Ichibee Iwano was born in 1933 in Imadate in Fukui Prefecture. He is known as the son of the 8th Iwano Ichibee, who was designated a Living National Treasure for his work making washi (Japanese paper) in Echizen.
His son, the 9th Ichibee Iwano, was also designated a Living National Treasure in 2002. The paper he crafted was beloved by many artists, such as Picasso. He inherited his temperament for this work from the 8th and, for 60 years, worked hard to make the best washi.
Ichibee Iwano's paper is stiff, and is not easily torn. Its thickness prevents the paper from blotting. He also created an extremely thin paper for publishing reprints of Katsushika Hokusai's woodblock prints. To print these, it is necessary to rub the back of the paper with a special burnishing implement called a baren a few hundred times. To be sure, it is difficult to make a thin paper that withstands these rubbings. However, the 9th smiles and asserts that 'The harder it is, the better it is.' The spirit of craftsmanship may even exceed that of his father.
“Housho” was originally used to describe a form of governmental decree used by a shogun or retired emperor to give orders to subordinates. Later, housho came to be known as a kind of paper. In the Edo period, each Federal clan prepared their own paper to be used for housho. Of all the clans, housho by the Echizen clan was regarded as the highest quality. Handmade paper of good quality is said to be able to retain its properties thousands of years, and this is evident in Echizen paper documents, which still remain intact today. Echizen paper enjoyed an excellent reputation dating back to the Kamakura period, but it was during the rules of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu that it was strongly protected and thrived. The techniques were refined and improved and the result was an even better quality paper. Echizen paper is durable and does not tear easily, so from the Meiji period on, it was also used for Japanese paintings and reprints of woodblock prints. Ichibei Iwano is the leading maker of Echizen housho and is recognized as a living national treasure. The paper he creates is so strong that no amount of force will tear it. The secret of this high quality comes from the water and the air in Echizen and, above all, the painstaking craftsmanship that continues unchanged from old times.
Shinori Date is the remains of a manor house constructed by a local ruling family from the mainland of Japan. The 'History of Shinra' records that the house was destroyed during the Koshamine uprising in 1456 and the Ainu uprising in 1512.
Although it is unclear, the manor house was probably originally established in the late-14th century. Also on this site, ancient cultural assets and Suzu pottery from Echizen have been found.
The manor house is situated on a square piece of land 70-80m wide and 50-65m long, with a total area of about 4,100m2. It is designated as a national ruin and a scenic spot of Hakodate district and the Tsugaru Strait. The scenery is magnificent.
Echizen Take-ningyo is a doll made of long jointed bamboo or moso bamboo,
which are indigenous plants of Echizen district. Well used straight and
curved lines of bamboo give elegant taste to the doll. Around 1952, Yasutaka
Morota and his younger brother, who had been making flower frames out of
bamboo, hit upon an idea of making a doll using odd bamboo pieces, and after
many trials they finally made some dolls based on themes from kabuki, kyogen
and noh theater, which is said to be the biginning of this doll. Their dolls
were awarded many nationwide prizes, which led to the establishment of Fukui’s
new folk craft, Echize Take-nungyo. It was Yasutaka’s son Reimei who made
this doll a perfect work of art. Reimei was awarded many prizes including
the Japanese Calture Promotion Association Prize in 2003. Reimei’s dolls, displayed at Echizen Take-ningyo no Sato in Sakai County, Fukui Pref., are lovely but somewhat fragile and nostalgic.
Echizen is one of the five big producing areas of Japanese lacquer ware
(Yamanaka, Aizu, Echizen, Kishu, and Wajima). Echizen lacquer ware, or
Kawada lacquer ware, is produced around the area of Kawada-cho and
Katayama-cho, Sabae City, Fukui Pref., where you can find a lot of lacquer
craft workshops and lacquerers. The history of Echizen lacquer ware dates
back to the 6th century, about 1500 years ago, when the emperor of the times
ordered a lacquerer to apply recoating of lacquer on a kanmuri or a formal
headpiece of the emperor. After having recoated the kanmuri, the craftsman
also presented a black-lacquered bowl to the Emperor, who was strongly
impressed with its beauty and encouraged this handicraft. Echizen lacquer
ware is still practically used in our daily life because it is not only
elegant and beautiful but also hardwearing and easy to use. Its gloss colors
contain profound beauty under its surficial gorgeousness.
Among various Japanese papers, Echizen paper is especially preferred for its
delicate gloss and sublime daintiness. This handsome paper has been made in
a quiet mountain town of Imadate, Fukui Pref.. Legend has it that some 1,500
years ago, a beautiful princess came to the Okatagawa River in this town and
taught the people how to make paper. In the Nara period (710−794), the
paper was highly esteemed for copying Buddhist sutras. Later, when the
warrior class began to use paper in large quantities, papermaking skills
were improved and quantity production was possible. High quality papers such
as Echizen Hosho were also produced around this period. Then this area was
given the Shogunate patronage as a paper producing area and further
development was made. The high quality of Echizen paper, filtered through
clean water in its papermaking process, has been favored by a lot of artists
including the famous painter, Taikan Yokoyama. In recent times, it is used
for various purposes such as the sliding screens (fusuma of Japanese
traditional houses ), diplomas, writing cards, envelopes and writing paper.
Echizen forged blades, one of the traditional handicrafts of Echizen City,
Fukui Pref., has its own distinctive sharpness produced through 700 years of
its history, where craftsmen have competed in refining their skills. The
history dates back to the Nanbokucho period (1336−1392), when a swordsmith
from Kyoto came to this area. This swordsmith, Chiyotsuru Kuniyasu visited
Fuchu (present Takeo City, Fukui Pref.) in search of a suitable place for
sword-making. He also made grain sickles for the local farmers and this
evolved into forging in the area. Since then Takeo is a big producing area
of edged farming tools, which were spread throughout the country by peddlers
unique to Hokuriku region. Using aged-old Japanese forging skills before
being finished by hand, kitchen knives, sickles and trimmers are now
produced. Echizen forged blades were awarded the nationally recognized
Traditional Craft Product in 1980, as daily commodities combined with
accomplished skills and artistic sensitivity.
One of the typical products of Fukui Pref., Echizen ware is known for its
natural surface texture and sound simplicity. This naturalness depends on
spontaneous effect of the firewood ash melting into a ware during the firing
process without glazing. The history dates back to the end of the Heian
period, some 850 years ago, when the first kiln was built on the hillside of
Ozohara (ex-Miyazaki Village), Echizen-machi, Fukui Pref.. The kilns in this
area had long been anonymous, however, after World War II, pottery studiers
including Fujio Koyama called Echizen as one of Japan’s six old kilns,
which made Echizen ware known nationwide. Echizen kilns, maintaining its
tradition of unglazing high-firing technique, have been making various
everyday articles, each of which is not gorgeous but deep-rooted in people’s
daily life. In 1985, Echizen potters effort resulted in the assignation of
the nationally recognized Traditional Craft Product.