Yuutaro Oono was born in Tokyo in 1935. He is currently the CEO of Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd.
After graduating from Hokunoujima Technology High School, Mr. Oono was employed by an 8mm film company. In 1978, he started Ohno Seimitsu Kogyo Co. Ltd which specializes in making gears. He also dedicated himself to bringing back Karakuri dolls , which were popular in the Edo period, to modern times, using the advanced techniques of modern gear making.
Mr. Oono first learned about Karakuri in an engineering book and he became passionately interested in them. He had acquired a copy of “Karakuri-zui”, an illustrated compendium of mechanical devices written by Hanzou Hosokawa, a legendary karakuri artisan of the Edo period. Mr. Oono began studying the book intensely and, for the last 20 years, he has been reproducing the Karakuri dolls most loved by people in the Edo period such as “tea serving doll”, “shinan guruma” and the “Karakuri clock”.
Each doll is made using about 80 different parts, not counting its face and clothing. The dolls are created in such a way as to preserve traditional methods as much as possible. The fusion of the Edo period and modern times shows both beauty and functionality.
Mr. Oono’s next project is to bring back “Yumihari Warawa, or “ Boy Archer”, which shows a boy shooting an arrow at a target. His tremendous respect for the Karakuri artists of the Edo period motivates him to try to recreate the Karakuri Dolls most beloved in that period, so that people can remember and appreciate their heritage.
Karakuri Ningyo or Karakuri Dolls are traditional mechanical dolls of Japan.
“Karakuri” means a mechanical device to amuse people and they were originally found in China around 10th century. Karakuri Dolls are said to have been introduced to Japan in the Muromachi period.
In the Edo period, the gear mechanisms used for clocks began to be used to make moving dolls and the production of Karakuri Dolls began.
At first, they were made as toys mostly for the upper class. They gradually became a popular attraction at amusement parks and widely seen in all over Japan.
In 1662, Oue Takeda began a touring Karakuri-Doll-theater, something unique at the time and during the Kyoho period (1716~1735), Karakuri Monya, using the best Karakuri techniques then available, made a four-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pedaling.
At the end of the Edo period, Hisashige Tanaka, known as Karakuri Giemon, created “Yumihiki Douji” (the Boy Archer), which is regarded the highest standard of Karakuri dolls made in Edo period.
Karakuri dolls are traditional Japanese precision machines considered to be the foundation for today’s industrial robots.
Sericulture had been actively practiced in Isesaki since the ancient times and it is said that the making of silk textile in this area started in the periods before Christ. However, it was not until the latter half of the 17th century that a production center for ikat, or popularly called “meisen,” became established. In the Edo period (1603-1868), closely-woven cloth was called “me-sen (a thousand eyes),” from which the word “meisen” was created.
When it came onto the market in Tokyo in the Meiji period (1868-1912), it gained the popularity and the name of Isezaki Meisen was known throughout Japan. Then in the Showa period (1926-1989), too, Isezaki Meisen industry reached its second peak. At the present time, although a burst of popularity has calmed down, several hundred craftsmen continue making this traditional textile.
Isezaki ikat is characterized by its dyeing techniques, which include “itajime-gasuri (board dyeing),” “kukuri-gasuri (tying the printed part before being dyed)” and “nasen dyeing (employing pattern paper and dyeing with brushes and spatulas).” After being dyed, the ikat threads are woven into a wide variety of patterns ranging from the very simple to those of a complex nature. In whichever case, Isezaki ikat all makes the best use of the qualities of silk. These handmade ikat cloths are loved by people even today because they are strong but reasonable in price.
Itoire (literally meaning “thread insertion”) is a technique employed in the making of Ise-katagami (paper stencil patterns), which is a traditional handicraft handed down in Mie Prefecture. Ise kimono stencil is made of Japanese washi paper with a persimmon stringent liquid, onto which elaborate and elegant kimono patterns are hand-carved.
In the case of patterns such as stripes, where there are substantial spaces between the uncut areas of the stencil, threads are fixed to the stencils to strengthen them and prevent movement during use, which technique is called “itoire.”
As itoire is an elaborate technique to require a long period of training and painstaking efforts, successors of this technique are decreasing in number and the technique using silk gauze (called “sha-bari”) are now replacing it. The itoire craftsperson Mie Jonokuchi was designated as a Living National Treasure together with 5 other Ise-katagami craftspeople in 1955; regrettably all have passed away now.
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.
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.