Mononofu is an old term for a samurai warrior. It is also a brand name created by a man who loves history. The Mononofu brand expresses the uninhibited and innovative spirit of the Sengoku period or the Warring State period.
Hideki Tanaka, the creator of the brand, boldly joins two seemingly contrary elements: the promotion of modern art and the reproduction of traditional craftwork. Mr. Tanaka, who first saw a collection of unusual kabuto helmets for warriors at the National Museum, was struck by their appearance and this sparked the idea of incorporating their design into a new indie T-shirt business.
Since each of Monofuku’s T-shirts is an expression of the unique creativity and aesthetic sense of its artist, Mr. Tanaka sees parallels in the creation process of both his T-shirts and the kabuto helmets. He believes that, if the samurai warriors were alive today, they would embrace modern designs and materials in their expressions of beauty.
Jubako lunch boxes come in various shapes such as cylindrical or hexagonal, but the most common is square.
Jubako are basically lunch boxes for food. They may have up to 5 layers. Officially, these layers represent the 4 seasons, so there are usually only 4 layers. Jubako may hold special food such as 'osechi' at New Year, or for hanami cherry-blossom-viewing picnics, or during athletic festivals.
It is believed that jubako developed from 'food baskets' ('shilong') introduced from China. However, there are references to lunch boxes in Muromachi-period documents, therefore, it could be said that jubako have a long history.
During the Edo period, jubako came to be used by common people, too, and their real manufacture began in 1610. Samurai and daimyo used them as lunch boxes during leisure outings, such as hunting expeditions. Later, they started to be lacquered and decorated. Even now, this traditional item is commonly used in Japan.
Shizuoka Pref. has been known for producing paraphernalia for the Hina Matsuri (doll festival), which included a sewing box, tea utensils, a chest, nagamochi (Japanese trunk), and a scissor case. Those items were originally made to mock the gorgeous bridal trousseau of a warrior’s family in the Edo period. Though miniature, they are made as elaborately as real things. Hina doll fittings had been already made in the Suruga district in the 16th century, when the Imagawa clan ruled the province. In the Edo period (1603-186), carpenters with advanced craft techniques were called together to construct Kunosan Toshogu Shrine and Sengen Shrine. Many of them settled down in this area and taught their techniques to the local craftsmen, by which the production of hina doll fittings greatly developed. The main characteristics of Suruga Hina industry is that all the parts are made separately by craftsmen specializing in woodwork, lacquering, Makie decoration, or metal work. It is said that the industry took off because of this style of specialization and it also made mass production possible. The warm humid climate of the area and its geographical condition of being located between the nation’s two largest consumption centers, Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, furthered the growth of hina doll fitting industry in the Suruga region.
Tono washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Tono-cho, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. This paper originates in the writing paper used by samurai, who were working at Edo Yashiki (the daimyo’s residence in Edo).
Taking advantage of the clear streams of the Same River and the Iritono River, paper making had been done in this area for a long time. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Tono paper was known as Iwaki Washi paper at the market in Edo.
This paper is characterized by its softness, durability, and color; it becomes whiter across the ages. Only paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. It is said that the whole processes, which are all done by hand, take about 80 to 90 hoours. The traditional manufacturing procedures of cooking, beating, forming and drying create this beautiful paper with elegant gloss.
Old samurai residences remain in the residential area facing the stream of the outer moat of the castle, the Sawabata River, in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. The neighborhood of the residences was the place where middle-class samurai lived in the Edo period (1603-1868).
Shiroishi developed as a castle town at the foot of Shiroishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura clan, one of the retainers of the Date clan. The castle was dismantled after the Meiji Restoration.
The street is loved by local people as a nice walking path filled with a distinctive atmosphere. It is highly recommended to stroll down the street, rich in elegance. You will feel as if you have stepped back into the old times.
Most of the residences are resided by people today. Among them, only the former residence of the Koseki family is open to the public. The Koseki family was a middle-class samurai family. Historical documents indicate that the residence was constructed in 1730. In 1992, the Old Koseki Residence was donated to the City of Shiroishi. The city then restored it to the original state and opened to the public.
Old samurai gardens and residences have been carefully preserved in Chiran-cho, Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture. This district is nationally designated as a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings. They are the reminiscence of the samurais’ residential district built about 260 years ago by the lord of Chiran Town, Shimazu Hisamine. As is represented by the words, “What defends the province is not a castle but people,” more than 100 residential districts of this kind were constructed as outer forts to defend the domain’s main castle during this period.
The residences are located along the delightful streets nicknamed Samurai Lanes, which are intentionally narrow and high walled to prevent would-be invaders. The seven gardens are open to the public. One garden is a pond garden with a miniature artificial-hill, and others are dry gardens in Karesansui-style. Those exquisite and elegant gardens fully represent intelligence and decency based on the Satsuma style simple and sturdy philosophy.
Chochin Lantern Festival is an annual festival held at Kashima Shrine, the headquarters of all the shrines in the Shirakawa region. The festival is held once every two years; only in the odd number year in the Heisei period (1989-present). Together with Yahiko Lantern Festival at Yahiko Shrine in Niigata Prefecture and Isshiki Grand Chochin Festival at Suwa Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, it is counted as one of the three largest chochin lantern festivals in Japan.
The present form of the festival was established in the Edo period, when Honda Tadayoshi, the lord of the Shirakawa domain, dedicated a portable shrine. The festival includes the parade of mikoshi and floats accompanied by people carrying big chochin lanterns. As is called “the ceremonial festival,” it hands down formal procedures of the Edo-period warrior class.
However, there is more than ceremony of course. The parade of thousands of chochin lanterns, which looks like a long brilliant light belt, creates a magnificent atmosphere. When the huge chochin lantern, which leads each of the 23 arrays carrying its own mikoshi, is raised high and pulled down repeatedly, a big applause is evoked among the spectators. As the festival with a history of 400 years, it is the pride of people living in the Shirakawa region.
The 3rd Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate systematized “sankin kotai (alternate attendance)” by including it in Buke Shohatto (Laws for the Barons) in order to maintain the shogunate system. Basically, sankin kotai was a military service to the shogun, by which it required daimyo of every feudal domain to reside every other year in Edo and to leave their wives, children, and many retainers in Edo permanently as hostages. A daimyo’s procession occurred when a daimyo went to and from Edo.
The number of people that joined the procession and its detailed formation were set up in accordance with the assessment (by koku of rice) of the daimyo’s domain. As is seen in Japanese samurai movies, the procession goes with the usher calling “Shitani! Shitani!,” who was followed by m a factotum, couriers carrying hasamibako (briefcase) and soldiers with keyari (a haired pike), bows and guns, footsoldiers, men srvants of daimyo, the daimy in a palanquin, chief retainer, women servants and couriers carrying nagamochi (trunks).
According to one record, the procession of the Kaga domain, which boasted the largest kokudaka (the production of land assessed by koku of rice) in the Edo period, was composed of as many as 2,500 people. In the early Edo period, many daimyo seemed to enjoy the processions as occasions for displaying their wealth and status. However, it gradually became simplified due to the financial strains on daimyos.