Ms. Uchiyama, who makes Kimono gown was coordinator of this event and played “Watering Girl” role !
There was a male Shitate-ya (仕立て屋), who is very rare nowadays.
His live sewing can be seen at YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/KimoKame
Male Kimono maker
The house was decorated with several Kimonos and fabrics.
Although, the events finished and there were no live exhibition of sewing now, the place is very nice to visit.
It is only 400 Yen to enter the Museum.
If you have a chance to visit the suburb of Tokyo, why don’ t you try ?
May 5 is a children’s day(‘kogomo no hi’), and the day was originally called ‘Tango no Sekku(端午の節句）’ in Japan. Sekku means a season’s festival (there are five sekku per year). Tango no Sekku marks the beginning of summer or the rainy season. Tan means “edge” or “first” and go means “noon”. Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boy’s Day while Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3.
During this season, you will see carp streamers fluttering in the wind and the ornaments such as armors and helmets decorated at the alcove of houses. At this point we would like to introduce you to the meaning and origins of Tango-no Sekku (端午の節句) and how it is celebrated in the present day.
Although it is not known precisely when this day started to be celebrated, it was probably during the reign of the Empress Suiko (593–628 A.D.). In Japan, Tango no Sekku was assigned to the fifth day of the fifth month after the Nara period.
During the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), Samurai family controlled Japan. The Japanese word “shobu” means to honor military power or bravery. And the “calamus” iris decorations that were used as talismans of good luck during the “Tango no Sekku” ceremony are also called “shobu”. So “Tango no Sekku” was changed to “Shobu no Sekku” ( a day for honoring power and bravery ) by the Samurai. Armors and helmets, which were used for protection in battle, began to be displayed as celebratory decorations.
In the Edo Period (1600-1868), the Tokugawa shogun settled May 5th as one of the important Sekku. Whenever a boy baby was born to the shogun, banners and flags were flown at the front entrance of the palace to celebrate the event. This custom soon spread among the general public. People were proud to act in the same way as the shogun and designed “koinobori”, carp streamers.
The price of the doll varies from several thousand to fifteen million yen, depending on the size, the number of items, and the name of an artist. In many cases, a family and relatives dine together for a boy’s festival. Many young parents live in apartments which have little space for a large gorgeous doll. It is often said they put the doll in the closet and never let it out. In spite of this, parents would prepare dishes to please children, or take their children out for a recreation on the holiday.
Do you have a children’s day in your country ? and how do you cerebrate it ?
Jusaburo Tsujimura is one of most authentic doll artists in Japan. Most of his dolls are traditional Japanese in Kimono, but he also makes some western style dolles. They are so sultry as if they are really alive.
There is “Jusaburo” museum shop in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.
You can learn doll making there as well. If you have any chances to visit Tokyo, it is one of the places worth to take a look at.
By the way, Jusaburo is 80 years old men still very active and energetic ! He was born in 1933. Today one of Japan’s finest doll-makers, he actively expands the scope of his art into areas such as costume design, direction, and script writing for stage and film. His performances have received high acclaim including those in America, Europe and Hong Kong.
Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, Cherry blossom is the most popular flowers for ‘Hanami’ and people around the world visit during April to May to join Cherry Blossom viewing.
You may not know that we also enjoy plum (‘ume’) blossom.
The practice of hanami is many centuries old. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when it was Plum (ume) blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But by the Heian Period (794–1185), sakura came to attract more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura. From then on, in both waka and haiku, “flowers” meant “sakura.”
Hanami was first used as a term analogous to cherry blossom viewing in the Heian era novelTale of Genji. Although a wisteria viewing party was also described, the terms “hanami” and “flower party” were subsequently used only in reference to cherry blossom viewing.
The Japanese people continue the tradition of hanami, gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. In more than half of Japan, the cherry blossoming days come at the same time of the beginning of school and work after vacation, and so welcoming parties are often opened with hanami. Usually, people go to the parks to keep the best places to celebrate hanami with friends, family, and company coworkers many hours or even days before.
The cherry blossom front is forecast each year, previously by the Japan Meteorological Agency and now by private agencies, and is watched with attention by those who plan to celebrate hanami because the blossoms last for very little time, usually no more than two weeks. The first cherry blossoms happen in the subtropical southern islands of Okinawa, while on the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom much later. In most large cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season normally takes place around the end of March and the beginning of April. The television and newspapers closely follow this “cherry blossom front”, as it slowly moves from South to North.
