Posts tagged “japan”
Autumn is the best season for Art !
Do you know many Japanese local governments back up art festivals and budding artists ?
The recent most famous one is Setouchi Art Festival (瀬戸内国際芸術祭, Setouchi Triennale). It will be held from Oct 5 to Nov 4. Setouchi (瀬戸内) is inland sea and there are about 3000 islands including uninhabited small ones. The festival is the second time in 3 years. Originally, the event was hatched out in order to revitalize the towns that have been facing depopulation. The idea was mainly to recycle and re
The arts were created recycling the empty houses and desterilize natural materials and objects in the towns, which are naive, audacious, and impressive.
There are more other local art festivals as follows:
Aichi Triennale (http://aichitriennale.jp/english/index.html)
Nakanojo Biennale (http://nakanojo-biennale.com/english)
Towada Oirase Art Festival (http://artstowadaoirase.jp/en/)
If you already know most of general information about Japan, why don’t you find modern art face of Japanese culture ?
Many Japanese likes robot. Why ? Maybe we grew up around Japanese anime and manga, and many of them are about humanoid robot. Robots are commonplace in Japanese popular culture, from relatively low-tech Hello Kitty to Sony‘s AIBO, a robot dog so beloved by some owners that they make birthday cakes for their metallic pooches.
One of the most famous one is Honda ‘Asimo‘.
Sony developed a pet robot, ‘AIBO‘ means partner (相棒） in Japanese.
Now, we have a new robot hero, ‘Kirobo‘, the Japan’s first robot astronaut and the first robot to speak in outer space.
Kirobo, joint project of University of Tokyo and Toyota, is just a knee-high robot with voice- and facial-recognition technology and the world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and human.
The first Star Wars series movie was released 1977. We are so used to see robots in the outer space. But actually, it is only the last month that the robot was sent to the space. Kirobo spoke its first orbital words while floating aboard the International Space Station.
Kirobo said “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all”. Kirobo only speaks Japanese and is designed to help researchers explore the possibilities of coexistence with robots during long space voyages of the future.
In Japan, we are culturally open to robots, on account of animism and we don’t make a distinction between inanimate objects and humans. We have been inventing on consumer robots aimed at altering everday life.
Check this video to see Top 10 Japanese Robot.
Some of them play the violin, dance, support elderly people by lifting and carrying humans, and even cook for you. Maybe in the future, a robot will become an important family member in Japan. If these robots are affordable price, Yes, I want one !
8/15 is a special day for many Japanese, called “Obon” (お盆). (For people in some areas, it is 7/15.)
Is is said that the souls of your ancestors come back to the living world on this day, so that we celebrate and welcome them. As a custom, many Japanese take their summer vacation on the week of 8/15.
“Okuribi” (送り火) is the event to see off the souls going back to the world of afterlife. There are 2 major kinds of “Okuribi”. One is done on the hill, called “Yama no Okuribi”, (山の送り火) and the other one is done in the water, called “Umi no Okuribi” (海の送り火). “Umi no Okuribi” is “Toro Nagashi” (灯籠流し) in another words.
“Gozan Okuribi” (五山送り火) in Kyoto is the most famous one of “Yamano Okuribi” and many tourists look forward to seeing it. “Gozan” means 5 hills, then, there are 5 places that fire at the same time on 8/16.
This represents the Kanji character, “大”. Why this character is not known clearly, but some say it depicts the shape of human.
There are characters that represent “Torii”(鳥居), a shrine gate and a boat.
“Okuribi” is one of representatives of Summer traditional events in Kyoto.
If you have a chance to visit Kyoto in summer, why don’t you try feeling Japanese “Obon” ?
Do you know “Yakatabune”(屋形船) ?
It is a traditional Japanese style boat with wall and roof. As oldest, it used to be Shogun’s private boat in Heian Era and lasted through the Edo Era, which were very lavishly decorated.
There are some Ukiyoe that have Yakatabune pictured.
Yakatabune has tatami mats inside and Japanese low tables that are basically for entertaining guests in the old days. Today they plow the waterways of the rivers and bays of Tokyo among the skyscrapers and temples for sighteseeing and retain a traditional feel.
Now, many people enjoy Yakatabune especially in Spring when cherry blossoms are in bloom, Summer with fireworks, and Yearend when yearend paries are held.
In summer, it is very gracious to watch fireworks from Yakatabune in the river.
In yearend, some Japanese people like to have yearend parties, called “Bonenkai” (忘年会) in Yakatabune because it has a kitchen and dishes like “Tempura” (天ぷら) can be served with some drinks including alcohols !
When you have a chance to visit Japan, why don’t you put Yakatabune one of your “exotic” activities ?
Do you know Washi-Choso (和紙彫塑) ?
