The Residential house of Hachirouemon Mitsui, located inside the Edo Tokyo Tatemono-en, in Koganei City, Tokyo, was originally built in Kougai Town (now Nishi Azabu 3 Chome, Minato-ku), in 1952.
The house has a guest room, dining room, kitchen and service room on the first floor and a bedroom, bath room and butsuma room, the room where the family Buddhist altar is placed, on the second floor.
The house, in its original location was burned down during the war. To restore it, many rooms, building materials and stones were transferred from other Mitsui family houses located around Japan. The guest room, transferred from Kyoto, was built in 1897 and kitchen and warehouse were from Meiji period.
The guest room has a carpet with a table and chairs rather than the Japanese style tatami mattress, and its ceiling is decorated with craftwork called “sensai” which is made with colored threads and silk. Above the stairway is a luxurious and rare Czech glass chandelier. The handles of the sliding doors of the butsuma room are made of turquoise colored Shippou-yaki or Cloisonné ware.
The house is filled with a harmonious blend of Western and Japanese styles and visitors can enjoy the quintessence of the Mitsui family’s opulent life-style from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods.
Kyo-Gawara is a roof tile mainly used for shrines, temples and tea-ceremony houses in Kyoto. A smooth surface and distinctive gloss are the characteristics of Kyo-Gawara. The glossy surface is drawn out by polishing a raw kawara a number of times with a pallet, one by one by hand.
In old days, the products were classified into the four ranks by the finesses of polished surface; Hon-Usu, Migaki, Mizunade and Nami, each of which was used for different purposes. Hon-Usu, which had the finest surface, was used for the front side of the house, while Nami for the back side. Presently, only Migaki can be made due to the availability of the material clay.
Kyo-Gawara features the difference in the ratio of length and width from that of the products in other areas. It is also thicker than any other kawara products. This difference in dimension gives distinctive beauty to Kyo-Gawara.
At present, artistic works including Oni-Gawara and Shoki statues are being made of Kyo-Gawara material.
Japanese boxwood combs are not simply tools for the coiffure but also hair ornaments for women. Combs have an ancient history in Japan. They are depicted on ancient clay tomb figures of the Jomon Period (up to 200 B.C.), and a boxwood comb is referred to in a poem in the Manyoshu. Boxwood combs became objects of luxury; some are beautifully carved and others are decorated with Makie (gold and silver sprinkling). They have been flattered women’s beauty all through the times.
Boxwood combs attract special attention in these days as effective hair care tools, for they don’t produce static electricity, they don’t cause split ends or hair breakage, and their strokes are smooth and gentle.
In Kyoto, the production of boxwood combs started in the Heian period (794-1192). Because softness and gentleness of boxwood are ideal not only to human scalps but also to many traditional handicraft materials, boxwood combs are used as tools for producing wide variety of craft products typical to Kyoto such as Tsuzure-ori (tapestry weaving) in Nishijin and Kyo-dolls.
Oshokyoin Temple located in Nakauchida, Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is the statue of Amida Nyorai (quasi national treasure). The temple originates in Tengakuin Temple of the Tendai sect, which was established in 855 by the priest Jikaku Daishi as an Imperial prayer temple for Emperor Montoku. Later, Honen Shonin (1133-1212), the founder of the Jodo sect Buddhism, placed the statue of Amida here to the memory of his teacher, Koen Ajari, who was said to have transformed himself into the Ryujin (dragon god) to save people in Sakuragaike Pond in the neighboring town. The temple sect was changed from the Tendai sect to the Jodo sect and its name was also changed from Tengakuin to Oshokyoin at this time.
Oshokyoin is a branch temple of Chioin Temple in Kyoto. It is also known as the fudasho (a visiting place for pilgrims) for those who are born in the year of dragon and snake in Enshu (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) area. The temple possesses the manuscript of the Koen Ajari legend and the statue of Hafuki Amida Nyorai (Amida with mouth open). Up the stone steps at the entrance stands the Sanmon Gate (the temple gate), which was erected by the 2nd Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. In the precinct are full of unique objet d'art such as Nonbei Jizo (Bottle-man Jizo). There are also two of the Seven Wonders in Enshu, Mitabi-guri (a chestnut tree producing chestnuts three times a year) and Kataba-no-Ashi (the reed grass that has leaves on only one side of the stem).