This is Cherry blossom front forecast for this year. Tokyo is March 25 this year. The best time to view full of cherry blossom is about 2 weeks from March 25.
As we start to get into the swing of Cherry Blossom season here in Japan we are always treated with a nice showing of Plum Blossoms. The problem is that Plum Blossoms and Cherry Blossoms don’t flower across Japan at the same time so depending on where you are or where you are going you can sometimes be mistaken on what you are actually looking at, Plum or Cherry Blossoms.
Around Tokyo, cherry and plum do bloom at different times and plum blooms from February to March.
The most famous garden for plum around Tokyo area is Kairakuen, the picturesque garden just south of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, that was built in the 1840s by the seventh daimyo of the Mito clan, Tokugawa Nariaki.
For starters, the 3,000-plus plum trees that Nariaki ordered planted throughout the 13-hectare garden are in full bloom, flooding it in a sea of pink and purple hues. Then there’s the ease of access.
March 3rd is Hina Matsuri, Japan’s annual girls day festival. As part of the festivities, girls are given a set of ornamental dolls, representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.
Th dolls are put on display from February through March 3 — a ritual believed to bring about good health for the girls. The dolls, which are sometimes made of materials as delicate as paper and clay, are believed to ward off evil and are usually kept within the family for generations.
There is a very good opportunity to see very best Hina Dolls at Mitsui Memorial Museum right now, Mitsui Memorial Museum is holding the exhition “Hina Matsuri Dolls from the Mitsui Family Collection” returns this year to showcase a number of Girls Day Festival ornamental dolls, from February 7 till April 7 this year.
The highlight of the show is a complete set of dolls, which is being displayed on a huge three-meter-wide, tiered platform. The dolls and accessories, such as miniature furniture, all belonged to women in the Mitsui family — including Motoko (1869-1946), Toshiko (1901-1976), and Okiko (1900-1980) — who have been passing them down for generations.
If you are in Tokyo around this period, it is nice to visit there.
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 ?
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.
Origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper holding, which started in the 17th century. ‘Ori’ means ‘holding’ and ‘gami’ means paper. The goal of this art is to transform a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques, and as such the use of cuts or glue are not considered to be origami. Paper cutting and gluing is usually considered Kirigami.
The best known origami model is probably the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be different colors or prints.
Modern origami is a unique sculptural art. Each origami design must be individually folded; there is no mass-production process.
Satoshi Kamiya, 30 year old, is among the most advance origami master in the world. All his works are only single sheet of square paper, and it can’t be cut or glued.
There is a video showing how he make his amazing works. Simply, Amazing, and it worth watching. So check this video.
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.
Christmas was initially introduced to Japan with the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century. But only in recent decades has the event become widely popular in Japan, and this despite the fact that Christians make up only about two percent of the population. Though Christianity is a minority religion but Japan is a freedom of religion. Yes, we do cerebrate Christmas. People are taking up traditions such as decorating their home, giving presents to friends and celebrating the event with a special meal.
During this holiday season, Japanese send New Year’s card rather than Christmas card. Design of New Year’s card is very traditional or formal but we have many unique designs that mix and match Japanese culture with traditional western Christmas imagery. When Santa Claus is involved, it is always cute !
Do you think this is just a Christmas imagery ? Not really. Actually Santa Claus coming from Finland sometimes stop by to meet Maiko in Kyoto before visiting children. I wonder what was his present for them!
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 !
It is already in December. At the end of Year, there are many fairs in temples throughout Japan. My favorite one is Hagoita-ichi (Battledore Fair) in Asakusa and will be held in Sensou-ji Temple, Asakusa(Tokyo) from Dec. 17th to 19th this year.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period(14 – 16th century). Hagoita 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(19th century), 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, 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. Today, beautiful hagoita make a popular gift as a traditional Tokyo handicraft to bring luck at New Year.
Hagoita-ichi is a traditional fair dating back to the Edo Period, but it was apparently only after World War II that the name Hagoita-Ichi became popular. Many visitors come each year. The Hagoita-ichi is an annual fair held in its precincts at the end of the year. Near the Hondo or main hall of Senso-ji Temple, some 50 open-air stalls selling hagoita (battledores), shuttlecocks, kites and other New Year decorations stand huddled together, and numerous people gather here from all over the country. The market was full of “decorations” for new years that bring good luck for the coming year.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media. There are various hagoita, so find your favorite one!
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.