Many of you may know Washi, that is Japanese traditional paper made using fibers from the bark of gampi tree, mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry. Washi-Choso is the kind of carving art using Washi, wires, wood, hemp strings, and clay. This art is not very popular and even not many Japanese know it.
The artist of Washi-Choso, Utsumi Kiyoharu (内海清美) is the great master.
He was born in Tokyo in 1937 and graduated from Tokyo University of Arts. His major concepts of the art is people in the Japanese traditional history. He has made the Pope a present of his art called “Susanoo”. In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the powerful storm of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the Moon.
Once you see his arts, you will be drawn into the world of myth, full of empyreal air.
There are a log of tasty dishes in Japan.
You can have almost all of food in the world. Not to mention about Italian, French, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indian, but African as well, can’ t count the other countries and areas !
Looking back to Japanese food, now, many local new dishes are being developed and introduced every year.
B-1 Grand Prix, that is Japanese local food competition, is very popular food event now.
Although Japan is developed civilized country, most of population is located in Tokyo and its suburb areas.
On the other hand, many local areas are suffering from decreasing young people and losing economic vitality.
Then, as one of the solutions to re-activate the local economy by attracting visitors for sight-seeing, new local dishes have been developed by the people of the food industry.
“Fujinomiya Yakisoba”(富士宮焼きそば) was the winner of the first prize in the first event held in 2006.
Fujinomiya city is in Shizuoka prefecture, that is famous for Mt. Fuji.
Although Yakisoba is not new food, it is characteristic of its own thick noodle and oil cakes.
“Hachinohe Senbeijiru” (八戸せんべい汁) was the winner in 2012 Grand Prix.
It is traditional soul food for the people in Hachinohe in Aomori prefecture. It is soup with chicken or pork, vegetables such as root, green onion, and mushrooms. The characteristic of this soup is it has Senbei (煎餅), rice cake, in it ! Before it got the first prize in 2012, it had been ranked in the higher positions many times, so it must be very delicious in spite of its plain looking.
Although they did not attend or the winners of the B1 Grand Prix competition, there are many other “Gotochi-Gourmet” and following are just a part of them.
“Aburafu-Don” (油麩丼) in Tome city in Miyagi prefecture
Aburafu is a kind of fried flour cake.
“Komagane Source Katsudon”(駒ヶ根ソースカツ丼) in Komagane city in Nagano prefecture
This is pork schnizel on the sliced cabbage with special source.
“Shiroebi Burger”(白エビバーガー) in Imizu city in Toyama prefecture
Shiroebi is precious white shrimp that can be fished only in Toyama area.
“Hunton Rice”(ハントンライス) in Kanazawa city in Ishikawa prefecture
This is with butter rice and white meet fish fries. It is said “Hun” came from Hungary and “Ton” means tuna in Hungarian.
Are you getting hungry ?
Try and discover the buried local attractions in Japan !
Do you know “Yuru-Chara”(ゆるキャラ) ?
Have you heard of “Kumamon” (くまモン) or “Funasshy” (ふなっしー) ?
Yuru-Chara is the abbreviation of “Yurui Mascot Character”, and “Yurui” means loose, flappy, or not perfect.
For around these 10 years, many local cities and towns have made their own mascot characters to make their area popular and developed economically. However, due to the constraint of their budget, the stuffed suits of the characters are not perfect, sometimes too amateurish, then, called Yuru-Chara.
The competition event, called “Yuru-Chara Grand Prix” has bee held every year and it is planed in 2013, too.
The top 3 result of 2012 Gran Prix was;
No. 1 : Barii-san (バリイさん) for Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture
No. 2 : Choruru (ちょるる) for Yamaguchi Prefecture
No. 3 : Gunma-Chan (ぐんまちゃん) for Gunma Prefecture
Although they were not ranked in top 10 in 2012, probably, recent most popular characters are ”Kumamon” (くまモン) and “Funasshy”(ふなっしー) mentioned earlier. Not only very famous, but what is greatest thing from them is they are contributing to their local economy !
Funasshy often shows on many TV programs and have been invited to many events. And,,, its DVD is on sale now !! Although Funasshy is not official character in Funabashi city in Chiba prefecture, the economy is as great as enough to be called “Funanomics”.
Kumamon is official character of Kumamoto prefecture, and there are a lot of Kumamon products sold on the market. It is making so good money and the most successful model in the local characters.
Kumamon Shochu (Distilled Spirit)
Even for nails !! Kawaii !!
Character business in Japan is in full bloom now !
Do you know “Oiran” (花魁) ?
Oiran was a kind of courtesan of highest rank in Edo period (1600-1868). Some people may express it a prostitute, however Oiran became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions were often set trends among the wealthy, and because of this, cultural aspects of Oiran traditions continue to be preserved until these days.
For men, in order to see Oiran, they had to frequent the red-light place until they were allowed to see by Oiran.
In that sense, they had to pay the fee several times without getting any services.
