Kiseru is an old style Japanese smoking pipe. Kiseru were used for smoking flake tobacco, but some use for smoking a cigarettee or others for a half-cut cigarettee recently. The word kiseru comes from the Khmer word “ksher.”
Kiseru were invented in Japan in the 16th century, when the Portuguese came to Japan for the Nanban trade after the arrival of guns. The origin of kiseru making is not clear but it is said that Japanese craftsmen began to make kiseru by modeling after smoking pipes the Portuguese were using.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), when flake tobacco were extremely popular, kiseru were indispensable items for tobacco smokers. The kiseru was a kind of a status symbol and a fancy accessory. There were many kiseru in different sizes, length and shapes and of different materials. Tobacco smokers had their own favorite kiseru according to their finaccial positions. However, since extravagance was prohibited by the Tokugawa shogunate, only warriors, wealthy merchants, and prostitutes were allowed to use kiseru until the end of the Edo period.
The Kirizuma-zukuri style is one of Japanese traditional architectural styles, especially said of the styles of roofs. Japanese roofs are classified into any one of the three representative styles; Kirizuma (gable roof), Yosemune (hip roof) and Irimoya (hip-and-gable roof).
The ends of buildings with gable roofs have a triangular space (gable) made by the incline of the two sides of the roof. Seen from the gable side, the wall looks as if it was cut by the roof; hereby it is called Kirizuma, which literally means “a cut gable.”
The Kirizuma-zukuri style was a basic architectural style in ancient Japan. The gable roof was prized most highly during the Kofun period (3rd-6th centuries), when it was the symbol of the residences of powerful rulers. However, in the Nara period (710-794), when the Yosemune-zukuri style (with hip roof) was introduced from China, it was considered more sophisticated because extension of the roof was apparently recognized.
Later on, the Irimoya-zukuri style (with hip-and-gable roof) became most favored in the prestigious buildings such as palaces, noblemen’s residences and temples due to its combined features; the symbolic character of the Kirizuma style and the expansivity of the Yosemune style.
'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Kumanodo Bugaku is a folk performing art performed at the annual spring festival of Kumano Shrine in Takadate Kumanodo, Natori city, Yamagata Prefecture. Bugaku is a repertoire of dances of the Japanese Imperial court, derived from traditional dance forms imported from China, Korea, and India.
It is said that the Bugaku dance was introduced to the Kumanodo area by the Hayashi family in Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, but there is no precise records concerning its origin. The Hayashi family was the hereditary musician family serving the Japanese Imperial Court. As the Hayashi family moved to present Yamagata Prefecture before Bugaku was japanized in the mid-Heian period, the old dancing style of the imported dance has been precisely handed down in the Kumanodo Bugaku dance. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
In the Kumanodo Bugaku dance, neither dialog nor words are employed in the dances and songs. It is a kind of pantomime in dedication to the god. Although it has an origin in the Shinto dance, it also has several features of the dances performed by Shugendo practitioners.
The 3.6 m square temporary stage is built over the pond in the precinct. In back of the stage, the ensemble composed of one drum, one pair of large clappers and one Japanese flute play the music.
Tapestry is a form of textile art done all over the world since the ancient times. There area a lot of works with high histiric and artistic values. It is said that the oldest tapestry was made by the Coptic in Egypt in about 1580 BC. The techniques of tapestry weaving were brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. The pieces of works brought in these eras are preserved at Horyuji Temple and Shosoin (the Imperial Repository). In the later years, decorative tapestries were woven at many Buddhist temples such as Ninnaji Temple and Honaganji Temple, which was developed into the techniques to make the cloth for obi-belts at Nishijin in Kyoto.
In general, tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving, in which a pattern drawing is placed under the hidden warp thread and the patterns are woven out by plucking the warp thread with weft thread passed through the shuttle.
In the most elaborate technique of Tsume-Tsuzure (literally meaning “nail weaving”), the cloth is woven by plucking the warp with fingernails, from which it is called “the brocade woven by nails.” It is such sophisticated skills and patience that have created ever fascinating beauty for as long as 3,000 years.
Ryukyu pottery is a traditional handicraft handed down in the Tsuboya district in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture. Pottery techniques were introduced to Ryukyu through the trade with Southeast Asian countries during the 15th century.
Later in the early 17th century, potters from Korea and China were invited to teach their techniques to the local potters, who gradually combined them with the techniques used in the Satsuma domain, the ruler of Ryukyu at that time, and developed their original pottery ware. In the late 17th century, King Shotei of the Ryukyu Dynasty concentrated all the workshops build around his country in the Tsuboya district. Since then the Tsuboya district has been the center of Ryukyu pottery up to the present time.
Using locally produced clay and glazers, it is characterized by generous-hearted and bright impression that is typical to the south land. Pottery produced at these kilns is classified largely into two groups; Ara-yachi and Jo-yachi. Ara-yachi potteries are not glazed and large in size, while Jo-yachi includes those finely-glazed and having painted designs.
Neriagede is an artistic technique for creating ceramic pottery by layering or blending of clay of different colors to create a striped or marbleized effect. It requires high level of pottery techniques. Quite simply saying, it can be a little like making a tiered cake (baumkuhen).
The Neriagede shaping process comprises the steps of stacking alternately a plurality of clay boards differing from each other in color, which creates beautiful striped or marble-like patterns. In order to avoid cracking and breaking which come along with mixing a variety of different kinds of clay or during firing, high level of thechniques and extensive experiences are required.
The thechnique of Neriagede is said to be derived from the marbeling tchnique (called “Kotai” in Japan) in the Tang Dynasty China in the 7th century. It is said to have been introduced to Japan around the Azuchi-momoyama period (1568-1598), for there are several pieces of Neriagede pottery, which were supposedly made in this era, have been found.
In recent years, the techniques to color the clay itself is invented and more complex and highly artistic works are being created. New “layers” of the techniques are overlapped on to the traditional “layers,” which continuously propels the development of this high-leveled ceramic ware.
It is believed that far in the future, Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings.
The most well-known statue of Miroku Bosatsu in Japan is the one housed at Reihokan (the temple museum) of Koryuji Temple in Uzumasa in Kyoto. This Miroku Bosatsu Hankashi-yui-zou statue represents the seated Miroku with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing. The mystic smile and the gentle and sensitive finger put on the cheek are breathtakingly beautiful. The round outline gives feminine-like impression. The smile on its face is generally called an archaic smile.
It is said that this red pine wooden statue used to be decorated with gold powder. There are two theories as to where it was carved; one theory states that it was brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula judging from the facial expressions and the material wood, and the other theory states that it was carved in Japan. The argument is yet to be settled. The clear eyes seem to suggest that it was brought from the continent.