Tenugui is dyed cotton cloth. Japanese Tenugui possesses a very long history. Its origin is thought to go as far back as ancient Kofun era. In the Edo period (1592 – 1868) cotton began to be cultivated in various parts of Japan and TENUGUI became a necessary item for living. There are no rules in the way of using Tenugui. It can be used in a variety of ways as wiping cloth, headband, place mats or centerpieces, hand towel, wrapping cloth, interior decoration, or souvenir. Some are used exclusively for the traditional dancing.
For using as place mats or centerpieces
For using as room’s decorations
This motif of Todaya’s tenugui is 16 different usages of tenugui, especially in the kitchen and in play scenes.
In the Todaya shop, Tenugui makers in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Tenugui is used as room’s decoration showing the feeling of the season.
Tenugui is very popular for long in Japan. You may have more useful ways of tenugui. First please check out below for our selections and get one and enjoy creating new idea of using Tenugui.
Kimokame.com is happy to announce that we have started to sell Todaya’s Chusen dyeing Tenugui.
Todaya has stared business in 1872 in the Nihonbashi, Tokyo. In 1872, everyone would go to the public bath bringing his or her Tenugui as towel. Everybody used Tenugui to dry hands, wipe off sweat, or cover the desired part of a body or an object. A wornout Tenugui would be recycled into a rag for house-cleaning, or into abandage to cover a wound. In short, Tenugui played an important role in Japanese daily life.
As of today, the virtue of Tenugui that makes it far smarter than a simply printed fabric is that, made with a dyeing technique called Chusen.
Firstly in Chusen, a technique called Sashiwake is employed. Whereas most dyeing procsses utilize a monochrome stencil, Chusen enjoys a multi-color stencil, enabling the simultaneous use of several dyes. Another significant technique in Chesen is called Bokashi. Unlike Sashiwake, no preventive paste is necessary since color gradations and shadings, the particular effects produced by the technique, rather encourage a blending of colors.
Secondly, Tenugui is always reversible, with patterns appearing both on front and reverse side. To Japanese, the exposure of a reverse side has always been undesirable. This obsession is reflected in Katazome, a dyeing method in which the application of a paste resist (Kataoki), is repeated twice both on front and reverse side. Chusen, on the other side, which enables the simultaneous application of a paste resist on both sides, requires only one Kataoki. The latter method is also superior in the infiltration of dyes, coloring down to the fiber core by a compressor suction, leaving no trace of which is the front and which the reverse side.
Thirdly, the Chusen stencil is large in size compared to the conventional one, allowing spatial freedom for designs and patterns. For easy handling, the stencil is studded onto the wooden frame upon the application of a paste resist.
A combination of carefully selected colors and materials yields irressistible elegance, and int ehis way, there is nothing that exceeds Chusen-Processes Tenugui.
If you are interested in Chusen dyeing Tenugui, please check out here.
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.
Furoshiki is a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth which is used repeatedly in a stylish way.
“It is a good manner at gift scene of Japanese. There are common sense and wisdom through their own long history. Japanese seek for delicacy and styling beauty in act with Furoshiki, wrap, tie, untie and spread.
And they always care of Furoshiki’s texture and patterns at use. Japanese trust for their mind, warm-heart more than to speak, to cover in fine cloth and to show variation of how to tie.
Furoshiki make a performance of Japanese life-style and life-stage.”
Furoshiki Promotion Society/Tokyo & Kyoto
Originating from Japanese culture where it promotes caring for the environment and reducing waste; Furoshiki is the eco-friendly wrapping cloth. Using techniques similar to origami, it can be used for gift wrapping, grocery shopping or simply as decor. Choose from a wide variety of sizes and designs to complement your lifestyle. Why furoshiki? It is reusable and multipurpose. Each year billions of plastic bags end up as litter; reusable bags, such as furoshiki can help reduce the impact to our environment. Its versatility allows you to wrap almost anything regardless of its shape or size.
Are you interested in Furoshiki ? Check this out here.
Indigo dyeing was born in ancient times and has been existing over the centuries in various regions in the world, such as India, China, and Japan. It was known and traded as well in Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Britain, Peruvian, Persian, and African civilizations.
India is believed to be the oldest center of indigo dyeing in the Old World, that is approximately 6500 years ago.
Supposedly, existing oldest indigo-dyed fabric is the cloth used to wrap Mummy in Egypt about 4000 years ago.
In Japan, we call our indigo dyeing “Ai-zome”(藍染め).
