Temari is a traditional Japanese thread ball that was used as a toy ball for children. While playing with the ball, children used to sing a temari song. The most loved of these temari songs was “Antagata dokosa” which came from Higo Temari, traditionally from Kumamoto Prefecture.
Higo Temari, whose beauty is characterized by bright colors and biometric patterns, was first made by the court ladies working in their clan’s palace in Edo, Tokyo, as a pastime. This skill was eventually passed down to their local regions.
Higo Temari, which was traditionally made by local women in Higo region, began disappearing as rubber balls took over the market in the middle of Meiji period. In 1968, Higo Temari Club was founded and began formally preserving the temari making method.
The core of a temari ball is formed with dried sponge cucumber which was cut at an angle. Thin yarn is wrapped over the core, and then thread is randomly wrapped around the outside of the ball which produces a cushioned surface and helps create a perfect spherical shape. French Embroidery threads are applied to decorate the surface which creates superb color schemes and a rich variety in designs.
The Higo Temari song mentions a place called “senba”, which is on the bank of Tsuboi River that was once abundant with small shrimps. Mt. Senba nearby was once inhabited by raccoon dogs and the surrounding area was said to be a dense grove and bamboo thicket.
Zogan (or inlay) is a metalwork technique which involves engraving the surface of a metal sheet and then inserting different materials into it.
Nisshu-Sukashi Zogan was highly influenced by the Higo Zogan method, which was started in 1632 by Matashichi Hayashi. He was an artisan who worked under Tadatoshi Hosokawa, the head of the Kumamoto Clan. He mostly used the zogan to decorate rifles and sword guards.
In zogan making, a metal sheet is prepared by casting or hammering it. A design which can be as small as 0.3mm, is then engraved into it. Gold is inlayed and the work is then further engraved. The intricacy of this process is so fine that it is almost the ultimate in what a person can produce by hand. The finished zogans are treasured because of their elegant patterns and rare beauty.
Nisshu-sukashi Zogans are still created today in the Nobeoka region. Because of the intricacy of the process, however, only a handful of them can be made each year. This adds to the value of these rare and beautiful craftworks.
The stone-paved road in Imaichi is part of the old Higo road that was used in the past. This important historical path was designated as an important cultural heritage site of the prefecture in 1972.
Imaichi Stone-Paved Road is located in the town of Notsuharu in Oita Prefecture. Notsuharu-cho became part of Higo territory from 1601, and Imaichi and the Notsuharu area formed a post station for the Higo clan until the late Tokugawa shogunate.
It is said that a teashop along the road here once prospered as a trading center. The stones used to pave the road reflect former ages. The 2m-wide section of stone-paved road lies in the center of the 6m-wide road. It stretches about 660m and reminds us of the time in the past when a daimyo lord would pass along this road.
The Kagokaki race, which takes place annually in August, is also famous. It is a race to reenact the cityscape back then. During the race, people run along the pathway, wearing a costume and carrying a basket.
Jochu-ji Temple is the site of the tomb to the first Yoshinao of the Otomo clan, an ancestor of Sorin Otomo, a Christian feudal lord of the clan. Sorin Otomo conquered the six countries of Kyushu (Bungo, Bunzen, Chikugo, Chikuzen, Higo and Hizen) during the Warring States period.
Jochu-ji Temple is the family temple of Akitsura Betsuki, who was the leading general of the Sorin Family, as well as a lord of the Yoroidake. It is said that Akitsura was partially paralyzed after being struck by lightning. Despite this, he continued to command his army, but from a 'koshi' (a cart-like vehicle).
At one point, the temple was demolished but was later restored by Yoshiteru Honda between 1704 and 1710. A fire destroyed the temple once more, but it was again restored to its present state in 1806 by the great-grandchild of Yoshiteru.
Over 40 types of water iris have been planted at the temple and, every May, the Jochu-ji Temple iris festival takes place. People can also appreciate fireflies here on summer nights.
Inlaying is a technique of inserting pieces of metal into the base metal to form decorative patterns. In Kumamoto Pref. the technique called Higo Inlay has been handed down for 400 years. In this technique, gold or silver is inserted into the iron base. It is characterized by dignified and quiet appearance. Gold and silver, making clear contrast with the dark background, add dignity to the product. The roots of this craft go back to the Edo period, when the craftsmen began to inlay firearms and sword guards. After the wearing of swords was banned in the beginning of the Meiji period, they turned their hand to accessories. Now items such as tie clips, brooches, and pendant tops are being made. Delicate skills and design ability are required in each of the making processes including drawing a picture on the base iron, making a fine cut in nunome shape, inserting a gold or silver plate with a small hammer made of deer horn, giving kebori carving to the gold or silver piece, applying oxidizing solution, which has been handed down in each family, on the surface to make rust spread evenly, and tarnishing as the final step. The craft with a tradition of 400 years are still alive in this land of Higo Province.
Shodai Ware is the traditional handicraft handed down for a long time in Kumamoto Pref. Local clay fired at high temperature, the feature of this ware is simple but dynamic character. This craft is dated back to the early Edo period, when tea ceremony was popular among the warriors of the warring states period and the world of wabicha (tea ceremony in a rustic and simple style) was highly valued. In 1632, when Tadatoshi Hosokawa moved from the fief of Buzen to that of Higo, he appointed two master potters, Genshichi and Hachizaemon as the potters exclusive to his clan and they started making Shodai Ware. They mainly made tea utensils at that time. Since then the handicraft has been handed down to the present time for 400 years. In 2003, the craft was nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. The deep color of the glazes in harmony with the randomly dribbled patterns creates the sense of simplicity. Shodai Ware is favored as tea utensils, table ware, and decorative ornaments.