Hon’ami Koetsu was a calligrapher and artist in the early Edo period. He was also well known as the leading tea master of the time.
Hon’ami Koetsu was born into a family of swordsmiths who created and sharpened swords in Kyoto. He showed talent in a wide range of fields including calligraphy, pottery, lacquer, publishing, architecture and landscape design.
He especially excelled in calligraphy and, along with Konoe Nobutada and Shokodo Shojo, he came to be known as one of the Three Brushes of the Kan’ei Era (Kan’ei no Sanpitsu) . He founded his own personal style known as Koetsu-ryu, developed from the Japanese calligraphy style.
Hon’ami is also credited with founding the Rimpa School in the field of painting, together with Tawaraya Sotasu and Ogata Korin. His works include Rakuyaki Kamigawa-chawan ceramic teacups and Funabashi Makie Suzuribako lacquer work- both of which are designated as National Treasures, and Tsurushitae-wakakan painting, designated as an Important Cultural Asset.
In 1615, Hon’ami began an artist community called Koetsu-mura or Koetsu village in Takagamine, north of Kyoto, in the land granted by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He developed his own artistic style further and was also believed to have supervised all the work there.
Niigata lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Niigata and Kamo in Niigata Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. As a port used by Kitamae ships in the Edo period (1603-1868), various cultures were brought into this town both by land and sea, which contributed to the development of various craft techniques in this area.
It is said that the making of lacquer ware in Niigata started during the Genna era (1615-1624). In 1638, an authorized specialist area for selling lacquered goods was established under the name of “Wan-dana (bowl store)” in present-day Furumachi-dori Shichibancho.
Niigata lacquer ware is characterized by a number of different styles, which have been developed since the Meiji period (1868-1912). These techniques include take-nuri, which simulates the appearance of bamboo, contrived by Kyuhei Yoshida, kinma-nuri using gold leaf by Heikichi Meguro, isokusa-nuri (expressing sea-grass), hana-nuri (lacquering without grinding), nishiki-nuri (with patterns of gold) and ishime-nuri (with stone-like appearance). Among them, the solid and elegant take-nuri style is the most famous as the original lacquering techniqeu of Niigata lacquer ware.
Yukura Shrine is located in Yukawa-cho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Oanamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Kami. The shrine is said to have been founded in 1617.
In 1653, Matsumae Takahiro, the little son of Matsumae Ujihiro, the lord of the Matsumae domain, was suffering from a serious illness. His mother, Seiryoin, got a revelation in a dream telling her to put her son in the hot spring in the precinct of this shrine. When she did as she was told, Takahiro completely recovered from his illness. In the next year, the Matsumae clan constructed the main hall and dedicated some treasures including a golden statue of Yakushi Nyorai and a bronze-made Waniguchi (a metal gong) in token of their gratitude.
The shrine is also believed to be the guardian of the hot spring town of Yukawa. To the left of the main hall stands a stone monument inscribed with the words “the Birthplace of Yukawa Hot Spring” and its history. Covered with huge ginkgo trees and other greenwood, there is a tranquil atmosphere in the precinct.
Kurume-jou, or Kurume Castle, was once built in Sasayama-machi, Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The castle originated from a fortress made by a local clan during the period of Eihyou Era (1504 ~ 1521). It is believed that it was after Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered Kyuushyuu region that the castle was renovated extensively using a more modern building technique by the order of Kobayakawa Hidekane in 1583.
In 1620, the castle was given to Arima Toyouji as recognition of his contribution to the victory of Osaka no Jin Battle. Since then, until the end of Edo Period, the castle was occupied by the Arima family, the lord of Kurume Clan.
The Chikugo River ran along the Northwest side of Kurume Castle and it functioned as a natural protective moat and the castle was built making the most use of other natural geographical advantages to protect it. The castle compound had seven castle towers with two or three stories soaring above high white stone walls. Among them, the three storied Tatsumi castle tower, the main castle in the southeast corner, was the most imposing and impressive.
Now only the stone wall remains and inside the castle compound are Sasayama Shirine, worshipping the Arima lord, and Arima Kinenkan Museum that exhibits reference materials related to the Arima family.
Kurume Castle is an old castle ruin that is also designated as a prefectural cultural asset.
