When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Quail toy cars known as uzura-guruma are a charactersitic wooden toy made in Fukushima Prefecture.
A quail is a small bird that stands about 20cm tall, has a small head, a round body and a short tail. The black and white speckled pattern on its brown body is its characteristic feature.
A Korean who had immigrated to Iwashiro county in Fukushima Prefecture, founded a temple to commemorate a 100th anniversary. At that time, he developed the quail toy car from spare chunks of wood from a hand axe.
Quail toy cars are also made in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, and the origin is quite similar; they are also said to have been made by a person from Korea.
Car toys such as these are popular in western Japan in places like Miyazaki, but are rarely seen in eastern Japan. Fukushima has so many kinds of toys as you can see from the fact that it has the quail toy car, although it is in the Tohoku region.
Dating to the Edo period, the quail toy car is a simple toy that has a great sense of fun.
At one point along the Tozawa road in Yamagata Prefecture, a foreign and exotic mood and space suddenly appear then spread over the green mountains. This is the Kouraikan. The Kouraikan is a complex of buildings filled with an exotic mood, which was built to introduce Korean culture and history to Japan, as well as deepen mutual understandings between the people who visit.
The Kouraikan was opened in 1997 as a symbol of friendship between Korea and Tsutsumigawa-shi and to get in touch with the ancient culture of the Korean Peninsula. All kinds of buildings and shops can be found within the Kouraikan, including a product hall that exhibits and sells traditional articles of everyday use. There are also handicrafts on display, a food culture hall introducing Korean food, an ethnic culture hall introducing Korean customs and arts, as well as a Korean garden filled with Korean flowers, such as the 'mukuge' and the 'klein'. Another area is the Norimadan, where the townspeople gather for amusement. All of these facilities help create a real Korean atmosphere.
The Kouraikan exquisitely replicates aspects of Korean history and culture, and shows the fondness and harmonious relationship that Korea and Japan have, at the same time giving visitors a feeling of compassion and excitement.
Kyoto woodblock printing began in the Asuka period. It was widely used as illustration, for patterns on common fabric, and on folding fans. This form of printmaking has an incomparable power, depth and individuality.
In the Asuka period, woodblock-printed sutra texts from Korea were copied in Kyoto, some of them with simple Buddhist pictures. By the Edo period, woodblock printing in Kyoto was flourishing. The inimitable art of Japan astonished the West when they first saw it at world expositions.
Kyoto woodblock printing gradually evolved as one of its classical forms of art and culture. It uses typical Japanese pigments, such as 'gofun' and 'kira', which are handmade using a method called 'Kyo-gonomi'. Even though this printing method became standardized in Japan, it still possesses the soul of Kyoto, beloved by contemporary people.
Kyoto-style fans are similar to Korean-style fans, in that they have many bamboo sticks inside the fan paper, and have a ‘Sashigara’ structure. With the ‘Sashigara’ structure, the fan side and the handle side of the uchiwa are made separately. As one of Kyoto’s handicrafts, this fan style has attained the summit of delicacy and elegance and its advanced techniques have been passed down firmly for generations. Kyoto-style fans are sometimes called ‘Miyako-uchiwa (capital fans)’ and having been used in the Imperial Palace for a long time, they have always been designed with elegant pictures. The use of fans first spread to Japan from China and Korea, during the Nara period when fans became popular among the aristocracy, not just for cooling oneself, but also for blocking wind and sunlight, as well as hiding one’s face, or just as an accessory. During the Warring States period, they were also used as generals war fans. The handles are made from moso bamboo, Japanese cedar and lacquer, while the faces of the fans are made from Minou, Tosa and Echizen paper. Decorations feature people, landscapes, haiku and waka as motifs, and use techniques from painting, block printing, hand-made dyeing, and carving to express a traditional beauty. Even now, due to the reaffirmation of the concept of “wa”, they are popular if only as decoration.