Edo kiriko is a glass-cutting handicraft that began in the late Edo period. The origin of this craft dates back to 1834, when a craftsman, Kagaya Hisabe, first created a new technique of cutting glass with powdered emery.
In the late Edo period, transparent lead glass (crystal glass) was the main glass material used for this craft. The patterns were familiar ones seen on kimonos, such as bamboo fencing, chrysanthemums and hemp.
Now, many Edo kiriko pieces are made using faded glass. The layer of colored glass is thin and vivid.
In 2002, Edo kiriko was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Tokyo hand-painted yuzen is a cloth with elegant and subtle designs dyed into it. The technique was developed some 300 years ago by Miyazaki Yuzensai, a dyeing artisan from Kyoto.
In the mid-Edo period, many products came from Kansai to Edo, which flourished as the center of samurai politics. Dyeing artisans for feudal lords moved to Edo, bringing various techniques with them. At that time, Tokyo citizens controlled the economy, and the merchants developed a sophisticated culture of elegant simplicity that spread among the populace; this helped the development of Tokyo hand-painted yuzen.
The hand-painted designs are generally crisp and muted in color, but there are brighter tones and new designs in the plain pattern. One artisan is responsible for each step in the production of the cloth; from conception to design, to a rough sketch, to painting and dyeing and finishing. Many people love this handicraft.
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.
Hagoita, or kogiita as they were known in olden times, were used as decorative battledores or presented as New Year gifts. Hagoita were believed to repel evil, and had connotations of healthy growth.
In the late Edo period, a Chinese technique called 'oshi' was first used for hagoita. A design is made, then cardboard is tacked against a board, which is covered with cloth to give a 3-d effect.
At that time, the merchant Edo culture had entered a mature stage with the creativity of ukiyo-e, woodblock prints of popular subjects. Like ukiyo-e, hagoita featured similar designs with portraits of Kabuki actors being very popular. At the annual year-end fairs in Edo, many people bought hagoita with portraits of popular actors.
Even today, beautiful hagoita make a popular gift to bring luck at New Year or to be presented as a special gift.
Ezaki Guji is an Edo lacquerware craftsman, and was born in 1913 in Akita prefecture.
Ezaki's father was a Kawatsura lacquerware craftsman. After graduation, Ezaki studied the craft of lacquerware from his father. In 1931, at the age of 18, he moved to Tokyo to study under a lacquering craftsman in Asakusa.
Edo lacquerware developed as a craft during the period of the fifth Tokugawa shogun Tsunayoshi (1646–1709), and was being used by commoners as everyday objects by the period of the eighth shogun Yoshimune (1684-1751).
Many different kinds of Edo lacquerware vessels and utensils are produced, including objects for the tea ceremony and for low tables.
Ezaki set up his own business in Katsushika-ku, Tokyo, in 1946. Until 1950, he lacquered and assembled sacred portable shrines for Tokyo's Asakusa district. Now, he is mainly engaged in lacquering drums, lion-dance masks and portable shrines.
Ezaki says: 'The basic preparation in lacquering is vital. The surface might look similar at first, but the longer you use it, the more tasteful the best ware gets.'
In 1995, he was designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman of Katsushika-ku.
Toshimichi Shiraishi is an Edo lacquerware craftsman, born in 1937 in Horikiri, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo.
Toshimichi's father was also a craftsman. In 1953, Toshimichi was apprenticed to a craftsman in Senju. In 1963, when he was 26, he set up on his own.
Edo lacquerware became popular in the early Edo period when the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, invited Kyoto lacquerware craftsmen to move to the capital. Since then, the craft developed mainly to make strong practical ware, such as sushi boxes and buckwheat noodle steamers.
Toshimichi's lacquerware is amazingly inexpensive for its quality. Now, the emphasis of his practice is to repair lacquerware. 'Whether it is chipped or cracked, any wooden ware can be fixed repeatedly and once fixed, it will keep for another several years. I'm willing to fix any lacquerware,' he says.
Toshimichi has been designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman, a Traditional Craftsman of Katsushika-ku, and a National Lacquerware Development First-Class Technician.