Koriyama Castle located in Yoshida-cho, Aki Takata City, Hiroshima Pref. was a large-scale castle which covered the whole mountain of Koriyama. The original castle was built on a ridge in the southeastern part of the mountain in 1336 by Mori Tokichika, who was appointed as the Jito (an official to manage manors) of Yoshida manor. Since then the successive heads of the clan had resided at this castle until the time of Mori Motonari, who fortified the castle and expanded the castle area in the whole mountain. In the Battle of Yoshida Koriyama in 1541, the castle was attacked by Amako Haruhisa’s forces with 20,000 soldiers, but the Mori clan succeeded in beating them back. In 1589, the Mori clan shifted its bases to Hiroshima Castle. Koriyama Castle was dismantled in the early Edo period. Most of the castle compounds were destroyed at this time. At the present time, there are about 130 remains of kuruwa (castle compounds) spreading all over the mountain, from which we can easily imagine how large the castle was.
In the middle of the Heian period, Minamotono Yoriyoshi visited Yamagata region in order to resolve the Battle of Abe Sadatou and Munetou. Foundry craftsmen accompanying Yoriyoshi discovered that the sand in the Mamigasaki River running through Yamagata City and the soil around Chitose Park were suitable for the iron casting process, and some of these people stayed and started production. This was the beginning of Yamagata iron casting.
It is reported that in 1356 when Shibano Kaneyori came to Yamagata and built Kasumiga Castle, nine local foundry men were ordered to make iron castings and offer their work to him.
In 1615, Seikichi Shouji, one of the nine most recognized craftsmen in Dou-machi, after visiting Kyoto to research the casting business there, invented “tatara”, a fan device that could be operated by foot. With this revolutionary device, the technology of Yamagata iron casting was established.
Around 1938, Dou-machi had forty production houses with about eight hundred workers. Both sides of the main street were mostly occupied by these manufacturers, continuously producing practical goods such as hibachi, tea kettles and Buddhist alter fittings.
In 1974, with continued prosperity, Do-machi, which had been the center of the casting industry for a long time, became too small to accommodate the flourishing businesses, and they were transferred to a new industrial complex called Yamagata Casting Industry Danchi in Imono-cho. The following year, Yamagata iron casting was recognized as a traditional art by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
As the result of repeated consolidations of towns and villages, Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture now hosts many historic sites and boasts affluent traditional culture. The Mogami Odori dance handed down for over 300 years in the towns of Shirinashi and Omori is one of such traditional folk performances.
The origin of the Mogami Odori dance is not clear, but it is composed of several elements of the dances performed from the Middle Ages through the near modern periods in the Japanese history. It is a precious folk performing art in that those complex elements have been handed down in this dance without being simplified. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The name “Mogami” derives from the Mogami clan, a powerful daimyo, who had ruled Dewa province (present-day Akita and Yamagata Prefectures). In 1622, however, its territory with over 500,000 koku was confiscated from the clan by the Tokugawa Shogunate because of the struggle for the status of the domain lord. The Mogami clan was then transferred to a part of Omi province (present-day Omori Town) with only 10,000 koku (later reduced to 5,000). The successive heads of the clan resided in the residence called Omori Jinya.
According to a historical record, the Mogami Odori dance was first performed in 1695 to celebrate the promotion of the Mogami clan, which became “koke,” a noble ranking below a daimyo in the Edo period. Today, the dance is handed down by the local conservation society and performed at shrine festivals held in both towns. It has also been regularly performed in Yamagata Prefecture, the birthplace of the Mogami clan, since 2005.
Fukuyama Castle was located in Marunouchi, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Pref. This castle is the most perfect example of the Edo architectural style. It is designated as a National Historic Site and counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Castles. The castle was built in 1619 by Mizuno Katsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s cousin and the first domain lord of the Fukuyama domain, under the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the bases for defending the western part of Japan. Since the castle had been resided by the successive lords of the domain such as the Mizuno, Matsudaira, and Abe clans till the Meiji Restoration. After the abolition of the han system, the castle was dismantled in 1873. The designated National Treasures of donjon and Oyudono (bathroom) were destroyed by fire due to the U.S. airrade in 1945. In 1966, the donjon, Tsukimi-yagura, and Oyudono were reconstructed. Fushimi-yagura and Sujigane-gomon Gate are designated National Cultural properties.