Kaiko no Mori, located in Uzumasa, Kyoto, is officially called Konoshimanimasu-amateru-mitama Shrine. It is also affectionately known as Konoshima Shrine by the local people.
It is believed that this shrine was built in the year 604. Kaiko no Mori, which means “silkworm shrine”, was thought by Hatashi, an expatriate from the Korean Peninsula, to be the location of the deity of sericulture, or silkworm raising and also the deity of the textile industry. The shrine was burned in a number of wars and the current structure was most likely restored after the Meiji period.
In the west of the shrine is a spring-water pond called Mototadasu Pond. In the middle of this pond stands a torii called Mihashira Torii. Torii are large gates, erected at the entrance to Shinto Shrines or other sacred places. The Mihashira torii has an unusual design and it is considered one of the “Kyoto Three Torii”. It has three columns and it looks triangle-shaped from above. In the middle is a holly seat where the spirit of the deity sits. The origin of the torii is not known, but the current torii is thought to have been built in 1831.
Kaiko no Mori still has many followers especially from the silk-reeling industry. It is also worshiped as the location of the guardian deity of the town.
Chichibu Meisen is the silk fabric made from Chichibu silk that has been manufactured since ancient time in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
The origin of Chichibu Meisen dates back as early as the Emperor Sujin era (BC149~BC29) when Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto taught the technology of sericulture and the weaving to local people.
The fabric uses yarns taken from silkworm cocoons called Tama-mayu as well as Kuzu-mayu, debris of the cocoons. This thick yarn is woven horizontally, which makes the fabric durable. Sericulturists used to make the fabric for their own working clothes.
Chichibu Meisen uses a simple weave form called Hiraori (literally, flat weave) which has no difference between front and reverse side, thus, allowing people to turn the clothes inside-out to renovate the dress when the color wears out. With its durability and utility, the fabric became popular among common people and developed further.
Samurai warriors also valued the fabric and helped its development. Over the decades, Chichibu Meisen was improved and the technology advanced while it kept its tradition. It reached its period of peak popularity during Meiji era and the beginning of Showa era.
Chichibu Meisen, which won the hearts of many people in Meiji and Taisho era with its rich design style, still draws attention and is woven with great care while preserving its long history.
The Shuri textile is produced using traditional dyeing and weaving techniques developed over five hundred years in the Ryukyu Dynasty capital of Shuri and its surrounding areas. It had made a unique development while incorporating influences of China and Southeastern Asian cultures. With its historical and cultural values highly esteemed, it is the representative fabric of Okinawa today.
During the period of Ryukyu Kingdom, these fabrics were mainly worn by the nobility and warrior classes and the main weavers were wives and daughters of warriors, to whom the weaving fabrics were a part of the jobs that they were proud of.
For Ryukyu textiles, Ryukyu indigo and other plant dyes are used and weaving is done by handlooms called “Jihata” and “Takahata” (tall handloom) using a throwing shuttle. There are seven Shuri textile techniques handed down to the present; Shuri Hanaori, Roton Ori, Hanakura Ori, Muru-totchiri, Tejima, Nihgashii Basho-fu and Hanaori Tekin. For dyeing techniques handed down in one locality, the Shuri fabrics have some unique features in their variety and sophisticated quality.
Kiryu textile is the traditional handicraft handed down in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is said that Kiryu textiles dates back to around A.D. 800, when Princess Shirataki, who had served at the Imperial Court, came to Kiryu after she married into the Yamada family and taught the art of sericulture and weaving to the people of the village. Kiryu textiles became well known throughout the country after Nitta Yoshisada raised an army at the end of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and Tokugawa Ieyasu used a white silk flag produced in Kiryu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
In the middle of the 18th century, they invited two weavers of Nishijin to learn the most innovative techniques of the time. Then in the first half of the 19th century with patronage from the Shogunate, it became possible to produce high quality textiles. Being called “Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east,” the town of Kiryu was flourished as the production center of high quality textiles, which became one of the key industries of the country throughout the periods from Meiji to early Showa.
