Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred space. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering.
In Kyuushuu, especially in the Fukuoka and Miyazaki regions, the crane is often used as a design on shimekazari. Radially spread bundles of straw are positioned to indicate the wings and tail of a crane and the part that represents the beak is often colored in red. In rare cases, shimekazari may also have a turtle design.
Since ancient times, both the crane and the turtle have been valued as animals that bring good fortune and a long life. Their design has been a fixture at celebratory occasions. Pine, bamboo and plum trees as well as treasure ships are also added to the decoration of the shimekazari, combining, strong wishes for both a happy New Year and a long, healthy life.
Choju Giga (Caricature Painting of Birds and Beasts) is a scroll painting in Toganosan Kozanji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The official name of the scroll is 'Bird Beast Human Scroll'. It consists of four volumes and is designated a National Treasure.
From the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period, a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect, Toba-soju-kakuyu is supposed to have painted the scroll, but many people believe it to be executed by several painters.
In the caricature, animals are depicted as humanlike; rabbits, monkeys, frogs, cattle, dogs, giraffes and so on. The scroll is an ironic description of the world at that time. but some parts of the scroll have been lost or are hard to understand.
The depiction of animals as humanlike and drawn with an emphasis on quickly-painted line to suggest movement is said to be the origin of comic drawing and animation in Japan today.
Koto-e is a form of relief carving on Japanese plaster. A special craftsman makes plaster reliefs and sculptures on to the walls of private house and storehouse. Designs include auspicious symbols and characters as well as imaginary beasts that represent people's prayers and wishes.
'Koto-e' has only recently been coined as a name for this craft, and Izu Chohachi's work was the first to be categorized as such. This craft used to be called 'doro-e', 'kabe-e', etc.
Koto-e relief carving is a craft that has only really developed from the late Edo through Meiji period, a time of kaleidoscopic changes into the modern era. The spirit of the craftsmen living through these times can be felt in their work. Recently, plaster-relief carving nearly vanished, but it has gradually seen its popularity as a craft rise again. A koto-e competition takes place annually in Hamazaki Town, the hometown of Chohachi.
Ryukyu Kasuri is an ikat cloth woven in the town of Haebaru in Okinawa. It is also the collective term for any ikat made in Okinawa.
Ryukyu Kasuri is said to date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. It developed from South-East Asian ikat but its designs feature unique motifs based on Okinawan nature and fauna.
Silk is the main thread used for Ryukyu Kasuri, and is dyed with both natural and chemical dyes. It is mainly produced as a roll of cloth. Hanging wall cloths for the summer season are also made.
To make ikat, warp and weft threads are dyed and woven by hand in ordered patterns. Before weaving, the threads are mounted on a frame, tied in selected areas, then dyed. The threads are then dried and loosened, and carefully woven on a wooden loom to form the pattern.
The simple prints and the geometrical patterns of Ryukyu Kasuri create an exotic atmosphere.
Edo sarasa is a tasteful and exotic dyed cotton cloth. The patterns on sarasa are of southern flowers, birds and people depicted in rich colors, and came to Japan from countries such as India, Java and Persia.
Sarasa was introduced to Japan through the southern Nanban trade at the end of the Muromachi period, and had begun to spread by the mid-Edo period.
Edo sarasa has a Japanese sensibility in its colors and designs and uses patterns created through stencil printing. These Japanese patterns are stylized and exotic. Usually, around 30 stencils are used but up to 300 stencils are sometimes used! When many stencil designs are layered together, the sarasa appear profound and almost three-dimensional.
Edo sarasa is a beautiful craft preserved by craftsmen today who have inherited these traditional techniques from the Edo period.