In the middle of the Heian period, Minamotono Yoriyoshi visited Yamagata region in order to resolve the Battle of Abe Sadatou and Munetou. Foundry craftsmen accompanying Yoriyoshi discovered that the sand in the Mamigasaki River running through Yamagata City and the soil around Chitose Park were suitable for the iron casting process, and some of these people stayed and started production. This was the beginning of Yamagata iron casting.
It is reported that in 1356 when Shibano Kaneyori came to Yamagata and built Kasumiga Castle, nine local foundry men were ordered to make iron castings and offer their work to him.
In 1615, Seikichi Shouji, one of the nine most recognized craftsmen in Dou-machi, after visiting Kyoto to research the casting business there, invented “tatara”, a fan device that could be operated by foot. With this revolutionary device, the technology of Yamagata iron casting was established.
Around 1938, Dou-machi had forty production houses with about eight hundred workers. Both sides of the main street were mostly occupied by these manufacturers, continuously producing practical goods such as hibachi, tea kettles and Buddhist alter fittings.
In 1974, with continued prosperity, Do-machi, which had been the center of the casting industry for a long time, became too small to accommodate the flourishing businesses, and they were transferred to a new industrial complex called Yamagata Casting Industry Danchi in Imono-cho. The following year, Yamagata iron casting was recognized as a traditional art by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Kemari is an ancient football game in the Imperial court in Japan. It is said that kemari came from China during the Yamato period about 1,400 years ago. There are no winners or losers in this game because the objective of the game is simply to pass the ball to fellow players.
In Kagawa Prefecture, Hono Kemari (the kemari offering) is held at Konpira-gu Shrine on May 5th and July 7th (Tanabata Kemari) and in the middle of December (Osame Kemari), among which the ones in May and July are open to the public.
The kemari game is played in a sacred court called “Mari-niwa.” When a team consisting of six shrine priests and shrine maidens wearing colorful costumes called Mari-suikan and Mari-bakama appear in the Mari-niwa court, the High Priest performs a ritual to release a ball from a branch of paper mulberry. Then the players start playing the game, shouting “Ariya!” as they control the ball, and “Ari!” as they pass it on to the next player.
To the south of the famous 365 stone steps that lead to the Daimon Gate of Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture stands the Old Konpira Oshibai Kabuki Theater, which is popularly called “Kanamaruza.” As the oldest existing Kabuki theater in Japan, it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1970 and moved to the present place in 1976, when it was restored to the original form with a large amount of funds including government subsidy.
Since its original construction in the Tenpo era (1830-1843), Konpira Oshibai Kabuki plays at Kanamaruza Theater were enthusiastically seen by pilgrims to the Kotohira-gu Shrine, for entertainment was extremely scarce in those days. The theater was comparable in size to those in big cities such as Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. It is said that all the nationally famous actors were eager to perform at Kanamaruza, which proves that Kotohira was prosperous as a gateway town.
The Shikoku Konpira Oshibai has been performed at Kanamaruza since 1985, and the revival of the Kabuki performance has attracted a great deal of interest from all over the country. When no performances are held, the inside facilities of the theater are open to sightseers.
Shizuoka Pref. has been known for producing paraphernalia for the Hina Matsuri (doll festival), which included a sewing box, tea utensils, a chest, nagamochi (Japanese trunk), and a scissor case. Those items were originally made to mock the gorgeous bridal trousseau of a warrior’s family in the Edo period. Though miniature, they are made as elaborately as real things. Hina doll fittings had been already made in the Suruga district in the 16th century, when the Imagawa clan ruled the province. In the Edo period (1603-186), carpenters with advanced craft techniques were called together to construct Kunosan Toshogu Shrine and Sengen Shrine. Many of them settled down in this area and taught their techniques to the local craftsmen, by which the production of hina doll fittings greatly developed. The main characteristics of Suruga Hina industry is that all the parts are made separately by craftsmen specializing in woodwork, lacquering, Makie decoration, or metal work. It is said that the industry took off because of this style of specialization and it also made mass production possible. The warm humid climate of the area and its geographical condition of being located between the nation’s two largest consumption centers, Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, furthered the growth of hina doll fitting industry in the Suruga region.