It is said that the origin of Ai-zome came from China about 1800 years ago, which is relatively short history in the world of indigo dyeing.
Below is woven fabric for Kimono, called “Kurume-Gasuri”. This is also Ai-zome.
Do you know that Ai-zome is not only for Japanese traditional products, but used for modern clothing ? Representative example is Denim Jeans. However, most of them made in bulk and sold cheaply are not real Ai-zome, but dyed chemically.
As you know, Jeans were born in USA in 19th century.
Now, a Japanese company of Ai-zome has developed the quality of Jeans with their artifice of Ai-zome, called “Japan Blue“.
It is “Rampuya”(藍布屋) that produces “Momotaro” (桃太郎) Jeans.
Rampuya is also providing classes to experience Ai-zome dyeing for yourself.
If you have a chance to visit Kurashiki in Okayama, why don’t you find your experience of Ai-zome ?
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.
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 !
When you visit a Japanese garden, you often see a colorful koi(carp) and goldfish in the pond. Goldfish, also known as the Golden Carp was introduced into Japan from China in the sixteenth century where they were popular and kept only by the aristocracy and samurai as a rare pet.
Goldfish (called “kingyo” in Japanese) is a deeply enrooted into the art and everyday life of the Japanese people. Goldfish is one of the earliest fish to be domesticated, and is one of the most commonly kept aquarium fish.
One could easily find artifacts of goldfish in souvenir shops throughout Japan. All Japanese grows up with fond childhood memories of the traditional game of “kingyo sukui” (Goldfish Scooping). It reveals Goldfish both as an element of Japanese culture and as an influential design motif over the last 500 years. Goldfish is also popular as kimono motif in the summer.
In this summer, “Art Aquarium Exhibition ~ Edo, Coolest of Kingyo” is running from August 17th through September 24 in Tokyo. The exhibit consists of artfully arranged aquariums where, the stars of this display, the kingyo, or goldfish, swim around demonstrating their own beauty, as well as being part of an intricate art presentation never seen before.
We would like to share the information of Suntory Museum in Tokyo, “See, Feel, and Enjoy:
A Wonderland of Japanese Art” (Aug. 8 – Sep. 2).
The Suntory Museum of Art has one of the nation’s best collections, but usually its scrolls, screens, and lacquerware are carefully stowed inside glass cases. Timed to coincide with summer vacation, “A Wonderland of Japanese Art” utilizes digital and analog technologies to bring its masterpieces to life. Dancers depicted on a scroll begin to move; a gorgeous screen is recreated as a digital touch display that allows one to examine it in amazing detail—it’s all the result of a collaboration with the Louvre-Dai Nippon Printing Museum Lab.
It is a theme park of Japanese Art. – “Have you ever wanted to discover what’s inside a lacquerware box? We have digital and analog technology that can satisfy your curiosity and answer your questions. See, feel, and enjoy!” There are some pictures so click here and it looks very interesting !
Can you wrap a gift beautifully?
There is a sense of drama when you receive a gift that has been beautifully wrapped. Wrapping is an essential part of gift-giving. You are giving something important, so it must be wrapped well. Japanese department stores, by the way, provide a very elegant gift-wrapping service for any gift you buy there. And I found Tokyu Hands, one of my favorite stores in Tokyo, shows us how to wrap our gift professionally like Japanese department stores do.
“Wrapping ” things is more than a convenience in Japan. It is something to which people give special thought and care.
“Wagashi” is traditional Japanese confectionary, often served with tea. They are generally extremely fancy and beautiful, each one a little work of art. Traditionally, wagashi are used mainly for the Japanese tea ceremony as well as for festivals, special occasions, and temple ceremonies. There are also wagashi eaten as everyday treats, but those are generally more simply designed and colored.
Typically made from natural ingredients, it is considered both healthy and delicious. The origins of Wagashi date back in time to when cakes and dumplings were made of rice, millet, other grains, nuts and fruit – all of which were the foundation of Japan’s dietary staples.
The predecessors to contemporary wagashi are believed to have been brought to Japan during the Nara Period (710-794 CE) as a result of trade with China, where shaped and molded sweets were made of flour, chestnuts, and rice. The first Japanese wagashi appeared on the market during the Heian period(794-1185). Ever since, Japan refined techniques for making confectionary and these delicacies were served at the Imperial Court and offered to Shinto and Buddhist deities. Made of local fruit, chestnuts, rice,mochi, flour, soy beans, azuki beans, and cane sugar, they became popular snacks to accompany tea. Contemporary wagashistill use these ingredients as a base and are still dyed with natural plant dyes. However, the style and shapes have evolved quite a bit over the course of a millennium.
