Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred space. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering.
In Kyuushuu, especially in the Fukuoka and Miyazaki regions, the crane is often used as a design on shimekazari. Radially spread bundles of straw are positioned to indicate the wings and tail of a crane and the part that represents the beak is often colored in red. In rare cases, shimekazari may also have a turtle design.
Since ancient times, both the crane and the turtle have been valued as animals that bring good fortune and a long life. Their design has been a fixture at celebratory occasions. Pine, bamboo and plum trees as well as treasure ships are also added to the decoration of the shimekazari, combining, strong wishes for both a happy New Year and a long, healthy life.
Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
Shitoro ware is pottery made in Kanaya, Shimada City, Shizuoka Pref. This craft dates back to the late Muromachi period (in the 1500s), when a potter from Mino province (present-day the southern part of Gifu Pref.) built a kiln in this town. The craft was given a vermillion-seal certificate for pottery industry by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1588 and thrived through the early Edo period. Shitoro ware leaped to fame when Kobori Enshu, a notable artist and tea master of the time, nurtured this pottery as one of Enshu Seven Kilns. Shitoro ware is sober in color and has a taste of antiquity. A good point of this pottery is that you don’t have to care about compatibility with other vessels or flowers to be put in. It is well-known that the authentic ancient vases of Shitoro ware have exergues of “Sobokai” or “Ubagafutokoro” on their bottoms. As Shitoro ware is solid and tolerant to moisture, it is suitable for tea caddies and other tea utensils.
Mumyoi ware is a type of pottery made of mumyoi clay, which contains ferrous oxide and is obtained near the ancient goldmine on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. Originally, mumyoi was used for medical purposes such as relieving symptoms of palsy, digestive problems, burns, and helping to stop bleeding.
The pottery was first produced in 1819, when they were fired at relatively low temperature. The large-scale production adopting high-temperature firing was started in 1857. Unlike other clay wares, Mumyoi ware requires extra processing efforts such as raw-polish, a process that polishes the products with cotton cloth before firing, and a process of polishing with sand after firing.
As Mumyoi pottery is fired in a kiln at a high temperature, it becomes exceptionally hard. It is well-known that Mumyoi ware produces a clear metallic sound when tapped. The more it is used, the glossier it becomes. Mumyoi ware is more suitable for daily use rather than for decorative purposes.
The Hina Festival of Murata is an event that takes place on the fourth Saturday and Sunday of March in Murata, Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture.
During the late Edo period, Murata flourished with the harvesting of thistle saffron. The town prospered through the trade of saffron and various goods between other regions of Japan.
The elegant hina doll is one item that was traded. During the hina festival, people adorn their houses and storehouses with old-fashioned dolls as well as dolls that were made after the Meiji period up to the present day.
The Hina Festival of Murata has been beloved and passed on from generation to generation.
Embroidery is the art or handicraft of decorating fabric or other materials with designs stitched in thread or yarn using a needle. The art of embroidery was introduced to Japan from China about 1,600 to 1,700 years ago. Since then, embroidery had been the only way to decorate kimono until the pattern dyeing techniques of Yuzen was introduced. A lot of embroidery techniques were developed in every area of the country for a long time, which led to the present elaborate form of Japanese embroidery.
In ancient Japane, it was thought that stitches had a magical power. For this reason, there was a custome to add an embroidery motif called “Semori” on the back of a garment for children. Semori literally means a back protector. And as children’s kimono had fewer stiches than those of adults, Semori was added as a kind of charm to protect children from evil spirits.
From the similar ideas, embroidery was added to the junihitoe dress, a formal court lady costume in the Heian period (794-1192) and armors for samurai. These religeous element became a part of the bases for the development of embroidery in Japan and “stitches up” the Japanese style of elegance.
Chrysanthemum and Maple Leaf Festival is held at Hirosaki Botanical Garden in Hirosaki Park from the middle of October through the early November every year. It is counted as one of the four largest festivals in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. The festival originates in a chrysanthemum contest held by local chrysanthemum fancier group, who enjoyed appreciating the flowers grown by each member while viewing beautiful autumn leaves.
The highlight of the festival is the display of life-sized chrysanthemum dolls, which represent the famous scenes of the dramas including the NHK’s Taiga Drama of the year. Other objects such as Mt. Iwaki and the five-story pagoda made of chrysanthemum flowers are exhibited. Together with Japanese maple trees ablaze with red and yellow leaves, chrysanthemum flowers raised with loving care add gorgeous colors to the ruins of Hirosaki Castle.
The works of topiary, which is the art of ornamental gardening, are also displayed. The branches and leaves of chrysanthemum are trimmed into fantastic geometric shapes or animals.
Ichinoseki Summer Festival is held every August in Omachi, Ichinoseki City, Iwate Pref. The festival is composed of two big events of Ichinoseki Tanabata Festival, the traditional summer festival of the city, which was revived in 1948, and the fireworks festival, accompanying the opening of the Iwai River for summer fun, revived in 1952. For the three days of the festival, streets are decorated with gorgeous streamers and festival ornaments. Floats and portable shrines are carried throughout the town, accompanied by the parade of a large drum, Kuru-kuru Odori dancers, Sugawa samba dancers and kids’ portable shrines. The highlight is a very famous fireworks display on the banks of the Iwai River, where a lot of fireworks including the most popular Starmine are displayed in the night sky. This bustling festival is a biggest summer event in Ichinoseki City.