When finally allowed to see, Oiran came to the meeting room accompanied by several young female attendants.
Once Oiran sit down in front of the man and started smoking. During this time, she made an intuitive decision whether she would like only to talk with him or give him “full” services.
If she did not like the men, he would never be allowed to see her again !
When Oiran went outside officially, they made a long gorgeous line like parade, called “Oiran-Dochu”(花魁道中).
This meant “Fashion Show” to the people in the town, as well.
Oiran-Dochu can be seen in the movie, “Sakuran” (さくらん）
Behind the world of great pride, Oiran was treated terribly disregarded with their human rights. When they became ill and died, they were just thrown away into the river.
By the way, we sell Japanese towel with a motif of “Takao-Dayu” (高尾大夫).
Takao-Dayu was one of the most famous Oiran in Yoshiwara (吉原) which was in Taito-ku (台東区) in Tokyo. Takao-Dayu was not only one woman, but it was the prestigious name taken by several women who were beautiful and had special skills. It is not clear how many women succeeded the name, there are 4 views that say 4, 6, 9, or 11.
The most interesting skill that one of the several Takao-Dayu had was capability to fix the clock !
Another interesting fact is that those who frequented to see Oiran were not only men, but young women also did.
It was not because they were gay, but they wanted to learn their fashion sense, like Kimono pattern, hair accessary, and coordination.
Ladies have been eager to fashion in any period !
Many of you who like Japan or have visited Japan may know “Akihabara”(秋葉原), or called shortly “Akiba”, where a lot of stuff are sold relating electronic devices, animation, figures, or subcultures.
Very close to Akiba, there is a place called “2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan”. “2k540″ is pronounced “Ni Ke Yon Go Maru”, named from railway terminology meaning the place 2.5 km from Tokyo station.
This is the place under railway between “Akihabara” station and “Okachimachi” station, where a lot of small shops of artisans that sell hand-made crafts from traditional to modern. Okachimachi used to have a lot of artisans and craftworkers who developed Japanese traditional crafts in Edo era.
2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan was established aiming to provide the place to unrenowned or young artisans to show their activities and appeal their talents.
Bag, Apron, Furniture, Jewelry, Pottery, Wooden craft, Dye goods,,, countless !
Spaces combined with shop and craft studio, only one item in the world, workshop where you can experience crafting, this is creative area that should inspire you with new lifestyle.
If you visit Akihabara, why don’ you drop into Okachimachi, as well ?
Japanese love covering various things !
One of the representatives may be Toilet Cover.
There are versions of famous animation movie characters, Totoro and Kiki !
Another famous covering is for a box of tissue paper.
There are creative ones, too !
When we used to use analog telephone, there existed a cover for it.
Surprise to find it is still sold on the internet !!
Covering things means they are given attention and cherished by the owners.
Japanese are the people who take care of their belongings very much.
By the way, one of our artisans, Haha-Game made covers for saddles of bicycles.
This is very interesting product and don’t you think it makes us find it will give a small delight to our daily lives ?
Just like everybody enjoys coordinating daily cloths, it is fun and exiting to consider which Obi to choose for Kimono and how the Obi is tied.
There are a lot of ways of tying Obi depending on the situation you wear Kimono, how old you are, and what kind of Obi and Kimono are selected.
Most formal and standard Obi tying is called “Niju-Daiko”(二重太鼓).
“Niju-Daiko” is possible only when “Fukuro-Obi” and “Maru-Obi” are used because other kind of Obi are too short and too narrow for the tying.
“Niju-Daiko” is suitable for many kinds of Kimono, such as “Tomesode”, “Homongi”, and “Komon”.
When you wear “Furisode”, “Fukuro-Obi” or “Maru-Obi” is chosen as well, but the way of the tying Obi should be gorgeous like below.
This tying is called “Fukura-Suzume”(ふくら雀). “Fukura-Suzume” means Sparrow with its feathers puffed out in winter to warm itself. This leads to wish Wealth and Prosperity, a traditional lucky motif in Japan.
On the other hand, if you wear “Yukata” or “Komon”, a casual Kimono, “Hanhaba-Obi” is good for them.
One of the popular tying of “Hanhaba-Obi” for young girls is “Bunko-Musubi” (文庫結び).
It looks like ribbon or butterfly, but “Bunko” means “Book Box”.
Nowadays, there are few opportunities to wear Komono, even in Japan.
Then, think about how to utilized Obi in a different way.
How about for a table runner ?
Green Kikko Fukuro Obi
Fan Fukuro Obi
Or, how about a runner on the chest ?
There is a remade table runner made of vintage Obi, too.
Table Runner remade of Obi
Have a creative life remade of tradition !
Usually, 1/4 or Monday of the next week of 1/1 is first business day of the new year in Japan, where, many business people go to see and show new year greetings to their customers with some gifts.
