Genbee Yamaguchi is one of the most respected kimono makers. In 1981, he became the head of “Kondaya”, a long-established wholesale store of obi sashes that was founded in Kyoto in 1738. As the tenth head of Kondaya, he devoted himself to advancing obi making. His recent works, however, have been more involved in designing and making the whole kimono. He also takes an active role in revitalizing the dyeing and weaving technologies through such measures as the revival of Koishimaru - a specific type of silk worm cocoon found in Japan and the preservation of a unique village in the Philippines called “Dreamweaver”. In 2003, Yamaguchi received the Japan Culture Award. After successful collaborations with Kengo Sumi, an architect, and Hiroko Koshino, a designer, he released a new kimono line called Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu, in collaboration with UNITED ARROWS, a specialty retailer. It is an exciting and bold kimono collection for men.
Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu is inspired by the men of the Momoyam period (approximately 1568 to 1603) who loved to live a wild and flamboyant life-style. Japanese men in those days were respected as the toughest of the world. Kabukimono is expressive of that type of man who pursued an extraordinary and “cool” life style. The fashion of Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu evokes masculinity and the true “rock and roll” spirit of the time.
“If you keep on pursuing the basics, there will be a moment when you will suddenly see limitlessness revealed to you, as once Zeami (the greatest playwright of the Noh theater) said. Mastering the basics is the shortest road to freedom”
The vital life force and sexiness in Yamaguchi’s designs come from the inner depth of his creative process.
Tsuishu is a kind of Japanese traditional lacquer ware. In the making of Tsuishu, the thick layer of solid lacquer is engraved with designs such as flowers, birds, or landscapes. Tsuishu originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Heian period (794-1192). Tsuishu ware was highly valued as tea utensils and house ornaments.
In the making of Sendai Tsuishu, however, the total production time, which is said to be several months at the maximum, is considerably reduced by producing many pieces of engraved lacquer ware of the same pattern out of one hand-carved prototype. The molded wood-carved intaglio is then coated with vermillion lacquer at least one hundred times. This streamlined production method was established during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Special care is normally needed to handle Tsuishu lacquer ware, but improvements in heat and water resistance were made in Sendai Tsuish so that each item is suitable for daily use without losing delicacy and beauty of lacquer. This is why Sendai Tsuishu has maintained its reputation as a long-beloved traditional art work
Icho-gaeshi was a hairstyle worn by Japanese women in the Edo period (1603-1868). The root of a pony tail is divided into two parts, each of which forms a sidewise 8 shape. The tips of the tail are wound around the root and fastened with a hairpin. As the fan shaped knot resembles the gingko leaf, it was called Icho-gaeshi (literally meaning “a turned-up gingko leaf”).
It was originally worn by young girls aged 12 to 20. Later as geisha and gidayu musicians began to wear their hair in this style, daughters of townspeople, who favored stylish fashion, began to follow their styles. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), it became popular among middle aged women, widows, geisha and entertainers. As it was easy to do up in this style and one did not have to go to a hairdressers’ shop, Icho-gaeshi was the most popular hairstyle up to the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Masako Ban is an internationally successful accessory designer. After working at Ban Shigeru Architects she turned her skills to becoming a graphic designer. In 2001, while in London, self taught she started working with accessory design. Upon returning to Japan, she founded her own company, “acrylic”. In 2005, her first collection was selected for the MOMA Design Store in New York, and in November of the same year, she opened her own store also called acrylic in Tokyo. Her work is characterized by simplicity in design, with the materials and finish also playing a very important part in the final product. As can be seen from the cutting technique used with the acrylic and sponge, she shows appreciation and respect for Japanese craft techniques and prefers to manufacture in Japan. In the future she plans to focus on expanding various collaboration series with Japanese traditional craft artists.
In Japanese, the word 'koshi' is a mathematical term for equidistant segments and dividers. Generally, though, koshi is used to represent lattice doors or iron grates.
From olden times, Japanese lattice doors were doors of temple-style architecture. This changed during the late Heian period when double sliding doors became more popular. Black laquered sliding lattice doors are described in the 'Tale of Genji Picture Scroll' and the 'Annual Event Picture Scroll'.
Lattice doors can separate spaces, ventilate rooms, take in light and make rooms look more beautiful, all at the same time. All of these things connect to the introduction of shoji: paper sliding doors.
Among the tribute that Ono no Imoko, an official envoy to the Sui court, brought back to Japan from Sui in 608 was an art object in which tortoiseshell was used. In Shosoin (the Imperial storehouse), there are also some tortoiseshell products brought into Japan in the same period. The technique of tortoiseshell work was introduced from China in the early Edo period. Later in the Genroku era (1688−1703), tortoiseshell began to be used to make accessories for high-ranked yujo (the prostitutes) and wives of daimyo (domain lords). With the flourish of Edo chonin bunka (culture of townspeople), a lot of tortoiseshell was used for personal items such as kanzashi (hair ornaments) or combs. Since then more complex techniques of carving, makie (gold and silver powder), and zogan (damascene) were developed. Tortoiseshell materials are made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle, the shell of which is up to 1m long. The shell is pressed flat and cut out into panels of appropriate sizes, then the panels are pasted together. At the present, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagasaki are the three largest centers for tortoiseshell work. Osaka is known for fine carving techniques such as openwork and its main products are brooches and other accessories.
Kabuki is one of Japan’s theatrical arts characterized by rhythmic dialogue, stylized acting, music, and dancing. The origin of the word kabuki comes from kabukimono (outlaws) in the Edo period, who wore unusual or bizarre dresses and behaved conspicuously. Although its history having begun in the late 16th century, Kabuki went through various changes and finally during the Genroku era (1688-1703) thrived as the entertainment for chomin (commoners). Most of the plays performed at present are the remainders of kabuki-kyogen (scenarios) which were first written in the Edo Period. The plays depict historical facts and events as well as the life of the commoners. Each play has been handed down by a particular family of actors as the familiy’s specialty. The name of the honorable families has been taken over by the principle of family inheritance or the adoption of a kinsman or an apprentice. The Kabuki art and the formula of representation has been handed down by the sistem of the succession of the name.
The original form of Noh can be trace back to the Nara period (710−794), however, the present Noh form was established during the Muromachi period (1336−1573) by Kan’ami and his son Zeami. Noh is a classical Japanese musical performance with the primary character called the Shite and the Jiutai (chorus) and the Hayashi. The Shite plays the hero or the heroine, chanting and dancing, while the Hayashi (instrumentalists) play the instruments. The main aspect of Noh is that the Shite wears a mask to hold the expressions of delight, anger, sorrow and pleasure to a minimum and express the nicety of the feelings only by the slow movements. The playacting in Noh is combined with dances and shosa (steps and movements of the actors) are abstract. All the linguistic expression is given in the form of utai (chanting). The Jiutai not only sing for the actors’ dancing but also explain the psycology of the characters and the background of the scene. Each performance is given according to a particular style and the artistic quality of Noh is maintained by upholding the conventional styles.