NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/4/15


瓦 Kawara Kawara Roofing Tile

Jp En

Kawara, are roofing tiles made of fired clay.
History indicates that Kawara first appeared in China around 2,800 years ago. They were introduced to Japan in the middle of the 6th Century, at the same time Buddhism was introduced from Kudara, now Korea. Kawara were reportedly first used for the Asuka Temple in Japan.
At that time, temples were the only buildings allowed to use Kawara roofing tiles.  In the Nara period, however. Kawara began to be used for various other types of buildings.
In the Edo period, new styles of Kawara were invented and the tiles came into popular use.  Their widespread use was encouraged because they are fire proof.
Kawara are roughly classified into two categories in Japan: Nyouyaku Gawara or Glazed tiles and Ibushi Kawara or tiles which have oxidized and formed a silver- colored carbon film.  As for shapes, there are now more than 1,000 varieties of Kawara.
Currently Sanshuu Kawara in Aichi, Awaji Kawara in Hyogo and Sekishu Kawara in Shimane are the three biggest production districts of  high quality Kawara.  They represent the finest in Japanese roofing tile making.
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2008/3/7


旧佐藤家住宅 Kyuu-satou-ke-juutaku The Old House of the Sato Family

Jp En

An old vernacular house of honbyakusho (a titled peasant), built in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868), is preserved in the precinct of Kozoji Temple in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture.

It is a rectangular building, 14.9 m wide and 7.8 m deep, with a hipped roof that descends from the ridge on four sides of the building. The roof has a smoke control opening with a comb-shaped bargeboard.

As was typical to a farmer’s house in this region, there is no partition between the living room and Doma (the earth-floored space). The pillars are made of thick and unfinished lumbers, supported by the Torii-date construction (the old architectural style using struts).

The Sato family was called by their hereditary house name “Kurumaya.” It is said that a Shugendo practitioner had lived in this house before the Sato family. The house was relocated to its present location in 1972 and was designated as an important cultural property by the prefecture.
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旧中沢家住宅 Kyuu-nakazawa-ke-juutaku The Old House of the Nakazawa Family

Jp En

An old farm house built in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) is preserved in Jusanzuka Park in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a standard farm house of the time.

The house has a hipped roof that descends from the ridge on four sides of the building. As was typical to a farmer’s house in this region, the floor is divided evenly into four rooms, which is called the Natori-style floor planning. There is no partition between the rooms and Doma (the earth-floored space). The ridge is supported by three pillars respectively called Ushimochi-bashira, Hoito-bashira and Yomekakushi-bashira, which are made of unfinished lumbers. The pillars create simple but stately atmosphere, typically felt in the Tohoku region.

The house was lived by some family until 1973. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property by the national government in 1974, and after the repair work conducted from 1975 to 1976, it was relocated to its present location. It is a precious historical property that brings the life of farmers in the Edo period to the present day.
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2008/3/5


弥彦神社 yahiko-jinjya yahiko Shrine

Jp En

At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
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丸岡城 Maruoka-jyo Maruoka Castle

Jp En

Maruoka Castle, located in Maruoka town, Fukui pref, is the oldest standing castle with a remaining donjon. The castle, built with an old style stone wall that uses natural found stones, is rather small but has a simple beauty that remains unchanged to this day. The castle was built in 1576 by the order of Katsuie Shibata who was awarded the Echizen territory, now a part of Fukui pref., by Nobunaga Oda, who ruled a vast area of Japan in the Sengoku Period. The castle was built originally in Toyohara town, however, for more convenient road access, it was moved to Maruoka by Katsuie’s nephew, Katsutoyo.  The castle employs a unique architectural method. It is three stories high with two layers of roof and there is a watch tower with handrails going around the donjon on the top story. The castle was roofed with Shakudani stone, a local stone, and has thick lattices and black wooden walls, which are unmistakable characteristics of the early style of castle making. The castle has lived through many war-torn periods of deadly strife and carnage. The castle is also known as Kasumiga Joh, Mist Castle, owing to a legend that, at a time of battle, a giant serpent appeared and blew mist over the castle and concealed it from attackers. In 1934, it was designated as a National Treasure. It was destroyed by an earthquake, then later reconstructed and was designated an Important National Property.
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武家造 Buke-zukuri Buke-zukuri