This new year gift is called “Onenga” (お年賀) in Japanese.
It is said that this custom was born in “Edo” era (江戸時代, around mid 1600), when people obtained peaceful lives and merchants were flourished.
Local “Samurai” used to visit “Shogun” with their local products.
Traders and merchants brought sweets, sake or liquor on their first business day of the year.
Nowadays, most popular “Onega” is Towel.
Why Towel ?
It seems to be because Towel is cheep and good for daily use.
Sometimes, the towel has a company or merchants name printed, that is to be exposed every time used, and it works to go deeply into the customers memory.
Towel for “Onenga” derives from Kabuki actors who distributed “Tenugui” (手ぬぐい, Japanese traditional towel) their fans and supporters.
They used to design the pattern of “Tenugui” or had their “Kamon”(家紋, family emblems) printed on “Tenugui.
If you are learning Tea ceremony, you may choose “Tenugui” with tea utensils like below.
Tenugui with tea utensils
If you are a Sushi cook, you may like this one.
Tenugui with fish Kanji
And, if you are a firefighter, below should be the exact ones !
Tenugui with “Matoi”
Revival of “Tenugui” “Onenga” from modern towel must be “Iki” (粋, nifty) today !
You can also obtain them on our website.
Why don’t you visit here ? -> http://kimokame.com/shop/sections/kimono-inspired-interiors/
If you have only 2 humble Tsumugi Kimonos as your hand and need to wear either one of them at New Year Party, which do you prefer ?
The entire image of Kimono changes depending on the coordination with Obi.
In addition, accessories for Kimono, such as “Obijime” and “Obiage”, as well as “Haneri” play roles of “spice” that pluses a nuance.
“Obijime” is the strap that holds Obi.
“Obiage” is the scarf-like fabric that covers inner strings and decorates the edge of Obi in front.
“Haneri”, that is not shown in the pictures this time, though, is the fabric that covers and decorates the collar of “Juban”, Kimono underwear.
Now, there are 3 patterns of coordination for each !
A. This kimono fabric is called “Some-Oshima” (染め大島), a kind of “Oshima-Tsumugi” (大島紬) that is very famous fabric produced in Kagoshima prefecture.
Usually, the pattern of “Oshima-Tsumugi” is inwoven, however, the pattern of “Some-Oshima” is dyed after the fabric is woven.
A-1 Oshima with Tsumugi Obi
A-1 is coordination with “Tsumugi” “Nagoya-Obi”, “Tsumugi” “Obijime”, and yellow “Shibori” “Obiage”.
A-2 Oshima with Maple Obi
A-2 is coordination with Maple motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round “Obijime” with color ball charm, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage”.
A-3 Oshima with Chrysanthemum Obi
A-3 coordination is with Chrysanthemum motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round triple color “Obijime”, and yellow “Rinzu” “Obijime”.
B. This Kimono fabric is called “Yuki-Tsumugi” (結城紬), that is very famous “Tsumugi” produced in Ibaraki prefecture. Its inwoven pattern is “Sakura” petals.
B-1 Yuki Tsumugi with Fukuro Obi
B-1 coordination is with “Fukuro-Obi” of openwork, green flat “Obijime”, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage” (same one in A-2). ”Sakura” motif “Obidome”, a brooch like accessary for “Obijime”, is put as an additional accent.
“Fukuro-Obi” is usually for formal or semi formal Kimono, however this is called “Share-Bukuro” (洒落袋) that is for Komon Kimono.
B-2 Yuki Tsumugi with Hitta Nagoya Obi
B-2 coordination is with “Chirimen” “Nagoya-Obi” with dotted pattern called “Hitta” (疋田), thick & round “Obijime”, and “Obiage” with same fabric as “Obijime”
B-3 Yuki Tsumugi with Stripe Nagoya Obi
Finally, B-3 coordination is with “Nagoya-Obi” with Stripe “Tsumugi” fabric, black flat “Obijime with “Obidome” (same one as in B-1), and red “Shibori” “Obijime”. This “Nagoya-Obi” was remade from the fabric that was originally Kimono.
Looking forward to your vote !
Nikkei Trendy is a popular trends magazine and has been publishing these annual lists of since 1987, and it’s a great way to get an overview of popular trends in the past year, determined by three factors – sales, innovation and impact.
#1 Tokyo Sky Tree - It is the world’s tallest free-standing broadcasting tower with the highest point of 634 meters. Tokyo Skytree was opened on May 22, 2012 and 21 million people have visited the tower and the shopping complex called ’Tokyo Skytree Town’ by the end of September.
#2 Line - An instant messaging application for smartphones and PCs also enables users to send images, video, audio media messages and make VoIP calls. Line is a fast-growing smartphone application for free-calling and free-messaging. It has launched in June 2011 and it gained over 60 million users inside and outside Japan. The stickers called ’stamp’(right) can be posted into chat windows as a means of visual expression which led the great success of the expansion.
