Mingei is an abbreviation of “minshu-teki kogei,” which menas “hand-crafted art of ordinary people.” The Mingei products are mostly ordinary and utilitarian objects. The word “Jomon” literally means “patterns of rope” and “Zogan” is a damascene technique. Mingei pottery Jomon Zogan is a style of pottery which involves using silk rope to make impressions in the wet clay and filling the patterns with white slips of clay, which creates clear contrast with the black color of the buisque.
Jomon Zogan style of pottery was created by Tatsuzo Shimaoka (1919-2007), a designated National Living Treasure. He studied pottery in Mashiko, where he became an apprentice of Shoji Hamada, one of mingei’s founding proponents. Based on the techniques in clay kneading and glazing he acquired in Mashiko and the unpretentious creative spirit of mingei, he developed his own pottery of Jomon Zogan. His sober but innovative style of pottery has been highly esteemed at home and abroad.
Iga kumihimo is a traditional braiding handicraft from the city of Iga in Mie Prefecture. Kumihimo braid uses silk threads for the main thread combined with gold and silver threads. It is woven in a traditional manner using kumidai braiding stands.
The origins of Iga kumihimo date back beyond the Nara period. In the Heian period, elaborate braids began to be used for Buddhist altar objects and ritual articles. When samurai became a prevalent class, kumihimo braiding was used on weaponry. Even after the Meiji period, the techniques of traditional kumihimo were still familiar in the world of Japanese kimono, being used on obi sashes, as well as haori and hakama from the Edo period.
The beautifully dyed silk threads intermingle with other threads, creating kumihimo braid's distinctive texture and quality. The special feature of kumihimo is its way of beautifully combining various elements. In 1976, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated Iga kumihimo as a Traditional Craft of Japan.
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.
Edo braiding is a tasteful and graceful Tokyo specialty.
Japan makes extraordinarily sophisticated use of all kinds of threads. Not only do the Japanese bind and tie things together with strings and thread, but they also can show fortune, sex and status by the way the threads are tied together, by the choice of color and by the arrangement of the knots.
Braiding dates back to before the Edo period. It was originally imported from China or Korea. When the Shogunate was established in Edo, there was a demand for ceremonial clothing and therefore for braids. The Edo braid then developed a delicacy and a wabi-sabi quality (quiet simplicity).
Edo braiding is applied to many things, such as the obi sash for kimonos, haori (short jackets) and other essentials for our daily lives.
Braiding is also used to secure scrolls, on monks robes, on sashes worn by nobility, as decoration on traditional armory and on sword handles.
Kyofusahimo/yorihimo are exquisitely braided ropes and strings decorated with clusters of ornaments. These magnificent objects date back to the Heian period, and are considered to be a traditional handicraft of Kyoto.
These crafts originated in the Heian period. The kyofusahimo and yorihimo developed because the nobles and lords of Japan wanted some flamboyant and luxurious accessories for their interior furnishings and belongings.
During the Kamakura period, samurais used these braids as kimono cords for their armor and katanas. During the Muromachi period, when the tea ceremony became popular, these braids were used to decorate equipment used during the ceremonies. In the Edo period, when many different temples were built in Kyoto, stores that sold Buddhist altar fittings decorated with these braids and stores that specialized in braids, prospered.
As braiding designs and techniques developed, there were many social changes that led to the kyofusahimo and yorihimo becoming more of a common commodity, than a luxury one.
Up to this day, the kyofusahimo and the yorihimo are beloved by the people of Japan because of their many uses in a range of applications, from everyday decoration and accessories, to traditional events, such as tea ceremonies and commemorations.