Wagashi are classified according to the production method and moisture content: namagashi (very moist or wet), han namagashi (half-moist or wet), and higashi (dry). Namagashi are beautifully crafted seasonal cakes made fresh daily. They reflect the four seasons and nature of Japan and the names resonate a poetic beauty satisfying the sense of sound as well as taste, scent, sight and texture.
1. Good for your health
Red beans are the main ingredient of ‘wagashi‘, with wheat, rice, sesame seeds, yam, sugar and ‘kanten‘ (agar) being added where necessary. Confectioners use all natural ingredients that are loaded with vegetable products and not animal fats (except eggs), which is good news for those worried about cholesterol. For example, red bean jam ‘an‘ (a common ‘wagashi‘ ingredient made from boiled ‘azuki‘ beans and sugar) is rich in quality protein and has a good balance of linolic and linolen acid, vitamins E, B1, B2, B6, amino acid, mineral calcium, phosphor, potassium, magnesium and iron. ‘Wagashi‘ are also high in vegetable fiber which aids in digestion. It is no wonder these delicious sweets are praised for being both tasty and healthy!
2. Feel the season in advance
Wagashi are often designed for different seasons, like all Japanese cuisine. There are special spring, summer, autumn and winter wagashi. There are also particular wagashi for New Year’s, Cherry Blossom Viewing, and other traditional annual festivals. Seasonal wagashi vary greatly in colors and designs. For example, in autumn chrysanthemum shapes are favored. Spring wagashi often come in the shape of a plum flower. Famous wagashi for Cherry Blossom Season actually use cherry blossoms and leaves for flavoring and design.
Stores display these particular ‘wagashi‘ a full month ahead of the seasonal event. For example, ‘Sakuramochi‘ celebrate Japan’s beloved April cherry blossoms and are available at the end of February. With eager anticipation, one can enjoy delicious ‘Sakura-mochi‘ and sense the coming of spring, all the while imagining lovely cherry trees full of delicate white blossoms. Only in Japanese culture can one discover sweets and confections that are wonderfully transcended into messengers of the upcoming seasons.
3. The Art of five sense
Food lovers around the world are fascinated with ‘wagashi‘, in large part due to these sweets’ appeal to all five senses. With each taste, we step deeper into indulgence. Culture, tradition and stunning scenery will forever inspire Japan’s confectioners to create new varieties of delicious ‘wagashi‘. True to the exquisite aesthetics of Japanese culture, the way wagashi is created makes it appear almost too good to eat. Delightful to look at and deliciously sweet, it’s referred to as a form of “food artistry that can be enjoyed by the five senses.”
Appearance - Always a visual feast – the shapes, colors and creation of ‘wagashi‘ often reflect Japanese literature, painting and textiles. In addition to these cultural elements, ‘wagashi‘ also evoke images of nature.
Taste – To create such unique flavors, these confectionaries are made largely from natural ingredients, such as beans and grains, long-time staples of the healthy Japanese diet.
Texture - To appreciate ‘wagashi‘, each piece must be served fresh and ready to be placed on the tongue. They must also be soft, moist or crisp – qualities that must be present to reveal the freshness, quality and uniqueness of each confection.
Aroma - With a delicate aroma of natural ingredients, ‘wagashi‘ please the senses in a subtle manner that does not inhibit tea ceremony participants from savoring the accompanying beverage.
Sound - Lyrical Japanese names are bestowed on each ‘wagashi‘. When spoken aloud, they evoke the most pleasurable images. Some names come from classical prose or poetry, while others hint at a particular season.
Wagashi has been a Japanese delicacy for hundreds of years. Its variations are endless. Creating an entirely new wagashi, not a variation on a theme, requires the skills of a master craftsman and the sensibilities of an artist. Wagashi have long history and the basic technic of making wagashi is making it by hand. A high level of skill and experience is necessary to make wagashi. A typical craftsman needs 10 years or so to become an expert. Some wagashi are made by hand with heart. I hope that in the future, many more wagashi will be made by hands and not machines, to preserve the tradition of wagashi.
To know Japan is to know ‘wagashi‘!
KimoKame is a labor of love from a team of Japanese who want
to promote high-quality Japanese handmade products to the world.