A Houki is a broom traditionally used in Japan for sweeping trash and dust. There are two kinds of houki: zashiki-bouki (room broom) and niwa-bouki (garden broom), depending on where they are to be used.
Zashiki-bouki are generally made from hemp palm fibers and morokoshi ( millet- a kind of grain) fibers . The hemp-palm broom is more widely used in Western Japan and it is made from gathered “oni-ge” (demon hairs) which are extracted from hemp palm bark. The morokoshi plants used to make houki are harvested after growing for one year when they are about 2 meters high. The ears of the millet plants are threshed and dried in the sun for about a week. Then, high quality ears are selected and gathered for making houki.
Besides their obvious practical application as a cleaning tool, houki also figure in various traditional customs associated with the idea of “sweeping away”.
There was a spell in which a houki was stood upside down when a host wished his guest to cut his long stay short and go home. In some areas, a houki was considered a guardian charm for the easy and healthy delivery of a baby. The houki was placed by the bedside of the pregnant woman and, once labor started, a light was attached to the houki and the woman prayed to it. Her belly was then caressed with the houki.
Houki were believed to be sacred and stepping it over or on them was avoided as it would incur divine punishment. Such customs still can be seen today all over Japan.
Kagetsukan Guesthouse is a designated cultural property of Takikawa City in Hokkaido. It was originally constructed in 1897 as an office building of the Hokkaido branch office of Imperial Household Agency. Then in the early Taisho period (1912-1926), a Japanese inn Miuraya bought it from the government and built an annex building in the Japanese style, which resulted in this unique half-Western and half-Japanese style building. It was used as VIP rooms, where a lot of eminent people from various fields stayed.
When Miuraya planned to make further addition and betterment in the 90th anniversary year in 1980, the building was donated to the city. The city government designated it as a cultural property and named it Kagetsukan.
You will be impressed by the stateliness and magnificence of the high-class residence in the periods from Meiji to Taisho. The things pertaining to the eminent guests who stayed here are displayed inside the building. You can enjoy the gorgeous atmosphere of the Taisho Roman world.
The water-faucet metalwork here were customized for the Japanese-style room of a private residence in Kamakura. They have been made to suit Japanese-style rooms. The architect asked Ubushina whether an original finish could be applied to the ready-made fixtures in this room and Ubushina suggested a traditional coloring technique for metalwork such as the faucets, piping and towel-rack.
Usually, water faucets are chrome-plated, but it was possible to remake them to suit this room. It is only by adding a little Japanese technique to foreign objects not made in a Japanese-style, that they can be identified with a traditional Japanese space; at the same time, a new direction is revealed for a Japanese-style room where you spend time ‘now’.
By using a sulfide coloring, ‘the West’ has been pulled into Japan and a pleasing atmosphere has been developed.
■Faucet Metalwork (for a private residence)
* sulfide coloring
*designed by Jotosaki Architectural Institute
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Powdered green tea was introduced from China in the Heian period (794 to 1192). It gradually became popular as a luxury item. In the meantime, as opposed to the enjoyment of tea at a lively banquet, Sado (way of tea) or Wabi-cha appeared. In Sado, unsophisticated ceramics are used and it puts emphasis on spirituality. Sen no Rikyu accomplished Sado, avoiding the play elements, putting an emphasis on the spiritual interaction between people and having a corresponding intensity. What Rikyu pursued was the mind that tries to obtain aesthetics and contentment. As is said that every aspect of Japan’s art craft is included in Sado, Sado is the integrated art that covers tea ceremony utensils, architecture of a tea house, Haikai (poems) and so on. Through its aesthetic concepts of motenashi (hospitality) and shiturai (manners concerning rooms), “kanjaku (a serene desolation)” and simple but refined state of mind, Sado has an incalculable influence on Japanese spiritual culture.
Fusuma developed out of the furnishings including kichou (curtained screen), tsuitate (single panel screen), byobu (folding panel screens), and akari-shoji (a translucent screen) of Shinden-zukuri (the style of aristocratic mansions) around the 8th and 9th Centuries. In the 11th Century when Yamato-e (Japanese Painting) flourished, painters began to paint their pictures on fusumas, and the noblemen favored them to decorate their houses. This way decorative function was added to fusuma, which was originally for cold protection. In the Azuchi-Momoyama period (16th Century) when Shoin-zukuri (the style of warrior residences) was established, fusuma became the media for Japanese painting. Famous painters competed to paint on fusuma in castles and temples. In the Edo period, when Sukiya-zukuri (a country house for the samurai class) style was popular, fusuma became popular among townspeople. Pictures on fusuma also changed from gorgeous ones to plain and simple ones. In the present days, a wide variety of fusuma is loved by people, from expensive fusuma that hyogu-shi (screen makers) makes to casual ones of wallpaper type.
A tokonoma is a small raised alcove in a kyakuma, a Japanese style reception room, where hanging scrolls are hung and Ikebana (arranged flowers) are displayed. A tokonoma represents Japanese consideration for others. It has a raised floor and was originally used for the honored seat for a guest of high rank but with the time it has changed to the symbol of hospitality. In the Edo period having the tokonoma was considered luxury and townspeople were prohibited from it. In the Meiji era, however, making the tokonoma in kyakuma became very popular. In the present time, the custom of hanging a screen has gone out of style, and people often even omit making the tokonoma in their Japanese style rooms. On the other hand, some fashionable apartment houses nowadays provide a Japanese style space in a part of the room. Also “Tokonoma Set” is very popular at some interior decorating shops. “Japanese mind” will continue to take root in this country.