Archives for Japan category

Judo in Japan

Judo , literally translated from Chinese character to English it means meaning “gentle way”) is Japanese martial art/sport.

It is also one of summer Olympic game sports. Judo became Olympic sport in 1964 at Tokyo Olympic.

Judo was developed as samurai art of self defense in Edo period; 1600-1868.

Using Judo, one can defend oneself from attack,catch the opponent and defeat him without the use of weapons.

In the early Meiji period (1868-1912), Kano Jigoro not only established the Judo as sport but also founded Kodokan Judo,which aim for both physical, mental strength/discipline.

Judo uniform..

Kano Jigoro set up a system of ranks (dan) and class (kyu) as encouragement for his disciple and, the system still is used many years later.

Ranks is shown by belt color

Red: higher than 9th rank (dan)

Red and white stripe: 6-8th rank (dan)

Black: 1st-5th rank (dan)

Brown: 1st-3rd class (kyu)

White: 4th-5th class (kyu)

Match…

There are two categories:open weight and weight categories (7 categories)

A match is fought within 9.1 m x 9.1 m area.

Length of the match is anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes.

The player who defeated the opponent by nage waza (throwing) so that he/she lands facing upward from the mat: or Katame waza ; (grappling) submission, and hold him/her more than 30 seconds ,win by ippon.

Judo technic..

Judo does not involve kicking, punching, or striking techniques of any kind.
Judo does not involve the application of pressure against the joints to throw an opponent.

Judo involves no equipment or weapons of any sort.

Instead, judo simply involves two players by gripping the judo uniform or judogi Eri (collar), use the forces of balance, power, and movement to attempt to subdue each other.

*** Throwing technique (nage waza)

Often times, this technique is used when opponent is off balanced to the front or back.

There are ..

Senage; shoulder throw

Osoto gari; Major outer cut

Hiza guruma: knee wheel

** Grappling technique (Katame waza)

This is the technique to make opponent submit by controlling his movements

Kami shihou gatame; Upper four corner hold

Kesa gatame: Diagonal hold

One of famous female Judo Olympic medalists is Ryoko Tamura (currently Ryoko Tani).

She is petit lady: 4.8 feet height , 106lb weight,but she won many medals at the Olympics in the past (she is now retired and working in democratic party.Quite a career change.)

Ryoko started Judo when she was 2nd grader,and at the age of 15, she entered in to Fukuoka International female competition for Judo and she won championship (youngest among the contestants).

She was skilled in speed and great sharp performance/technique.

Below is at Athens Olympic 2004, where she won Gold medal.Look how fast she goes..

Ryoko Tani wins gold medal..

Jul 09, 2017 | 0 | Japan

Sumo in Japan

If you were asked to name a few Japanese sports, sumo might be one of the sports name you might name.

Sumo is a competitive traditional national Japanese sport where wrestlers,who only wears belly belts (mawashi) in the ring,  tries to push opponent wrestler out of a circular ring or touch the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet.

Originally, sumo was used to measure the wrestler’s strength or for dueling, but it is now professional sport in Japan.

Most sumo wrestlers are required to live in sumo training stables, known in Japanese as xyz (owner’s name) beya. Their daily lives—from meals to their manner of dress—are dictated by strict tradition.

I hear that newbie wrestlers do a lot of work for superiors from cooking  for them, laundry their superior’s belts etc…

Ozumo..

Nihon Sumo kyokai (Japan sumo association) holds 6 tournamenta each year in Tokyo, Osaka,Nagoya, Fukuoka.

The competition is concluded in accordance with traditional rituals such as ring entrance ceremony by wrestlers in the makuuchi ( the top division of the six divisions of professional sumo) and yokozuna (grand champion) divisions,and bow -twirling rite.

 

Sumo wrestler requirement..

I read that wrestlers must be over 173cm tall (5′ 8″), and have to weigh over 75kg (165lb)

The wrestlers wear chonmage (top knot) but to be able to wear chonmage, he must be above jyu-ryou rank. He would wear oicho style topknot).

Match..

  1. When called by the ring steward,the wrestler will go up to the ring,lift his leg,stamp his feet
  2. The wrestlers is given chikaramizu (water) , sprinkle salt over the ring,and perform the shiko (lift his leg,stamp his feet), in the middle of the ring,facing toward the opponent.
  3. The wrestler takes his place and sprinkle salt over, and over til time limit is reached.
  4. After the 4 minutes limit, the match begins
  5. The referee (Gyouji)  judges the match and winner is declared

Banzuke…

The eight win of each tournament are called kachikoshi, and the eight losses are called makekoshi.Both effects ranking of the wrestlers.

