Yuutaro Oono was born in Tokyo in 1935. He is currently the CEO of Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd.
After graduating from Hokunoujima Technology High School, Mr. Oono was employed by an 8mm film company. In 1978, he started Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd which specializes in making gears. He also dedicated himself to bringing back Karakuri dolls , which were popular in the Edo period, to modern times, using the advanced techniques of modern gear making.
Mr. Oono first learned about Karakuri in an engineering book and he became passionately interested in them. He had acquired a copy of “Karakuri-zui”, an illustrated compendium of mechanical devices written by Hanzou Hosokawa, a legendary karakuri artisan of the Edo period. Mr. Oono began studying the book intensely and, for the last 20 years, he has been reproducing the Karakuri dolls most loved by people in the Edo period such as “tea serving doll”, “shinan guruma” and the “Karakuri clock”.
Each doll is made using about 80 different parts, not counting its face and clothing. The dolls are created in such a way as to preserve traditional methods as much as possible. The fusion of the Edo period and modern times shows both beauty and functionality.
Mr. Oono’s next project is to bring back “Yumihari Warawa, or “ Boy Archer”, which shows a boy shooting an arrow at a target. His tremendous respect for the Karakuri artists of the Edo period motivates him to try to recreate the Karakuri Dolls most beloved in that period, so that people can remember and appreciate their heritage.
The word Karakuri was used to describe traditional Japanese mechanical devices. In the Edo period especially, gears from clocks were first used to make moving dolls and the elaborate Karakuri doll tradition began.
It was Hanzou Hosokawa from the Tosa region who first revealed to the general public the way the Karakuri work, using easily understood illustrations. His book, Kkarakuri-zui, had a tremendous impact on many artisans who later developed their own techniques in the field. This book is considered to be the foundation of Japanese robotic technology.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin was invented and the Karakuri techniques were handed down to Yuutarou Oono. Mr. Oono not only successfully revived Hosokawa`s Karakuri but, in a similar spirit of openness, he made them out of transparent acrylic. It is exciting to see a doll in a beautiful kimono bringing and serving tea but people were doubly delighted to to see the dolls’ inner workings as well. The transparent gears developed by modern technology allowed this to be possible.
It is the spirit of true Karakuri artists to honor the people’s desire to know and also create such beautiful dolls that are totally in keeping with the Japanese people’s sense of esthetics.
Karakuri Ningyo or Karakuri Dolls are traditional mechanical dolls of Japan.
“Karakuri” means a mechanical device to amuse people and they were originally found in China around 10th century. Karakuri Dolls are said to have been introduced to Japan in the Muromachi period.
In the Edo period, the gear mechanisms used for clocks began to be used to make moving dolls and the production of Karakuri Dolls began.
At first, they were made as toys mostly for the upper class. They gradually became a popular attraction at amusement parks and widely seen in all over Japan.
In 1662, Oue Takeda began a touring Karakuri-Doll-theater, something unique at the time and during the Kyoho period (1716~1735), Karakuri Monya, using the best Karakuri techniques then available, made a four-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pedaling.
At the end of the Edo period, Hisashige Tanaka, known as Karakuri Giemon, created “Yumihiki Douji” (the Boy Archer), which is regarded the highest standard of Karakuri dolls made in Edo period.
Karakuri dolls are traditional Japanese precision machines considered to be the foundation for today’s industrial robots.
Obake no Kinta or Kinta the Ghost is a folk toy that originated in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The toy consists of a head with a string in the back of it. When the string is pulled, Kinta rolls his big round eyeballs and sticks out his tongue. A bamboo spring is concealed in his head which, when pulled, triggers the eyes and the tongue to move at the same time. Kinta with his red face and a black conical hat makes a striking impression on small children and he often scares them a little. He is a popular toy among adults, however. The most important process in making this toy is the making of the bamboo spring. The quality of this spring determines the quality of the toy.
