Futakoshi chirimen, also called ancient chirimen, is one of traditional fabrics that have been handed down in Japan for years.
Chirimen is white crepe cloth produced in the Tango region of Kyoto and the Nagahama region of Shiga. Most kimonos are made with this white chirimen which is then dyed to create beautiful kimono colors.
Chirimen is made by first scouring silkworm thread and then twisting about 18 to 27 of these threads into one thread.
There are two kinds of chirimen depending on the method of weaving. For Hitokoshi chirimen, one thread is twisted from the right and the next one from left, and these are alternated in the weaving process. Futakoshi chirimen uses two threads instead of one and it has a more uneven surface than Hitokoshi.
Most of the chirimen made from the Edo period to the Meiji period was futakoshi chirimen. After the end of the Meiji period, however, the weaving of chirimen started to wane and it is hardly made now.
Futakoshi chirimen is soft and airy and it has good ventilation. It is also light weight and has elasticity. It is a silk fabric that keeps the look and feel of authentic chirimen.
Shiunseki Suzuri or Shiunseki Inkstone is an inkstone produced in Ichinoseki City and Oofunado City of Iwate Prefecture and is made from stone called Shiunseki that has a distinctive texture.
The origin of the inkstone dates back to Kamakura period when a monk who, on his travels, dropped by Chouan-ji Temple in Oofunado City and found a shiunseki stone at the bottom of a nearby river and used the stone as an inkstone. The monk later took the stone back to Kamakura and dedicated it to a Shogun at that time. With its beautiful looks, the inkstone was named Shiunseki (purple cloud) Inkstone.
Shiunseki stone is a schalstein extracted from soil more than 400 million years old from Kitakami mountain. The stone has a red-purplish color similar to azuki red beans. Also many of them have characteristic cloud-shaped patterns or greenish spots.
In addition to elegance and smoothness, the surface of the stone has fine and minute imperfections that allow ink-cake to be ground finely. These characteristics make Shiunseki stone the most suitable stone for inkstone.
There was a time when mass production of machine made inkstone was widespread and handmade Shiunseki Inkstone making waned. However, after World War II, artisans began turning their attention back to the craft of hand making the stone. Shiunseki Inkstone is still now being produced with the same quality as its legend suggests.
Kyo-Gawara is a roof tile mainly used for shrines, temples and tea-ceremony houses in Kyoto. A smooth surface and distinctive gloss are the characteristics of Kyo-Gawara. The glossy surface is drawn out by polishing a raw kawara a number of times with a pallet, one by one by hand.
In old days, the products were classified into the four ranks by the finesses of polished surface; Hon-Usu, Migaki, Mizunade and Nami, each of which was used for different purposes. Hon-Usu, which had the finest surface, was used for the front side of the house, while Nami for the back side. Presently, only Migaki can be made due to the availability of the material clay.
Kyo-Gawara features the difference in the ratio of length and width from that of the products in other areas. It is also thicker than any other kawara products. This difference in dimension gives distinctive beauty to Kyo-Gawara.
At present, artistic works including Oni-Gawara and Shoki statues are being made of Kyo-Gawara material.
Owase wappa is a traditional handicraft in Owase City, Mie Prefecture. It was widely used as a lunchbox by common people in the Edo period (1603-1868). Located in a part of ancient Kii province, which was called “Country of Tree,” Owase was known as a production center of high quality lumber. Owase wappa is made of wood from locally grown Japanese cypress trees. This lunchbox has been and is still favored not just because it is beautiful but because it is so durable as to be used for scores of years and its lacquer coat has bactericidal effect. As it is contrived to vent the air inside, it keeps food warm in winter and prevents rot in summer. In the making of Owase wappa, it is impossible to mechanize any one of the processes, so the manufacturing processes of as many as 45 different stages are all done by hand even today.
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.
Tokamachi Akashi crepe is a traditional handicraft handed down in Toka-machi, Niigata Prefecture. This elegant fabric is suitable for a summer kimono due to its distinctive thinness and lightness like the wings of a cicada.
The weaving technique of Akashi crepe dates back to around the end of the 19th century, when a crape wholesale merchant brought back a sample roll of crepe cloth to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. He asked a local textile worker to create a new type of crepe fabric here in Tokamachi by studying the sample and adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya (silk crepe).
A great deal of effort was made to make an improvement in the ways of tightly twisting up threads, resulting in creating sukiya chirimen, which was named Akashi Chijimi, or Akashi Crepe. Even after that, several improvements such as waterproof finish were added to the product. Tokamachi Akashi crepes dominated the market with annual production of 200,000 rolls of fabric in the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Thread made of raw silk and dupion are used. In order to give the cloth its distinctive crepe effect, the weft is coated with starch and then put on a twisting machine and tightly twisted. Finally, the crepe effect is produced by rubbing the cloth in warm water, which produces its original winkling called “shibo (wave-shaped winkling).” Because of this winkling, the cloth does not stick to the skin and keeps you feeling cool. The climatic conditions of the town; the heavy snowfall, high humidity and little strong wind and the zest of local weaving workers have produced this elegant crepe fabric.
Hida Shunkei lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Takayama and Hida in Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this craft dates back to 1606. A head carpenter, who were engaged in building temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, happened to discover beautiful straight grains, when he chopped a piece of sawara cypress wood apart. He made it into a tray and lacquered the surface. Because the coloring of this tray resembled “Hishunkei,” a famous tea ceremony tea jar made by master potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name Shunkei was given to this lacquer ware.
What makes Hida Shunkei lacquer ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is also characterized by its delicate technique of hegime (grooves that are carved out between the wood grains). When exposed to the light, the grains with hegime grooves glow gold through the transparent lacquer. The more it is used, the more gloss it takes on. Hida Shunkei is extremely appealing and robust form of lacquer ware.
Tsumugi are silk textiles woven by hand using thread collected from the floss of the cocoons.
The floss is made from debris of the cocoons and spun by hand into thread. Because the thread is called “tetsumugi ito” or “ tsumugi ito”, the textile made from the thread became to be known as tsumugi.
Tsumugi is characterized by its unique texture and dull gloss coming from subtle variations of the tetsumugi threads. It is extremely durable and has been used for everyday clothes and working clothes since ancient times.
Thus, tsumugi, although it is silk, was not used for formal wear. However, during Edo period, many stylish, fashionable people liked tsumugi’s color palate and texture with its muted gloss despite it being silk. They found it expressed an austere elegance and considered it a stylish fabric that expressed their good taste nonchalantly. They generally wore it as outer clothing and dressing up in tsumugi became popular.
Though tsumugi is durable, because the newly woven cloth is hard and quite uncomfortable to wear, it is said that wealthy merchants had their clerks wear them first to break them in.
It could be fun to try a newly woven hard tsumugi and act cool like a rakugo comedian.