If you have a taste for the buckwheat noodle “soba” from Japan and you like it so much that you find dining on it at a restaurant occasionally does not satisfy you, then it could be time for you to start making your own soba at home. The alluring smell of freshly made soba, its texture and taste are true bliss and it can be experienced whenever you desire by making your own soba. Essential to the preparation of soba, you will need to use a professional broad knife especially made for cutting soba by a master craftsman. The soba knife with Kuroda-shiage (black finish) is made by sharpening only the blade leaving the upper part with its original black color. It uses Yasuki Hagane White Steel, premium silver high carbon steel, which is suitable for cutting noodles into thin slices. It weighs 650g so pressing down on the dough to cut it into noodles is easy. The price is not too high but they are professional quality. It is always a good item to have in your kitchen.
Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones. Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
Shino Ware is most identifiable for a squat and cylindrical shape with thick white glazes. It is one of the Mino-styled pottery, which started to be made in the Azuchi-momoyama period in the late 16th century. Using glazers mixed with feldspar and iron oxide, various colors are created. The color variation from white, gray, to red depends on the combination of the glazers and the firing time and method.
It was favored by tea masters of the time, but was gradually declined because many potters all over the country started to copy the style of this pottery, by which Shino ware lost its originality and were gradually fogotten by people.
It was in 1930 when Shino ware was revived by the hands of Toyozo Arakawa. Having been born in the Mino region, he had a special affection for Shino pottery and discovered the old Momoyama kiln. Then he developed the first modern Shino glaze by studying Monoyama Shino pots. Since then he had actively fired his Mino wares in a kiln very much like those of the Momoyama potters and contributed to the revival of this old pottery. Today, a lot of potters are fascinated by this pottery and eager to create thir original Shino pottery works.
Celadon, or Seiji in Japanese, is a pottery that has a long history dating back to the 1st century in China. Its origin goes even further back to more than 3,500 years ago when China began making real glazed ceramics called “primitive porcelain” during the Yin Dynasty. The techniques of making Seiji, whose distinctive color is created when iron in glass-quality glaze glows a deep blue/green like color during reduction firing, was established during the Later Han period around the 1st century and since then it has been followed rigorously to this day.
Seiji became popular in other countries and, after around the 9th century, it was exported extensively to Japan, the Korean peninsula and other Southeast Asian countries. Especially in Japan where China was highly regarded at that time, Seiji was actively collected and copied, and production techniques were rapidly refined.
Because Seiji tea cup brightens the color of green tea inside, Seiji became essential for use during the tea ceremony and has been much valued by tea masters, feudal lords and temples over the years.
Seiji, with its exquisite graceful hues of blue that evokes the transparent sea and subtle green, enchants people’s hearts around the world.
Hakuji is porcelain created by applying transparent glaze to white paste, then firing it at high temperature. Hakuseiji, on the other hand, is created by glaze containing small amount of iron.
Hakuji originated at the end of the 6th century in China during the Northern Qi Dynasty. Later, in the Tang period, its popularity took off and demand surpassed that of Seiji. By the 10th century, its use became widespread among the populace as it was being improved with a more sophisticated style while maintaining a down-to-earth feel.
Japanese Hakuji evolved under the international influence of China and Korea. In Edo period, Imari-yaki, the first Hakuji in Japan, was introduced. However, Hakuji was mainly used as a white canvas to paint vivid colored motifs. It was not until after Maiji period that Hakuji as self-colored became more popular when Japanese ceramic artists who studied and loved Hakuji from Song period in China and Joseon Dynasty era in Korea further evolved the Hakuji technique.
It is extremely difficult to burn pottery to pure white because iron powder easily comes out even when using the best quality clay. This is why, even for Kakiemon pottery which is famous for its vivid vermilion color motif, Hakuji with no trace of iron powder is more rare and expensive than pieces with painting.
Mt. Yubaridake (1,668 m) is located at the south end of the Yubari mountains in the central part of Hokkaido. Although it takes a lot of time and effort to get to the summit, it is a very popular mountain, for it is full of attractive features and places of interest. One of such sources of interest is a variety of flowers blooming in this mountain. Species specific to this mountain such as Yubariso (Lagotis takedana) and Yubarikozakura (Primula yuparensis) and other alpine plants of 280 species in total can be seen, which is equivalent to the total number of plant species found in Hokkaido. As the habitat of such precious wildlife, the mountain as a whole is nationally designated as a Natural Monument, and it is also selected as one of 100 Fine Mountains of Flower. Mt. Yubaridake is composed of iron-rich rocks, from which only the plants that could be well adapted to this distinctive geological condition have made evolutional advances; thereby there are so many species of plants that are peculiar to this mountain. Contrary to such harsh natural conditions, flowers will always welcome the climbers with their refreshing life energy.
The chair on the left shows a carpentry technique of shaving bark, while the chair on the right shows a technique in which leather is attached to a chair.
A wooden chair with a single-leg is unique. The leg is made using a technique in which bark is shaved by turning a piece of wood on a potter’s wheel. Its shape is generated by a rotary motion that looks as if the chair has started rolling,
As for the other chair, its candy-colored leather is modern and elegant. It was designed for an apparel retail store. Thick leather is wrapped around steel bars. The leather wrapping and sewing requires great skill.
■ Single-leg chair（left）
*Mahogany with oil finish
*Ｗ×Ｄ×Ｈ×ＳＨ （ｍｍ） ５４０×４４０×７１０×４５０
*steel flat bar/leather
*Ｗ×Ｄ×Ｈ×ＳＨ （ｍｍ） ６２２×６７０×７５０×４２０
*Both items are designed by Intentionallies
■produced by Ubushina, Yudai Tachikawa
Kazuwa Ware is a representative porcelain of Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, and is designated as the folk craftwork of the prefecture. It is said that Kazuwa Ware first began to be made around 1750 (Houreki era).
Kurayoshi clay is rich in iron, and turns black on firing. The typical glaze for Kazuwa Ware has a distinctive deep reddish color. Therefore, the base color of the pottery is black with a red overlay. Fired Kazuwa Ware takes on a dark red, and is used as dishes or vases: the delicate color exudes a warmth to its users.
Recently, vessels with new and fresh designs have begun to appear. One such color other than red is a cool breezy color that is used for dishes: it is a white-base with blue and green. Another color that is now available is a rich purple with original glaze colors over it.
Kazuwa Ware features a unique ceramic style: like a glass locking the sky and the earth inside it.