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.
A representative ethical notion in East Asian thought widely spread in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan Confucius’ teaching and Confucianism [the teaching of the person Confucius and what people have made out of it later are different things]. In Kanji science, however, the process before this character became a completely abstract notion is the main focus of interest. Actually, at the time of Confucius correct knowledge about the origin of Chinese characters had already been lost. In this sense, it was a character that could easily be manipulated or exploited. One can often hear the popular belief that it is the combination of the person-classifier at the left side and the number two at the right side. There also is the view that it was developed as a generalization of the notion ‘between two human beings,’ becoming one of the five basic tenets of Confucianism 仁 ‘Nin, Jin: humaneness,’ 儀 ‘Gi: rightness,’ 礼（禮） ‘Rei: propriety,’ 智 ‘Chi: wisdom,’ and 信 ‘Shin: trustworthiness.’ Certainly, the classifier is the person-classifier; here, however, the focus is on the interpretation of the right part.
Actually, from the standpoint of correct Kanji science, apart from the original number characters there is not even one case among Kanji with an element standing for an abstract number. It may look like this in the form of the present Common Use Kanji, which differs from the old character forms, but the idea that something abstract is incorporated as an element in Kanji always is characteristic for vulgar belief.
The part 五 appearing in 悟, for example, has no relation to the number 五 ‘five,’ but shows a double wooden lid firmly closing a ‘norito,’ i.e. ritual prayer receptacle. As a character that really shows two human beings there is the character 比 and others.
Basically, the elements appearing in Kanji are human beings and things. As they are things extant in ancient society, the person-classifier shows the form of a person who is about to sit down and the left part is the cushion at the sitting place. As this is the Orient, it is not a chair, but a cushion or mat. Thus a rather different way from there to the abstract ethical notion of humaneness becomes evident. In other words, it is the heart or mental attitude of offering a seating cushion to somebody. It means the mental attitude of consideration and feeling of hospitality towards guests or visitors. Originally, it is a notion for expressing such a warm feeling or attitude.
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.
The Yumeji Local Art Museum Branch, located in Setonai, Okayama Prefecture, commemorates the birthplace of Yumeji Takehisa, who lived here until the age of 16.
Yumeji Takehisa was a lyrical and roving artist/poet whose work is representative of the Taisho Romantic style. Yumeji was born in 1884 (Meiji 17) in the town of Oku. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers, this environment must lie at the roots of Yumeji's art.
The Yumeji museum exhibits Yumeji's sketches and block prints. Near the window are drawing marks he made for his beloved sister who had married. There is a monument at the museum entrance with the words, 'Takehisa Yumeji was born here' by Ikuma Arishima, one of Yumeji's best supporters. Next door, there is a recreation of Yumeji's studio, designed by him and now called the Yumeji Youth Lodge. Yumeji fans should definitely pay a visit to the poet's birthplace.
Iwami-kagura masks are manufactured in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture. They were first made in the late-Edo period to be worn in the Iwami kagura dance, which is a traditional performing art. Kagura masks are made using glued layers of traditional Shimane craft paper, named Iwashuu. It is said that the Iwami kagura dance form originated from the Izumo kagura dance, which uses Nihonshoki and others as subject and shows dedication to kagura. Izumo kagura is also danced with masks. It is a tradition for men to act all the roles, which include gods, princesses and devils. For each role specific masks are worn. There are two basic types of masks; the most common being a helmet type that covers the head completely with holes for the eyes and nose Nowadays it is used as bringer of good luck as well as decoration.
Gudabutsuan is a historical place associated with Soseki Natsume. It is a two-story-house located in Matsuyama City, Ehime Pref., which Soseki rented in 1893 when he came to teach English at Matsuyama junior high school. A poet Shiki Masaoka also stayed with Soseki in this house because they were good friends. The house was removed and reconstructed in the back of Matuyama Municipal Shiki-Memorial Museum and Bansui-so. Shiki called the house Gudabutsuan, which means a stupid Buddha in Japanese. Many friends who were enthusiastic haiku poets visited Shiki there, and they had haiku gatherings led by Shiki. Soseki also joined them and he was also very enthusiastic about haiku writing. Shiki taught how to write a good haiku to the members of Shofu-kai Haiku School. For Soseki, who was hovering as a literator at this time, haiku was a soft target of his literary expression. Later in 1905, he published his first novel “I Am a Cat” and started to take steps on the way to the great author. We can say the Soseki’s first step to his writing was made from Gudabutsuan.
Reiko Sasaki, a crystal glass artist, was born on the island of Sado, Niigata Pref., in 1956. As her family had been a kaisen-donya (a cargo boat owner and a distributor) since the Edo period, many researchers often came to see her birthplace when she was a child. It might have been her starting point as an artist that she had an abundant opportunities to see the high quality collection of pottery owned by her family. She started her way as an “expressioner” first in the field of music and then Japanese painting. But she in time turns her interest to glasswork art, which was very uncommon in those days. She participated in founding a glass art institute. Now she concentrates her mind on the creative work at her workshop of “Reiyu-sha Garasu-do.” “I’d like to place importance,” Sasaki says, “not only on design or functionality but also on the sense of touch.” Her glass ware has the warmth that fits in our hands. Her recent works show more and more maturity, so maybe you can’t wait to see what the next work will be like.