Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
The brush making in Sendai began in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, invited a craftsman specialized in brush making from Osaka to promote learning and industry. Accordingly, the domain had its own brush-making craftsmen, and the low-ranked warriors also began to make brushes as their side jobs.
Because of their careful work and efforts to improve skills, Sendai Brushes gradually earned reputation, and eventually, it was dedicated to the Shogun of the time. Since then, Sendai Brushes have been deferentially called “Ofude,” which means “an honorable brush.”
Among Sendai Brushes, the ones made of hagi (Japanese bush clover) naturally grown in Miyagino, which was Masamune’s hunting field, is called Miyagino Hagi-fude. The wild touch of the brush-holder and the sensitive hair at the tip are favored by poets and fanciers all over the country as the hallmark of Sendai Ofude.
The Takanabe Kagura dance has been handed down in the towns of Takanabe, Kijo, Kawaminami and Shintomi in Miyazaki Prefecture. It is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture. The origin of the dance is not clear, but it is presumed from the stone monument and old shrine documents that it was already danced in the Heian period (794-1192). Takanabe Kagura is a simple and elegant form of dances classified as one of the Iwato Kagura dances that have been passed down in the Aso area.
It was originally dedicated to a shrine in every village in the area. In the Edo period (1603-1868), it came to be performed mainly at Hiki Shrine, which is an old and established shrine with a history of several hundreds years and was given protection by the Takanabe domain.
Since the Meiji period (1868-1912), the dedication of the Takanabe Kagura dance has been called “Daishinji (Grand Ritual).” Presently, 33 plays have been handed down and performed at the six shrines in the old domain area, which take the responsibility of the performance by rotation once every six years. At the dedication ritual, the dancers perform 33 dances quietly and elegantly throughout the night.
Noh performance pertaining to the Date clan has been handed down in Toyoma Town in Miyagi Prefecture for 230 years.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, Noh of the Konparu Okura school was given generous protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class.
After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople. While many Nohgaku in the territory of the old Sendai domain died out, Noh was inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh. As a precious cultural heritage that hands down traditional Noh and Kyogen to the modern age, it was designated as a folk cultural property by the prefecture.
Toyoma-Noh is presented to the public as Takigi-Noh (traditional plays put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires) twice a year, in Shinryoku Takigi-Noh in June and on the eve of Toyoma Autumn Festival in September. Elegant plays performed by the light of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
The Mangokuura Sea is an immense inland sea with an area of 7.2 ha located behind Watanoha Port and surrounded by mountains on Oga Peninsula. The name “Mangoku (10,000 koku of rice) Ura (Sea)” comes from an old story that when Date Tadamune, the 2nd generation lord of the Sendai domain, visited this place, he said “If land reclamation is given to this land, it will produce 10,000 kuku of rice.” In the Edo period, coastal salt production was done in this inland sea under the promotion of the Sendai domain. Since the Taisho period, cultivation of oysters and laver has been active in this area. Here. Ishinomaki is said to be the birthplace of oyster cultivation. So the high-quality breeding oyster of this nutritious sea is especially famous not only in Japan but also all over the world. The Mangokuura Sea is also a popular place for gathering of clams and fishing of flounder and rock trout. The Mangokuura Sea is the “Mother Sea” that produces fresh seafood.
During the period to pioneer the primitive ground of Hokkaido, the Hokkaido Development Commission encouraged the use of bricks as the material to construct buildings in the inland areas. Accordingly, the production of bricks started in 17 factories in 8 districts in Hokkaido and brickes were used for many fine buildings including the former Hokkaido Government Building, which was given the nickname of “Akarenga” or Red Brick.
Since the Taisho period (1912-1926), Ebetsu became the production center of bricks. The Ebetsu brick is characterized by its red or brown colors, which derive from Nopporo clay contained in the local soil.
Bricks were used for railway tunnels, bridges, stations, schools, silos, houses and warehouses, all of which contributed to the modernization of the land. At present, over 400 brick buildings are preserved in good forms in the city of Ebetsu, which is a part of “the projects for preservation and utilization of historic brick buildings.” These buildings are designated together as one of the Hokkaido Heritages. The red brick buildings against clear blue sky look really magnificent.
The Chidoukan Shyounai Clan School is located in Baba-cho, Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture. It was founded in 1805 by the Sakai Family 9th generation Clan Lord Tadanori for the purpose of completely reforming the way of thinking of samurai, and promoting education.
The principal philosophy of this school was: 'Do not be caught up by superficial matters, but make an effort to rediscover common ground between people and causes.' As a method of reforming the samurai way of thinking, mathematics were employed, and the efforts of rediscovering common ground between people and causes were actually practiced in politics.
At that time, the government had been promoting Neo-Confucianism for the purpose of control, but the elders of the Shyounai Clan gathered opinions of those in the school and adopted Sorai-Confucianism.
The school was no different from others in its views of considering both academic subjects and martial arts as important, but the Chidoukan was revolutionary, being the only school in the whole country to adopt Sorai-Confucianism.
Famous alumni include Genrou Mizuno and Kanmou Kagayama.