Banzuke is ranking chart.

For Maku uchi, The wrestlers names are lined up from right to left: highest ranking to the lowest ranking; yokozuna-ozaki-sekiwake-komusubi-maegashira.

For Juryo, The ranks above jyuryo are called sekitori, who receives monthly salaries from Japan Sumo Association.

For Yokozuna, The highest rank of all wrestlers, yokozuna will not be demoted by the consequences of tournament but if the result turns out to be bad, he could be forced to retire.

Chanko Nabe..

Chanko Nabe is a hot pot dish sumo wrestlers eat as staple.It got variety of vegetables, meat, and seafood.

Retired wrestlers tend to open up the restaurants with specialty of Chanko Nabe.

It might be fun for you to try out one of those restaurant if you happen to be around the Ryogoku area (Tokyo).

Wrestlers from outside Japan..

Sumo wrestlers used to be mostly Japanese but recent years, you can see more wrestlers from outside Japan;Mongolia, USA, China,Russia,European countries etc.

To read more on Sumo at Japan guide website, please click here.

To read more on Sumo at Time website, please click here.

May 17, 2017 | 0 | Japan

Castles in Japan

Japan has many castles throughout the country.

There are many types of castles in Japan.

Oldest castles were built using mountain and called “kodai san jyo u” ,which was mainly the type of castles to protect the attack from China.

Another one was called “chu u sei san jyou”, and it was type of castle during the era of Takauji Ashikaga and Masashige Kusunoki;kamakura/ Muromachi era.

The castle that was mainly for the use to protect the castle from outside attack (jyou kaku) was built on top of the mountain, and lower part of the mountain had “ki jyou”;the castle the owner of the castle lives in.

It is said that the castle using stones to protect the castle from outside attack was popping up around Nobunaga Oda (Shogun) era and he was often known to invented the tensyu kaku; the castle tower.

If you count the number of castles built during Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Ieyasu Tokugawa (shogun), there are more than 40,000 castles were built in Japan.

Castles style and introduction to guns..

Guns were introduced to Japan in 1543,which led to the abrupt change in war style.

After guns were introduced, castle’s lords built the modern castles you are familiar with, and defend themselves from the enemy.

Well known Azuchi Castle,which was built by Nobunaga Oda in 1576 was the first of its kind to have the castle tower and, it became the characteristics of modern castles today.

Castles were residence of lords, as well as centers of the politics and economy.

Castle towers..

Tenshu is main tower, and it was located in the main castle enclosure, (hommaru) , and outside of the building was of white plaster.

Strategic points were equipped with gun ports and stone-dropping ports.

Interior device..

Gun ports: The castle tower had peepholes and it allowed the guns to be use through the holes.

To facilitate sighting the enemy more easily, the holes were bigger inside than the outside.

Stone-dropping ports: A corner of the building protruded such that the stone could be dropped on enemies attempting to climb up the stone walls around the castle.

You can also notice that many modern castles got ditches (moats) around the castle stone wall so the enemies cannot easily come attack the castle.

Popular modern castles in Japan include Himeji castle (shiga prefecture, and  it is a world heritage site), Matsumoto Castle (Nagano prefecture), and Kumamoto castles (kumamoto prefecture).

Himeji castle….

When we visited Japan, my father took us to Himeji castle and other time when we visited, my father took us to Matsumoto castle in Nagano prefecture as well.

I love visiting castle because they are so beautiful to look at, and learn a little bit of the history of the castle:-)

If you visit Japan, you may want to check them out.They are very nice castles to look around, and it is a good exercise too since you walk a lot:-)

You can read more on Japanese castle and also can see some pictures of popular castles in Japan at Japan guide website here.

Yu can also read more on castle at Japan visitor website here.

You can read more on Japanese history of castle and types of castle at castle and manor house website here.

Mar 28, 2017 | 0 | Japan

Japanese temple

Japan has many shrines and temples throughout the country. It is said that there are more than 80.000 shrines and temples in Japan.

For example, western part of main island called “Kyoto” prefecture alone got more than 2,000 shrines and temples.

If you are into history, especially Japanese history, kyoto is the very good place to visit.

Temples in Japan..

Temple houses Buddhist statues,which people pray to,especially during bon festival (mid August) or equinox week when people visit their ancestors’ graves.