When Kato Kiyomasa built the Kumamoto Castle, there was a popular foot soldier named Kinta who had a funny face and who was good at making people laugh. He was affectionately called “Clown Kinta”. The Kinta the Ghost toy was said to have been created during the Kanei era (1848 ~ 1853) by a doll maker, Hikoshichi Nishijinya, who started making mechanical toys based on stories about Kinta. Because of his unique action, Kinta the Ghost was also known as the Goggle-eyed Doll.
Fireworks are displayed at Shinoda Shrine on May 4 every year for the shrine’s annual festival. This tradition dates back to the Edo period, when villagers made fireworks using potassium nitrate and dedicated the fireworks display to the deity in token of their gratitude for rain.
The fireworks displayed here are the Japanese traditional gimmick fireworks. Sulfur, potassium nitrate and paulownia ashes are mixed together and applied onto the patterns drawn on the cedar board, which is 15 m tall and 25 m wide. It takes more than 1 month to make these fireworks. The patterns are selected from the topics of the year.
At 7:00 P.M., when the Japanese drums are powerfully beaten, the people carrying a large torch come into the shrine precinct and set it up on the ground. At the moment the fireworks are lit at 9:00 P.M., the precinct is covered with smoke and blaze. Small fireworks are shot up in rapid succession with explosive sounds, while swirling fireworks beautifully illuminate the precinct. When they are burned down, fantastic picture fireworks come up among vanishing smoke.
Shinoda Fireworks Festival, Sagicho Festival and Hachiman Festival are generically called the Fire Festival at Omi Hachiman Shrine, which is selected as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The origin of the handmade fireworks of Seinaiji Village in Nagano Prefecture goes back to the middle of the Edo period, when a villager who had gone to peddle the local product, leaf tobacco, brought back a secret recipe for firework production from the Mikawa district (present-day Aichi Prefecture).
The handmade fireworks were set off to celebrate the completion of the shrine building of Suwa Shrine in 1731. Since then fireworks have been displayed in dedication to the shrine for more than 270 years. Presently, the displays of handmade fireworks are dedicated to Kami-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 6 and to Shimo-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 8 every year.
Today, there are more than 50 fireworks manufacturers who have obtained necessary licenses in the village. They begin to produce many different kinds of fireworks including traditional tube-typed fireworks as well as innovative ones more than one month before the festivals. It is famous that their handmade fireworks were displayed at the closing ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998.
Tejikara Fire Festival, the annual festival of Tejikara shrine, is held on the second Saturday of April every year. This traditional festival with a history of 300 years is designated as an Important Intangible Fork Cultural Property by Gifu Prefecture.
On the festival night, a firework cascade and torches suspended 20 meters above the shrine precinct are set off. Then the nine portable shrines carried by men wearing only loincloths enter the precinct with the sound of firecrackers echoing all around. The fire sparks from the firework cascade pour onto the men naked to the waist as well as onto the portable shrines, which also shoot streams of fire high into the air. The highlight is the mad dance of fire created by the wild movements of the men carrying the portable shrines amidst a shower of falling sparks. It is said that the men who received the fire sparks can stay in sound health for one year after the festival.
The 1st Kaga domain head, Maeda Toshiie, adopted the Chudo spirit of the Nichiren Buddhist sect and Hogekyo as his political philosophy and built Myoryuji Temple as a place to pray for the domain's peace. This was in the 13th year of the Tensei period (1583). Later, in the 20th year of the Kanei period (1643), the 3rd domain head, Maeda Toshitsune moved the temple to its present place.
At the time of Toshitsune, the Tokugawa government had established its base and sent spies to various domains. Toshitsune let his nose hair grow and pretended to be stupid in order to deceive the spies. But Toshitsune is also famous for developing industry and the performing arts, and built temples as emergency barracks. Myoryuji Temple is the main temple among these.
It might look two-storied from the outside but in fact it is four-storied with seven layers. There are many contraptions everywhere in the temple such as a hidden walkway, room, stairs and changeable fake walls, holes for escape, double doors and various traps. This is the reason why the temple is also called Ninja (Spy) Temple.