Kogakuji Temple in Enzan Kamiozo, Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture is Daihonzan (the headquarters temple) of the Kogakuji school of the Rinzai sect. It was founded in 1380 by the Zen monk Bassui Tokusho, who was invited to this place by Takeda Nobunari, the 11th head of the Takeda clan. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai.
The temple had suffered from a fire several times in the Edo Period (1603-1868) and most of the temple buildings were burnt down. The main gate is the only remnant of the structures that were constructed in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). This four-legged gate with the gable roof made of cypress bark is designated as a National Important Cultural Property as one of a few precious structures in Zen architectural-style in the Muromachi period. In this temple, Butsuden (the hall where the Buddhist image is housed) is uniquely combined with Kaizando Hall (the hall sacred to the memorial tablets of the founding fathers of the sect).
Legend has it that the armor called “Tate-nashi-no-yoroi,” which had been handed down to the heads of the Takeda clan as the family treasure together with Japan’s oldest Rising Sun flag, was buried at the foot of a large cedar tree in the precinct when the Takeda clan was defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who ordered to dig it out later and dedicated it to Kandaten Shrine.
Ochidani Shrine in Uemachi, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture is a historic shrine. Walking up to the inner end of a narrow path off the main road, you will find a simple but distinguished-looking shrine building among fir and shii trees. The shrine was built in 1650 by the first lord of the Tottori domain, Ikeda Mitsunaka, to worship his grand-grand father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, thus it was called Toshogu or Tosho Daigongen in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, in the Meiji period (1868-1912) it was renamed to Ochidani Shrine according to the government’s policy of the separation of Shinto and Buddhism.
The solemn-looking Honden hall (the main hall) standing on white pebbled ground, the Chu-mon Gate in Hira-Karamon style (with bargeboards at each end), the Haiden hall (oratory), the Heiden hall (where offerings are presented to gods) are all nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The wood carvings of a hawk on the door of the Honden hall is said to be made by Hidari Jingoro, the master sculptor in the Edo period.
The Ochidani River flowing through the precinct is famous as the habitat of Japanese fireflies. After the sunset in early summer, the precinct turns into a fantasy.
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.