#3 Low-cost carriers (LCC) domestic airline - Low-cost carriers or low-cost airlines. Peach Aviation, AirAsia Japan, Jetstar Japan opened in Japan this year. Now, consumers can make their choices on the services and costs. It has a big impact on other domectic transport industries like bluet trains and long-distance bus.
#4 Maruchan Seimen - Instant ramen noodle brand of Maruchan in flavours of soy sauce, salt, miso, and pork bone broth.
#5 FitCut Curve - Scissors with extremely low rebound resilience grips and curved blades.
#6 JINS PC - Glasses for PC users cutting blue light from PC and smartphone screens by 50 percents.
#7 Touch Detective - An adventure game app for iPhone and Android.
#8 Kirin Metz Cola - A kind of cola soda from Kirin accredited with the Food for Specified Health Uses(FOSHU) by Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency which restrains fat in food to be absorbed in the body.
#9 Machikon - A type of large-scale konpa situated in a whole town gathering about 100 to 3,000 people who seek a partner for marriage.
#10 Black Beer - ASAHI SUPERDRY BLACK / KIRIN STOUT / SAPPORO Barley and Hops
My favorite is #5 FitCut Curve. This looks like just a simple scissors. But this is so amazing! How amazing ? The perfect cutting angle is mainatained to provide a light cut from beginning to end. Even when minimal force is used, strong cutting pressure is applied firmly all the way to the tips of the blades. Even the simple scissors can be so innovative.
Just like Christian people exchange Christmas cards, Japanese people start preparing to send New Year Greeting cards, called “Nenga-Jo” (年賀状) in Japanese, to their friends, families, relatives, and business affiliates in this season.
Usually, Oriental Zodiac or Earthly Branches in another words, called “Juni-shi” (十二支) or “Eto”(干支) in Japanese, of the year is used as pictures on “Nenga-jo”.
“Juni-shi” is ancient China originated system of reckoning time, that spread out and have been used in many Asian countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and Japan.
This system was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter and Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections to follow the orbit. It developed to be used for counting year, month, time, and azimuth direction.
The Chinese characters that represent “Juni-shi” or “Eto” are, 子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥, and each character has its own animal assigned.
子(Ne)=Mouse 丑(Ushi)=Cow 寅(Tora)=Tiger 卯(U)=Rabbit 辰(Tatsu)=Dragon 巳(Mi)=Snake 午(Uma)=Horse
未(Hitsuji)=Sheep 申(Saru)=Monkey 酉(Tori)=Chicken 戌(Inu)=Dog 亥(I)= Hog
In Vietnam, 丑=Buffalo, 卯=Cat, 未=Goat, and 亥(I)=Pig.
In Thailand, they also interpret 未=Goat, and 亥(I)=Pig.
In China, 亥(I)=Pig.
Sometimes, 寅=Leopard in Mongolia.
Sorry, it took long lines to explain about “Eto”….
Getting back to “Nenga-jo”, “Eto” animal for 2012 was Dragon.
The motif of the cards are not only pictures but also Kanji was arranged to look like the year animal.
And, the 2013 animal is Snake !
Although, sometimes it may be “pain” to prepare so many cards at one time, and less people follow this traditional custom every year, wouldn’t it be nice to know each other’s update by exchanging fancy greeting
Fortunately, compared to the past when we had to make the cards by hand writing and paintings, there are may tools of modern technology, such as computers, printers and application softwares that help to ease up the work, these days !
The season of autumn leaves has come.
Leaf peeping in autumn is one of popular seasonal events for Japanese people along with “O-Hanami”, Cherry blossom viewing, in spring.
Especially, maple leaves with their color changed in red are very beautiful, so that, they are one of the most popular leaves in autumn.
Japanese people have loved nature and incorporated it into their lives since ancient times.
As you know, Kimono is one of the representatives.
Traditionally in Japan, you will be regarded as “Iki” (粋), meaning snappy, if you take the seasonal fashion in advance just before the beginning. But, if you wear Kimono with Sakura motif in autumn, you will be regarded as “Busui”(無粋), meaning clunky.
Maple leaf is very popular motif for Kimono and Obi as much as Sakura.
Maple leaf motif Nagoya-Obi
In general, motif of colored maple leaf is loved very much as a symbol of autumn, however, do you know there is a green or non-colored maple leaf motif for Kimono ?
You can wear Kimono with motif of green or non-colored maple leaves in “non-autumn” seasons.
Of course, winter is not the season because all the leaves fall down from the trees.
In that sense, from spring to early summer will be the good timing.
Maple leaf motif Komon Fabric
As mentioned earlier, Japanese have valued the seasonal sense, and not liked to take one non-seasonal item in the different season for long time.
