In the western world, a house is looked upon as a wall that separates people from the nature, in order to protect the people. Japanese, on the contrary, see a house as an extension of nature, a place to unify with the nature and live together with it. This philosophy is apparent in the architecture style, and window design is also affected. If a building is a place to unify with nature, a window is where the outside and inside unites and where the nature and people connects. With a window, the greenness of a garden and blooming flowers can be seen and the breeze can blow in the house. In the day, a house becomes bright when sun light shines in and at night, moonlight beams in. There is so much behind window design so that people inside a house can come to enjoy the nature and unify with it further. Marumado is a typical example that embodies this concept. The window, a circular shaped with some pattern, looks like the moon or the universe. Despite the artificial window design, it facilitates the appreciation of the nature. This is a beautiful example that embodies the concept of co-habitation with the nature.
Akira Saito was born in 1920. In 1993, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'chukin' work, an intangible cultural heritage. Chukin is a form of metal casting using molds and the lost-wax (or cire-perdue) technique.
Saito lost his father when he was a teenager and, to feed the family, he took over his father's atelier and fumbled along with the technique, finding his way. He lost everything during wartime, yet luckily he met a former teacher and cultivated his skills.
His motto is to create a piece that is 'simple but as broad as the universe'. He found his own method called 'fuki-wake' which uses two types of metals. He is over 80 now, but he is still making powerful and vigorous pieces.
Japan is said to be a technology-oriented nation and 'technology' usually means high-technology, such as semiconductors. But Japan has had frontier technology in every historical period.
Civil engineering technology, traditional handicrafts and arts are described as 'takumi' and feature fine and careful frontier technology that equals any high-technology in modern times.
Handicraft symbolises the expression of things in a small world. Fine and beautiful patterns on relatively small works are unique to Japan. If you can work sensitively within the limits available to many Japanese craftsmen, it is evidence that you are Japanese.
This 12cm-long strap has become a work of art in the hands of a braid artist who has inherited the takumi technique used in Kyoto. In this craft, splendid silk threads in the traditional colors of light pink and verdant green demonstrate the unique artistic sense of Japanese people.
Mikazuki, the crescent moon, is written in Japanese as the 'moon of the third day'. The dictionary describes mikazuki as 'the narrow arch-shaped moon that appears on the third day of the lunar calendar'.
The Chinese pictogram for the word month uses the shape of the moon, and the traditional calendar for Japan followed the cycle of the moon. The progress of each month and each day could be tracked according to the moon's shape. Because the calendar followed the moon, mikazuki appears on the calendar.
Mikazuki-shaped motifs can be seen frequently: on fonts and movie posters, company logos and trademarks of dramas. Why is mikazuki so popular? It might be for this reason: the full moon is a neat circle, while the half moon lacks a sense of design, therefore the mikazuki might be the best.
Sometimes we wonder if we could just go to our closest object in space, the moon, once in our lifetime.
A festival of thanksgiving for safety in the past year and a time to wish for happiness in the coming year is held annually in November on the Day of Tori (roosters) at Juzai-san Chokokuji Temple, also called Otori Sama (Otori Shrine), in Asakusa, Tokyo, and at many other Otori shrines.
The origin of the festival dates back to the Edo period, when farmers thanked the harvest god and dedicated chickens to the Otori Daimyo god at Hanamatamura (the Otori shrine in Hanabatake, Adachi Ward).
Hanamatamura, Shosenji Temple (in Adachi ward) and Chokokuji Temple (in Asakusa), became famous as the birthplace of Tori-no-Ichi fairs.
In the 8th year of the Showa period (1771), the Buddhist statue Myoken Dai-Bosatsu was moved to Chokokuji Temple and the shrine there came to be recognized as the pre-eminent Torishrine. Myoken Dai-Bosatsu is supposed to be the Hagun star, the Seventh Star star of the Big Dipper. The Chokokuji Temple crests are also called ‘Moon crests’ or ‘Big Dipper crests’.
These ‘rooster’ fairs are known as ‘Good Luck Rake Fairs’ because a rake is supposed to rake in happiness, and to help wish for good luck and a prosperous business. It is typical of Edo people, who like jokes.
Rocks and stones casually arranged on a garden of rippling white sand. How do people understand this conceptual space? Faraway atolls in the ocean, mountain ridges peaking through low clouds, or the universal principles that transcend space and time? Like Zen questions, the meaning of the rock garden is open to interpretation by each visitor. Sekitei has a perplexing effect which instantly sends the viewer’s perception into unfamiliar territory. The garden is designed to maximize perspective in a limited physical space and the simple curved lines in the sand create the impression of tranquil waves. A universal truth emerges triumphant when everything superfluous is chipped away. The artists who created Sekitei still remain unknown, even at Sekitei in Ryouannji, the most famous Sekitei. Sekitei has stayed unchanged for 500 years. Visitors are mesmerized by the absolute beauty of the space and are compelled to stay and absorb the vista.
Shishikutsu Temple is said to have been set up by En-no-Ozuno (the founder of the ascetic Buddhism). The principal image of Yakushi-Nyorai (Buddha of Healing) is a designated National Treasure carved by Saint Gyoki (668-749). It is also said that it took three years and three months for Gyoki to finish this carving, for he bowed to it three times before every carving. This Nyorai is believed to help mothers with breast-feeding. The name of the temple comes from the large rock in the back of the main hall, which looks like a roaring lion. Buddhist Saint Kukai (774-835) is said to have performed the ascetic practices in this rock in the Heian period. Up the stone steps in the north of the main hall stands a bonji monument with bonji letters (the Siddham script) standing for the universe engraved on it. The letters read “a-bi-ra-un-ken” that is the Shingon (mantra) of Dainichi-Nyorai (Great Sun Buddha), which is also the symbol of Kukai’s Shingon School of Buddhism. A lot of hikers come to enjoy walking along the diversified trails in “Kurondo Enchi” adjacent to the temple. Reservation is needed to see the Yakushi-Nyorai.