With unpopularity of kimono, the textile industry in Kiryu is also in a predicament now, but Kiryu is making its way to develop new products by introducing the latest technology.
There is a pond named Hataorinuma in a quiet atmosphere of the rural suburb in Towa Town, Miyagi Prefecture. The pond was considered a holy place in the old times and neither people nor boat was allowed to get into the pond.
The area was ruled by Nishigori Shinzaemon in the late Azuchi-Momoyama period. He resided in Kosui Castle constructed on a flat hill to the southwest of the pond. In 1590, when the Kasai and Osaki clans rebelled against Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Shinzaemon fought on the side of the Kasai clan and was killed at Sanuma Castle during the battle with the Date clan.
To hear this and holding it disdain to be captured by the enemy, his wife, Nishiki-no-mae, set fire on the castle and walked into the pond and died. Later on fine and windless days, villagers heard the sound of weaving night and day and they began to say a person who heard the sound would suffer from bad luck. Thinking that the late Nishiki-no-mae, who was a good weaver, was weaving at her loom, villagers built a Benzaiten Hall on the side of the pond and prayed for her soul. Since then the sound stopped, it is said.
Today the tragic atmosphere has been completely wiped away and the pond is visited by anglers all through the year.
In mid-May, wisteria blooms beautifully over the mountains. Fujifu is a cloth made by weaving fabrics extracted from the vines of those wisterias. In the Tango areas, the weaving skills that developed over 1,200 years are now designated as a traditional handicraft of Kyoto.
The history of fujifu is long. There is a phrase that indicates the presence of fujifu even in the 'Manyoushu' (a collection of Japanese poetry, compiled around the mid-8th century), which mentions 'the fujifu of a salt farm worker, working for the lord'. Also, an anecdote describes how the Emperor Godaigo took a wisteria seedling with him to Okinoshima island, when he was exiled there by the Kamakura Shogunate in 1333 (Genkou 2). The anecdote explains that he loved the wisteria and remembered the imperial capital by dressing in fujifu cloth.
At one time, fujifu was being produced widely across Japan as general apparel. Today, there have been approaches to adapt fujifu for modern lifestyles by making new products, such as 'noren' curtains, tapestries, obi belts and interior accessories.
Enshrining Minamoto no Yoshitsune as its principal deity, Yoshitsune Shrine in Biratori Town in the southeastern part of Hokkaido is a shrine famous for the legend of Yoshitsune. In 1798, when Kondo Juzo explored eastern Ezo (present-day Hokkaido) under the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate, he found that the Ainu people in this area had a great respect for Yoshitsune. He ordered to make the statue of Yoshitsune and placed it in the village of Biratori. In 1876, the place where the statue was located was designated as the village shrine by the Meiji government and it became Yoshitsune Shrine.
According to the legend, Yoshitsune had successfully escaped from the siege in Hiraizumi and fled to Hokkaido, where he loved the local people and taught them how to plough fields, make and steer boats and weave fabric.
The shrine precinct and its surrounding area is now arranged into a park, where visitors can enjoy viewing cherry and azalea blossoms in spring and autumn colors in fall. The exquisite landscape of the Hidaka Mountain Range and the Saru River can be seen from the hilltop. The documents and data concerning Yoshitsune are exhibited in Yoshitsune Museum in the park.
Ainu bark-fiber is a woven cloth used for the traditional garments and costumes of the Ainu people of Hokkaido. These garments are some of the most representative and familiar forms of clothing worn by the Ainu, and are known as 'atoshi' in Ainu dialect.
Bark fiber used in this fabric is taken from the inner bark of the Manchurian elm, then woven on a loom. As cotton was more highly valued by the Ainu then, garments were considered to be more valuable when cotton was woven into cloth along with bark fiber.
Among the Ainu, the Hokkaido Ainu were the principal users of this fabric. It was worn for daily use, and was mass exported to the main island of Japan in the late 18th century due to its excellent durability and detailed weaving. Today, this fabric is still woven all over Hokkaido as a traditional handicraft.