Recently, however, emerging modern Yukata fabric tends to be free from the old traditional sense of value.
Usually, colored maple leaves are not used for the pattern of Yukata, that is worn in summer, because it is the symbol of autumn, but as you can see in the below picture, it is actually used now !
Maple leaf motif Yukata Fabric
Although, this may be unacceptable for senior Japanese people who adhere to traditional seasonal sense, changes like this could be one of the keys for younger generation to carry on the torch of Japanese cultures with which enjoying and developing.
What is “Obiage” (帯揚げ）? Have you heard of the name ?
It is one of decorating item for women wearing Kimono, and it is common way these days.
(Men do not use Obiage for their wearing Kimono.)
However, the history of putting Obiage is not very long.
It is said that a Geisha in Fukagawa, Tokyo, invented Obiage as a combination with new Obi decoration, called “Taiko-Musubi” in around 1877.
The purpose of Obiage is to hide the string that bands Obi on Kimono.
Obiage used for Taiko Musubi
Obiage is shown on the edge of Obi, and between Obi and Kimono
Then it became popular around 1907.
So, when you look at the pictures drawn before 1870′s, there were no women putting Obiage.
Now, there are many Obiage with a variety of colors and textures sold.
Because they are so pretty and beautiful fabric, we thought that it would be very nice if they were used for scarfs wearing with modern cloths.
Obiage used as Scarf
To the contrary, there are some people who utilize western style scarf for Obiage !
(What a good idea !)
It may change old, traditional, and even stereotype of Kimono rules and gives more creative ideas for modern coordination.
The season is changing from Autumn to Winter now in Japan, and the time has come to enjoy the fashion to warm around your neck.
Why don’t you try Japanese tast scarf this year ?
Do you know what is Ukiyoe (浮世絵) ?
Although many of you may have heard the word, it is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17 and 20th centuries.
“Ukiyo”(浮世) literally means “Floating world” where current life exists, but not exactly real life or another life.
So that, the motifs of Ukiyoe had been not only beautiful landscapes but also, sexy lives, dramas, and fashionable cultures at that time.
At beginning (about 1657-1763), most of Ukiyoe motifs were beautiful women and Kabuki actors.
Motif of beautiful woman was limited to high ranked prostitute, or hetaera, at first, then expanded to Geisha, waitresses in the restaurants, and even to ordinary pretty young women.
Allegedly, Hishikawa Moronobu (菱川師宣) is the pioneer of Ukiyoe, and one of very famous Ukiyoe artists we know. His representative work is “Mikaeri Bijin” (見返り美人), meaning “back looking Beautiful woman”.
Mikaeri Bijin by Hishikawa Moronobu
Kansei San-Bijin by Kitagawa Utamaro
As Ukiyoe played a role of poster or bormide for Kabuki actors, it spreaded to deal with Sumo restlers, as well.
In the mid-term (about 1764-1803), Ukiyoe artist started picturing daily lives of Samurai and went into illustrating books, which became one of thier important works.
Illustration in the book “Tokaidochu Hizakurige” by Jippensha Ikku
Latterly (about 1804-1868), in alignment with sublimated town culture of the society, themes of Ukiyoe diverged into details, where areas of “Landscapes” and “Birds and Flowers” developed and came into fashion.
They depicted daily lives, travel lives, and admiration for nature of the people, humbly but outstandingly.
Katsushika Hokusai is one of the reporesentative of this time, and he is one of the most famous Ukiyoe artists we know, as well.
Fugaku Sanjurokkei Sunsyu Ejiri by Hokusai
Flower by Hokusai
It is said that he influenced Vincent van Gogh , a famous impressionist painter from Netherland in 19th centuries.
Hokusai was so mysterious that it has been said that Toshusai Sharaku (東洲斎写楽) and Hokusai is a same person although Sharaku has been treated as one independent Ukiyoe artist, who suddenly disappeared after his short term activities.
Otani Oniji, a Kabuki actor, by Sharaku
There were hundreds of Ukiyoe artists, and it is impossible to describe about all of them !
Ukiyoe had another aspect that played a important role of “media”.
For example, when famous people died, their portraits were printed and published with their past record and condolences.
It can be said that Ukiyoe had some influece on the newspaper that develpled in later period.
Now, we found fabrics for Kimono and Juban that have motifs of Ukiyoe, and made them on sale on our shop page. They are very interesting and rare items.
“Ukiyoe” Pattern Silk Bolt – “Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi” — Motif of ”Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi” by Utagawa Hiroshige .
Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi Hodogaya by Hiroshige
“Ukiyoe” Pattern Silk Bolt “Geisha” and “Kabuki” — Motif of Geisha and Kabuki actors
We hope any of you, who are interested in Ukiyoe and Kimono, will enjoy them !
Wherever you are, toilet is very important for you, isn’t it ?