Jp En

Buke-zukuri is an architectural style used for residences of the bushi, warrior class, during Kamakura period.
Buku-zukuri is considered a simplified version of Shinden-zukuri which was a residence for aristocrats during Heian period. In Shinden-zukuri, a main building called shinden was built facing the south garden. In the east and west of the sinden were sub-buildings called tainoya which were connected to the shinden by corridors called wataridono. Each taiya building had another corridor toward the south to connect to another building called tsuridono, which literally means a fishing building, that formed a bridge over the pond of the garden. Buku-zukuri had a similar but much simpler style using a roof structure covered with boards or planks and wooden board flooring. It is also believed that the buke-zukuri house had a kind of castle like facility to protect itself from the outside. However, no such example has ever been found so details are not known. Thus, buke-zukuri is not commonly accepted as an original style.
Shoin-zukuri in Muromachi period was believed to be based on buke-zukuri. Kinkaku-ji Temple built in the early Muromachi period showing fine harmonious blends of three different architectural styles: shinden-zukuri on the first floor, buke-zukuri on the second floor and Zen Butsuden-zukuri on the third floor. The temple shows the transition of the style to shoin-zukuri which is more evident in Ginkaku-ji temple that was built later.
It should be noted that Buke-zukuri is sometimes confused with buke-yashiki in Edo period, but it is a completely different style.
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2008/2/19


御上神社 Mikami-jinja Mikami Shrine

Jp En

Mikami Shrine enshrines Mt. Mikami or popularly called Omi-Fiji, a 432 m conical mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and Amenomikage no Kami, the guardian deity of old Omi province and the deity of blacksmith and blade smith.

The main hall constructed in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) is a very unique building in the style called Mikami-zukuri, in which the architectural styles for shrines, temples and residences are combined together. The Buddhism architectural style can be seen in its 3-bay structure, the Irimoya-zukuri roof, white walls and lattice windows. As one of the oldest shrine building in the Irimoya-zukuri style, it was designated as a National Treasure in 1952. The Haiden Hall (oratory), the main gate, the main hall of an attached shrine, Wakamiya Shrine, and the wooden Chinese dog are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Zuiki Festival is held at this shrine in the middle of October every year. The word “zuiki” means the stem of a taro potato. Every year five Mikoshi (portable shrine), which are made of zuiki and decorated with vegetables, persimmon leaves and chestnuts, are dedicated to the shrine to express gratitude for the year’s crop.
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奥石神社 Oiso-jinja Oiso Shrine

Jp En

The origin of Oiso Shrine in Azuchi Town, Shiga Prefecture, is unknown, but it is presumed to have been the oratory for the mountain god residing at the top of Mt. Kinugasa. The enshrined deity is Amatsukoyane no Mikoto, an ancestor of the Fujiwara clan.

According to a legend, when Ototachibanahime no Mikoto threw herself into the sea to appease the rage of the sea god and saved Yamato Takeru, who was on his way to the eastern land, she was pregnant and said “I will stay in Oiso Woods and become a guardian goddess for safe childbirth.” From this episode, the shrine is visited by a lot of women who offer a prayer for safe delivery.

Guarded by Oiso Woods, Honden (the main hall) stands at the end of the front approach. It is a 3-bay flowing style building. Tosatsu (the wooden plate staked to a building7s ridgepole stating details of the construction) shows that it was constructed in 1581. The stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Motoori Norinaga, a Japanese scholar of Kokugaku during the Edo period, stands in a corner of the precinct.
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