Fukusa is a silk square cloth used to cover a gift during a formal presentation. Originally, it was put on the box containing a precious gift to prevent it from getting dusty. Today, however, it is an indispensable item on a formal gift-giving occasion.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), when gift-giving became a part of the social custom, elaborately decorated pieces of fukusa were made. The motifs such as Takasago, Chinese phoenix, a treasure ship and the rising sun were used for fukusa for auspicious occasions. The person who presents a gift puts fukusa on the gift box with all his/her heart.
In a formal fukusa, the front side displays the family crest, while the back is decorated with pictures, but the one with the family crest alone is the most favored today. Fukusa is a part of Japanese culture that places emphasis on courtesy. It has been cherished and preserved from generation to generation in a family.
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.
Kyoto Kakefuda, founded in 1925, is a long-established dyehouse in Shijyo Horikawa, Kyoto. Since its beginning, the store has been known as a custom order specialty store making the silk “furoshiki” wrapping cloth and the “fukusa” wrapping cloth which traditionally has a family crest and is passed from one generation to the next.
Hidetaka Kakefuda, upon succeeding as head of the family business, undertook the design and production of the cotton furoshiki used as a complementary gift for the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, a famous kabuki actor. He was so impressed with the practicality and usefulness of the cotton furoshiki that the following year, he announced his newly designed line of cotton furoshiki with traditional Japanese patterns which is designed off the shelf for more casual use. Aligned with his new line, the store changed its name to Kyoto Kakefuda and created a special logo for the cotton furoshiki, whose design took inspiration from his family crest.
Now that most design and manufacturing is split between different companies, a specialty store that undertakes the whole process of design, pattern making, dyeing, cutting, finishing and retailing under one brand has become rare and treasured. Despite the store's long established history, Kakefuda is also flexible and open to new ideas, and is pioneering a new direction away from the other established stores reluctant to change.
Hidetaka kakefuda is the third line of the Kyoto Kakefuda, a dye house which specializes in made to order “Furoshiki”, wrapping cloth. Mr. Kakefuda was born in 1977 in Kyoto. He entered Kyoto City University of Arts in 1996, majoring initially in Sculpture, later changing to Conceptual and Media Art. He started helping the family business while still a university student. After seeing the family crest book handed down in his family, he took a strong interest in traditional patterns and succeeded to the family business upon his graduation.
In 2004, Mr. Kakefuda undertook the design and production of the cotton furoshiki to be used as a complementary gift for the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII. With this as a beginning, the following year he announced his new line of cotton furoshiki with Japanese traditional patterns such as Karakusa and Kamekou. “I wanted create furoshiki that everybody can use casually as a start”, Mr. Kakufuda says in a relaxed tone. Since 2005, he continues to produce new types of furoshiki based on Japanese traditional patterns, a style sometimes referred to as “Japanese Modern”.
The furoshiki (wrapping cloths) made in the Izumo, Matsue and Yonago areas of Shimane Prefecture are designated as traditional hometown handicraft.
Before the Meiji period, there were aizome indigo dyers across the nation, however, around 1917 (Meiji 40), chemical dyeing had become popular. By 1950, of the 59 tsutsugaki aizome dyers in Izumo, only 4 remained. Today, only one tsutsugaki aizome dyer remains in Nagata, which is recognized by the prefecture as an intangible cultural asset.
Tsutsugaki aizome with a family crest were used as trousseau items up untilthe Taisho period. Furoshiki wrapping cloths were also included in trousseaus.
Making the tsutsugaki aizome requires repetition in dyeing. During the dyeing process, the patterns on the aizome are protected by paste, which is later washed off in the Takase River.
Hikite is a door pull added to sliding doors to help open and close them with a pulling motion. Wood door pulls were common in ancient periods but in general door pulls were made of metal. Hikite is set in a sliding door so that it does not hit or scuff the other sliding door when the door is pulled open.
The original form of a sliding door first appeared in the 8th to 9th centuries, when the door had no pulls and people held the frame of the door to open and close it. A door pull appeared in the 13th century during the Kamakura period. Then in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when the Japanese tea ceremony was established, elaborate designs were given to sliding doors and door pulls. A door pull became an important element of interior decoration and elaborately decorated door pulls were made during this period.
Today, with the trend of new understanding of Japanese traditional culture, a Japanese-styled room has also attracted attention of young people and various kinds of door pulls are being made. Those include traditional ones with family crests, boat-shaped, and round ones. There are even white and square pulls in modern design, animal-shaped, and the ones made of cloisonné.
Nagoya Black Dyeing is the art used to make formal kimono. The black dyed cloth is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Aichi Pref. The history of this art is dated back to the early Edo period (the 17th century), when Owari clan started to control dyeing industry for making clan banners and labarums. Later the dyeing of a black cloth with family crests for clan members and commoners began at the end of the Edo period (the 19th century). In order to make the outline of reversed-out family crest clear on black dyed cloth, a paper stencil is used. The mon-ate amitsuke technique, which is peculiar to Nagoya, is used. To create rich black color, the cloth is immersed in the dyestuff with low concentration for 30-40 minutes. The main products today are kimono cloth, haori, and mourning kimono. Kimono with a family crest is usually worn on formal occasions. Especially, mourning kimono is still worn by most people as the nation’s traditional clothing.
Suzuka sumi ink is a refined ink made from pine wood from the mountains of Suzuka. This ink is said to have originated in the early Heian period, when ink began to be made by mixing lamp black extracted from burnt pine wood with glue made from animal and fish skin.
Production of sumi ink increased during the Edo period due to increased demand. The prevalence of the use of seals by feudal lords and the dissemination of temple schools meant that many more people required ink. Some ink-producing stores even came to be economically protected by local feudal lords in exchange for a guarantee of a stable supply.
The Suzuka sumi ink mills have excellent conditions for ink-making, such as location and climate. Therefore, from the beginning of extraction, the ink is of a very good color, while the production process gives it further important characteristics, such as the balance of bleeding on contact with paper. Even now, many varieties of ink such as lamp-black ink, blue ink, and pine ink are made using traditional skills and methods like 'kata-ire-seikei'.
Suzuka sumi ink supplies some 30% of all sumi ink used in the country. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry designated Suzuka sumi ink as a Traditional Handicraft in 1980.