People also visit temples on New Year’s Day to wish for happiness and health in the coming new year.

Temples have facilities for training the monks, as well as for housing and feeding them.

The Buddhism was introduced from China around 6th century and, Prince Shotoku Taishi has accepted it, and implemented it into his government systems.

According to Wikipedia website, “A legend claims that when Bodhidharma came to Japan, he met with Prince Shōtoku whilst under the guise of a starving beggar. The Prince asked the beggar to identify himself, but the man did not reply. Instead of going ahead, Shōtoku gave him food, drink, and covered him with his purple garment, telling him to “lie in peace”. The Prince then sang for the starving man.”

“The second day, the Prince sent a messenger to the starving man, but he was already dead. Hereupon, Shōtoku was greatly grieved and ordered his burial. Shōtoku later thought the man was no ordinary man for sure, and sending another messenger, discovered the earth had not been disturbed. On opening the tomb there was no body inside, and the Prince’s purple garment lay folded on the coffin. The Prince then sent another messenger to claim the garment, and he continued to wear it just as before. Struck by awe, the people praised the Prince “How true it is that a sage knoweth a sage.” This legend is linked with the temple of Daruma-dera in Ōji, Nara, where a stone stupa was found underground, which is exceedingly rare.”

Prince Shotoku Taishi is known as founder for 17 article constitution.

You can read the 17 article constitution in PDF file here.

Article 1 says “Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided.When superiors are in harmony with each other and inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly and the right view of matters prevails”

This article #1 especially is valued and being taught in Japan as common moral, and it is our trait.

Our culture value “wa;Harmony”, and it is coming from Prince Shotoku Taishi. Japanese laws, rules, customs and manners tend to go out of their way to avoid conflict.

Good example might be, Honne (True feeling) vs Tatemae (Public face feeling).

Japanese society expects people to hide their true feelings in many circumstances in order to be polite.

More on Honne vs Tatemae at Japan talk website here.

Also you can read more on it at ufl website here.

More on “Wa” at PBS website here.

Temple layout..

Buddhist temple complexes consist of a number of structures arranged according to certain concepts or guidelines.

When you visit temple, first, you go through chumon;the gate located in the center.

Normally, if you walk through the gate and go straight, the building all the way back is the building called “Kodo”,which is the place to study Buddhism.

This Kodo is connected to library called “Kyozo”.This library keeps sutras.

That Kodo and the gate, Chumon, is connected by corridor called “Kairo” and it extends to east and west and then turn to north to connects with Kodo.

Inside the temple land, you will find “shoro”;bell tower, in front of kodo building at one side corner.

Then you would see “Gojyu no tou”; Five storied tower.

The closets to the gate, you will find Kondo; building where budhhist statues are kept.

Many Buddha statues are inside the building but one in Kamakura is kept in an open field because of fire they have experienced long time ago.

The temple is called “kotokuin”.You can see the big buddha in the wide open field. Here is the official website in English for you to read more on the temple.It might be interesting place for you to visit.

Buddhist statues..

Besides nyorai and bosatsu, there are also the myoo/tembu style of Buddhist statues.

The statues are usually made from metal or from wood.

Nyorai depicts the Buddha after retiring into religion, so it is not adorned with personal ornaments.

The statue’s background material is called kohai (Halo), and the statue wear the robes called “Noe”.

Then, the statue is sitting on lotus petals called “Rengeza”.

Bosatsu depicts Buddha before retiring into religion so it is adorned with many personal ornaments.

Bosatsu statue would have water container called ” Suibyo”, and also wearing scarf called “Tenne”.

If you have a chance to visit Kyoto in Japan, Kiyomizu temple is the great place to visit.

Feb 22, 2017 | 0 | Japan

Japanese shrines

Japan has many shrines and temples throughout the country. It is said that there are more than 80.000 shrines and temples in Japan.

For example, western part of main island called “Kyoto” prefecture alone got more than 2,000 shrines and temples.

If you are into history, especially Japanese history, kyoto is the very good place to visit.

What is shrine?

Shrines are buildings dedicated to the dieties of Shinto,the unique religion of Japan.

Many people visits shrines on New Year’s Day (very very very crowded), and some visit shrine for the birth of their child, some visits shrine for shichi go san cerebration.

Shich go san is the cerebration usually fall during the month of November to cerebrate 7 year old girls, 3 years old boys and girls, 5 years old boys for healthy growth.

Kids usually dress up in kimono,visit shrine.

What do you see in shrine?