One of the most exciting and amazing discoveries in Japan for foreign tourists may be toilet or toilet bowl.
Although you can hardly see anymore these days, there used to be Japanese style toilet bowl, which is totally different from western one.
Can you imagine how to use it ?
It is clearly not for sitting on like western style !
You need to squat down over it putting your each leg on the edge of each side. Looking at wall is right direction.
But, you know what ? Most of young Japanese people cannot make this position. If they try it, they will fall down backward because they are not used to this pause and do not have enough muscle for it.
Going further back to previous era, it was like this.
Actually, this is kind of gorgeous one only for Samurayi who owns his castle in late 16th centuries.
On the other hand, you will be surprised when you find modern high-tech Japanese toilets that have features of shower, warmer, dryer, and so on.
There are 2 major toilet companies in Japan, that are, TOTO and INAX.
INAX has even made colorful one.
INAX has made Toilet Museum, called “Toilet Park” in Tokname-city, Aichi prefecture, that is famous for its ceramic culture.
Interestingly, they seem to have beautiful ceramic toilets.
To our astonishment, TOTO, a Japanese famous toilet maker, has made “Toilet Bike” !!!
They have deeply studied flushing capability with less water.
You will see Japanese craftsmanship even in toilet technologies !
Have you heard of the word “Mingei” (民芸) ?
When you pick up dictionary, it just says “folk art” or “folk craft”, but there are a lot more profound meaning to the word “Mingei”(民芸).
In 1920′s, a famous Japanese philosopher, Yanagi Muneyoshi (柳宗悦 1889-1961) admired the beauty of the crafts made for everyday ordinary usage by unknown craftsmen, and created the new word “Mingei” (民芸) for them that implies their high value and quality.
Yanagi discovered real beauty in the commodity crafts made by nameless craftsmen, rather than objects of arts made for appreciation. This lead the development of “Japanese folk art movement” (Mingei Undo, 民芸運動) between 1920′s and 1930′s.
Bernard Leach (1887-1979), a British botter, who was born in Hong Kong and spent his childhood in Japan, had close friendship with Yanagi and other Japanese philosophers.
When ”Japanese folk art movement” is discussed, the name of Bernard Leach is always brought in.
It is said that Bernard supported to make practical ceramics of daily use, rather than purely artistic pottery.
Now, Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, is presenting “Mingei Exhibition“.
As mentioned above, naturally, they are providing the exhibition of Bernard Leach, as well.
If you are interested in Japanese folk art movement, how about visiting these exhibitions ?
By the way, the son of Yanagi Muneyosi, Yanagi Sori (柳宗理1915-2011) was a famous product designer, and produced a lot of work. Unfortunately, he just passed away last year, but his products are still loved by many people.
Recently, many TV programs and magazines have cover the theme of “Shokunin” (職人, craftspersons).
The most famous one is “Wafu So-honke” (和風総本家).
Then movement of reevaluation of Japanese craftsmanship has arisen !
There are a lot of historical traditional crafts all over Japan, including clothing, food, interior, stationary, and so on.
If you would like to see and learn about them, why don’t you visit “Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square” ?
It has database of detail information about the crafts in each area.
When you look at the category about woven fabric, there are 34 kinds of fabric in 17 prefectures, and for dyed fabrics, there are 11 kinds of fabric in 7 prefectures.
Of woven fabric kinds, most famous among Japanese people are, Yuki-Tsumugi, Kihachijo, Oshima-Tsumugi, and Kurume-Gasuri for Kimono, and, Nishijin-Ori and Hakata-Ori for Obi fabric.
Tsumugi weaving is not gorgeous, but has humble beauty of the texture that represents typical Japanese wording “Wabi Sabi”.
Tsumugi was loved mostly by ordinary people, and has been worn on casual occasions in these days.
Nishijin-Ori is, on the other hand, is characteristic of its luxuriousness weaving with gold and silver strings, that used to be worn mostly by noble people in days of old, and has been utilized in formal situation these days.
Of dyed fabrics, Kyo-Yuzen, Kaga-Yuzen, and Bingata is vary famous among many Japanese people, even those who are not interested in Kimono.
Kyo-Yuzen is provably typical Kimono fabric that most of foreigners will imagine.
Kaga-Yuzen is dyed by the almost same way as Kyo-Yuzen, however, its is less gorgeous and characteristic of its vermiculate leaves in the pictured pattern.
Kaga-Yuzen (vermiculate leaves)
Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square also has a showroom in Aoyama, Tokyo, where, hundreds of hi-quality folk crafts all over Japan are regularly shown and you can actually buy them.
They also provides biweekly exhibitions and most recent planned exhibition in the Square is about the crafts in Fukui prefecture (from 8/31 to 9/11). It seems to include ceramics, lacquer crafts, edged tools, and paper crafts.
