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.
Keiko Yoshida is the owner of Yoshida store in Daito-ku, Tokyo, that creates and sells Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rakes, which are sold only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. Ms Yoshida was born in 1921 and is a master craftswoman recognized by Nihon Shokunin Meikoukai, the association for the Japanese Master Craftsmen.
Yoshida is currently the only store that creates Takarabune-kumade employing traditional methods, and Ms Yoshida continues to use the methods passed down since the Edo period. She initially started making the rakes to help her husband who was originally a carpenter. After his death, she became the head of the store and single-handedly manages the business.
Takarabune-kumade made by Yoshida store uses only natural materials of bamboo and paper. The whole manufacture process including cutting bamboo, cutting paper using a pattern, coloring, drawing faces, painting exterior, and insertion are done by hand. These techniques have been handed down to Ms Yoshida’s daughter, Kyoko.
Tori no Ichi, or Tori Fair, is a religious fair that takes place every November and is believed to have originally started at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa. Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rake, is a harbinger of good luck, coming from a belief that rakes gather up good luck and prosperity, and they are available only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. The Takarabune rakes are currently made only in Yoshida store in Asakusa. The size of the rakes varies from 6cm to 3.4m. The store starts making the rakes immediately after the fair, taking a whole year to prepare for the following years event.
At first, paper is cut using a pattern, then lines are drawn followed by coloring. After the faces of Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, are drawn, they are inserted into the treasure ship with other decorations and finely balanced to finish. Drawing faces with their unique looks for the seven deities is the most difficult part. This hand drawing technique has been passed down for years since the Edo period. It is now practiced by Keiko Yoshida, head of Yoshida store, and her daughter, Kyoko.
Takarabune-kumade has brightly colored decorations of the seven deities, treasures and a sea bream. Although it is a rake with the tip of a straw festoon arranged to look more like a bow of a ship, it is created to have the look of a treasure ship. The rake, with its dominant red color, is referred to as a “red type” amulet. Takarabune-kumade is one of the most popular good luck charms in the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine.
The seven Gods of Fortune, or Seven Lucky Gods, are the seven Shinto deities, who are believed to bring good luck. Generally they are Ebisu, Daikokuten, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Fukurokuju, Jurojin, and Hotei. Shojo and Inari, who were once included as the members, are now precluded from membership because they are not in human form, it is said. Neither six nor eight, the number “seven” is said to originate in a phrase in a Buddhist sutra “shichi-nan-sokumetsu, shichi-fuku-sokujou” (seven calamities immediately vanish, seven happiness immediately come), or “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” in China. Shichifukujin Meguri (the pilgrimage tour) is still very popular in Japan. It is believed that on New Year’s Day, if you put a picture of the Seven Lucky Gods on their ship, Takarabune (Treasure Ship), you will have a lucky hatsuyume (the first dream of the year).
Momiji River runs down through a valley on Mt. Omoshiro, which lies to the northeast of the city of Yamagata.
A hiking course along the valley enables you to enjoy nature throughout the four seasons, and it is very popular with sightseers.
The valley is especially beautiful between late October and mid November when the leaves turn red or yellow; this change is called 'momiji' and is the origin of the name Momiji River.
The 2km hiking course takes about 40 minutes to walk along slowly. Here and there running into the valley are waterfalls such as 'Wisteria Waterfall' and 'Illusional Dragon Waterfall'. Moreover, there are many unique rocks in the valley such as 'Whale Rock' or 'Treasure Rock'. And there are many strange ones, too.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of views of the river; some parts of the river are broad and some run between rocks. The canyon is also very popular among photographers.
During the Tango no Sekku (Boy’s Festival) period in Kochi prefecture, a large flag called “Furafu” is set out with Koinobori (carp streamer) and Nobori (banner). The word “Furafu” is said to have come from a Dutch word “vlag (pronounced as fu-la-fu)” meaning a flag. All the steps in making a Furafu are done by hand. The largest Furafu is about 4 m in length and about 7 m in width, while even a smaller one is about 2 m in length and about 3 m in width. It is a gallant and beautiful decoration. The patterns drawn on Furafu are lively boys that appear in fairly tales like Kintaro or Momotaro, gallant warriors like Toyotomi Hideyoshi or samurai fighting in the Battle of Kawanakajima, and lucky designs like Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Fortune) or Takarabune (treasure ship). Those Furafu are given to a boy as a present from his parents or relatives. Colorful Furafu flying in the clear sky of May give cheerful atmosphere to the towns in Tosa.
A fishermen’s big catch banner or tairyōbata is the specialty product made in Misaki City, Kanagawa Pref. It is selected as one of 100 Fine Specialty Products of the prefecture. Now, there are only a few places where the tairyōbata is made in Japan. These banners are flown from the vessels as the signal to let the families and peers who are waiting for the vessels to return to the harbor know of the big hauls of fish as soon as possible. Those banners were handmade at the town of Misaki, which has been the base for tuna fishery, since the beginning of the Meiji period. This banner was originally given as a gift to the owners of the fishing boats when a new boat was built. However, they are recently given as the gifts on various occasions such as marriage, child birth, opening of a shop, etc. Images like cranes, turtles, sea breams, Mt. Fuji, the Takarabune (the treasure ship), and Ebisu-Daikoku (the god of fishing), all of which are thought to be lucky, are painted on the banners. The tairyōbata of Misaki is an attractive marine art to represent fishermen’s spirit.