In shrine building, you find the following items

** Torii; placed at the entrance to indicate a sacred zone. They come in various colors and they are made of various materials. Most torii, are made of wood, and many are painted orange and black.

** Koma inu; It is a pair of lion like animals named “Un”, and ” A” (talisman),and they are often found on each side of a shrine’s entrance.

The statue “Un” always mouth closed and “A” always mouth open and facing each other.

** Chozuya; for purifying hands and mouths

** Kagura den; it is where sacred dance and music are performed

** Saisen bako; Offertory box.Visitor throw usually 10 yen coin (10 cents worth coin ) into the box as a way to expressing their gratitude for the wish came true or to make a wish.

** Haiden; Buildings for worshiping deities

** Ema; a votive offering board with a horse drawing,dedicated to the deities. Shrine visitors write their wishes on these wooden plates and then leave them at the shrine in the hope that their wishes come true. Most people wish for good health, success in business, passing entrance exams, love or wealth.

** Omikuji; An oracle drawn to determine one’s fortune.When a person chose a stick, he/she is given a paper on which, you can find the fortune is written.

By tying the piece of paper around a tree’s branch, good fortune will come true or bad fortune can be averted.

** Omamori; amulet. A paper charm of a god used for protection or making a wish

** Hamaya; Arrows given by shrines to visitors on New Year’s day,wishing them a good luck

Who do you see at the shrine?

At the shrine, you see Kan nushi; the chief shinto priest who perform the rituals at shrine, and Miko; Unmarried woman in the service of deities

Kan nushi would wear hat called Eboshi; brimless headgear. He would also be holdinf shaku,which is Oblong wooden mace. Then he would be wearing a pair of shoes called asagutsu; black wooden clogs.

For Miko, she would be wearing while robe and Hibakama; Red hakama

Hakama is kind of like a skirt but it is sewn like a pants.Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles

Type of shrines..

There are various types of shrines in Japan.

Japan guide website got good explanation on each categories.

  • Imperial Shrines
    These are the shrines which were directly funded and administered by the government during the era of State shinto.    They include many of Shinto’s most important shrines such as the Ise Shrines, Izumo Shrine and Atsuta Shrine, and a number of shrines newly built during the Meiji Period, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine and Kyoto’s Heian Shrine.  Imperial shrines can be recognized by the imperial family’s chrysanthemum crest and by the fact that they are often called “jingu” rather than “jinja”.
  • Inari Shrines
    Inari Shrines are dedicated to Inari, the kami of rice. They can be recognized by fox statues, as the fox is considered the messenger of Inari. There are thousands of Inari Shrines across Japan, among which Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine is most famous.
  • Hachiman Shrines
    Hachiman Shrines are dedicated to Hachiman, the kami of war, which used to be particularly popular among the leading military clans of the past. Of Japan’s thousands of Hachiman Shrines, the most famous is probably Kamakura’s Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
  • Tenjin Shrines
    Tenjin Shrines are dedicated to the kami of Sugawara Michizane, a Heian Period scholar and politician. They are particularly popular among students preparing for entrance exams. Tenjin Shrines can be recognized by ox statues and plum trees, Michizane’s favorite trees. The first and most famous Tenjin Shrine is Dazaifu Tenmangu near Fukuoka.
  • Sengen Shrines
    Sengen Shrines are dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity of Mount Fuji. More than one thousand Sengen Shrines exist across Japan, with the head shrines standing at the foot and the summit of Mount Fuji itself.
  • Shrines dedicated to the founders of powerful clans
    Some powerful clans in Japanese history established and dedicated shrines to the their clans’ founders. The most famous example are the several dozens of Toshogu Shrines dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, including the famous Toshogu Shrine at Nikko. Another example is Kanazawa’s Oyama Shrine which is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the powerful, local Maeda clan.
  • Local Shrines
    Many shrines are dedicated to local kami without association to other shrines.

 If you plan to visit shrine, you may want to read about etiquette at the shrine.

Japan travel website got a good page explaining what to do at the shrine in Japan.It might help you learn more about our shrine.

Dec 21, 2016 | 1 | Japan

Ninja

Ninja is very popular in many parts of the world and, you would hear the word “Ninja” in many media sources such as TV shows, movies, magazines, novels.. and most people would know what it means and who they are.

Ninja is very popular among tourists to Japan, but also Ninja is very popular among Japanese culture as well.

In this entry, I would like to focus on the Ninja culture in Japan.