Traditional Craft Square_1
Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square 2
Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square 3
If you plan to have a trip to Japan and would like to find something Japanese traditional, why don’ t you check the site before you fly ?
You may be able to find the aspects of Japanese tradition that you do not know yet !
Today’s biggest, best-known companies are mostly mere teenagers in the history books of business. For example, Microsoft was not born until 1975; even General Electric cannot trace its roots further back than 1876. We know that corporate longevity is highly unusual. One-third of the firms in the Fortune 500 in 1970 no longer existed in 1983 – killed by merger, acquisition, bankruptcy or break-up. But there are some companies exist for more than a millennium.
The first thing that comes to mind when people mention Japan is the futuristic looking cities that are present there. Japanese cities look like futuristic versions of the way all cities will look one day. They are clean, non-violent, and very well organized. Tokyo is known for its neon lighting and electronic stores. If you’re looking to get the latest cell phone, computer, or other electronic device, you’ll want to head to Tokyo to find it. That could be the impression of Japan for most of the foreigners. This is true for one aspect of Japan, but there is another aspect of Japan, ‘tradition’.
You may know that the Japanese soy sauce company ‘Kikkoman’ . Kikkoman says ‘over 300 years of excellence’. I got curious what is the oldest company in Japan and in the world . And I googled it and found a Wikipedia page for List of oldest companies. To my surprise, Japan dominates that page. Japan has 3,146 firms that are over 200 years old. In comparison, the second place is Germany with 837 firms.
The oldest one is a Japanese onsen hotel, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunnkan(慶雲館), founded in 705. the second is also Japanese onsen hotel, Houshi Ryokan(法師旅館) founded in 717. I googled more and found even older than Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. Yes, it is Japanese company. Kongo Gumi(金剛組), the Japanese temple builder, founded in 578. Kongo Gumi was the world’s oldest continuously ongoing independent company, operating for over 1,400 years.
How do you make a family business last for 14 centuries? Kongo Gumi’s case suggests that it’s a good idea to operate in a stable industry. Few industries could be less flighty than Buddhist temple construction. The belief system has survived for thousands of years and has many millions of adherents. With this firm foundation, Kongo had survived some tumultuous times, notably the 19th century Meiji restoration when it lost government subsidies and began building commercial buildings for the first time. Another secret of Kongo Gumi’s 1,428 year run was its flexibility. For example, when the temple building business suffered during World War II, the company responded and switched to building coffins.
Another factor that contributed to Kongo Gumi’s extended existence was the practice of sons-in-law taking the family name when they joined the family firm. This common Japanese practice allowed the company to continue under the same name, even when there were no sons in a given generation..
Unfortunately, even these factors could not protect this historic firm from the downturn in Japan’s economy. When the company’s borrowings had ballooned to $343 million in 2006, the firm was acquired by Takamatsu, a large Japanese construction company, and Kongo Gumi was absorbed into a subsidiary.
There are 7 Japanese firms which exist longer than 1,000 years. There are more than 22,219 firms in Japan that are over 100 years. 39 of them are longer than 500 years. Only 650 Japanese firms were born after 1975. Though China has longer history than Japan, the oldest Chinese firms was a pickles company founded in 1538 and only 5 firms that are over just 150 years.
Well known Japanese companies globally are like Toyota, Nissan, Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Nikkon, and so on. But there are only teenager of history books of business in our country.
Kimokame was just born in this year, and we hope we can be one of those Japanese companies remain in the business for centuries.
Do you know Kokeshi, a Japanese Doll ? If you have visited Japan, we might have a chance to see or buy them.
And have you noticed that these dolls are usually wear a Kimono around the waist with an obi belt. Obi is a traditional Japanese fashion accessary. Standard size of obi is now about 360 centimeter long by 30 centimeter wide.
The obi became a prominent part of a woman’s ensemble sometime in 16th century. It was then that designers, weavers and dyers all focused their talent on creating a longer, wider and more elaborate obi and becomes decorative elements and even an art.
Japanese culture has inspired many of the world stage in the field of fashion. Armani Prive recently featured a Japanese-inspired design collection. In 2011 Paris Fashion Couture Week, the legendary Giorgio Armani showed an Asian-influenced collection. Armani combine two unique different style of fashion, a Japanese kimono into French chic. Armani’s collection included kimono coats, belts resembling obi sashes, jackets embroidered with traditional kimono patterns such as ume (Japanese apricot) blossoms–all combining traditional and cosmopolitan designs.
In the field of fashion kimono is worn with a blazer cut. An accessory like this is timeless and versatile that we must learn to wear. In terms of style you can combine with the obi with your pants or skirts of high waist.
You will therefore understand, the obi is an important part of Japanese dress codes,it is a jewel, an ancient tradition and not a recent fad. So enjoy yourself if you want a true Japanese obi, the budget is quite high but in terms of Japanese tradition as the authentic wear!