In Japan, there is a novel that deals with ninja called “Owl’s Castle”  (fukurou no shiro) written by Ryoutarou Shiba.It is well known novel and a couple of movies were made based on the novel this year as well.

Who they are..

Ninja is a spy if you will, in our modern world.

Ninja were engaged in espionage activities during the war. They worked under shogun/Daimyou and tried to collect information from the master’s enemy etc. to bring the victory home in the war.

They used special tools and weapons with which to carry out their missions.

Ninja tools..

Ningama; Ningama entwines the enemy’s weapon with a chain  and cuts it off with a sickle.

Shuriken; Shuriken are pointy sharp edged devices for throwing, end- over- end, at the enemy.

History of Ninja

It is said to be around Shoutoku taishi era around 587 when very first shinobi (Ninja) was used.

Syoutoku Taishi used Otomono hosohito as very first shinobi/Ninja.

Then, the term “Nninja” was created around 683.

By 1540, there is a record that let us believe that there were 11 great skillful Ninja were existed in Kouka area in Japan.

Since then, there are some events involving Ninja such as burning down the enemy’s castle etc is recorded in our Japanese history.

This is Japanese website but if you are interested, you can check out the history chart focusing on the Ninjya history here.

Did Ninpou (transformation technique) really existed?

When you watch animation or movies, Ninja sometimes changes its formation in the smoke, but it is fictional method created for the novel and this technique did not exists in the real life.

Who is “ku no ichi”?

“Ku no i chi” is female Ninja. When you write “くノ一”, it makes chinese character meaning female. Therefore, female Ninja was called “Ku no i chi”.

What kinds of food Ninja used to eat?

According to the nja2 website, it says they consumed products largely made with soybeans.

In Japan, soybeans are considered “meat in the field” and it contains large amount of plant base protein and it was the very important ingredients for those who did not get to eat as much meat as protein source.

It is believed that soybeans would rest your body well, and great for muscle growth, and works good for better skin and Ninja preferred the ingredients as main.

Nnja also ate a lot of sesame that got large amount of minerals and it also improve the metabolic effect,along with brown rice that is high in fiber ,high in vitamins.

I came across interesting article written by on Ninja. To read the article, please click here.

If you are into Ninja things, Japan has interesting places you can visit.

There are several places with Ninja theme parks.

Ninja House in Shigaga prefecture (western part of Japan in the main island). Park website is here. The website is in English.

Edo Wonderland in Tochigi prefecture (middle part in main island in Japan). Website here in English.

Iga ryu NInjya House in Mie prefecture (middle part in main island). Park home page here in English.

Kouka Ninja Village in Shiga Prefecture (Western part of Japan in main island). Home page here. Not English website.

Touei Eiga Mura in Kyoto (western part of Japan in main island).Park home page here in English.

Oct 19, 2016 | 0 | Japan

Samurai armor and weapon

For many people, when they hear the word “Japan”, they would imagine Samurai, sushi, mount fuji, kimono etc…

In fact, I happened to come across the name of sushi restaurant called “samurai sushi” while browsing through the internet.

The word “Samurai” for sure seem to be well known by people in the states.

However, one thing that I would like to caution Japanese sushi restaurant owners is that, they should look into the meaning very well or they get funky name for restaurant.

Like.. there is one sushi restaurant,which we have been to but not really been impressed by them. Well, this restaurant name is “Umi”.

When I saw the sign, I had to laugh because if you say “U-mi,putting accent on U sound, it means ocean”, but if you say u-MI, putting accent on Mi sound, it means pus (yuck).

Some Japanese words have 2 meanings depending on how you put the accent on.It changes the meaning to totally different thing.

Anyway, can you explain what samurai is?

Samurai is government official title/ a member of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, especially a member of the class of military retainers of the daimyos,who are the great lords who were vassals of the shogun.

Shogun is a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan.

In this entry, I would like to introduce armor and weapon by Samurai.

Samurai armory..

Armor, helmet, swords worn by Samurai were not only used during the battle but also were time honored hand crafts,to be appreciated  for their workmanship and the dedication of their makers.

Ka-cchu-u (armor and helmet) is known as o-yo-ro-i.

It came into use in around 9th century.And it was the armor for Samurai.

Iron helmet Samurai wear is called Ka-bu-to Ba-chi

The golden large flat metal pieces on the helmet is called Ku-wa-ga-ta.

The side of the helmet is called fu-ki-ga-e-shi (helmet flap). This flaps help them protect from arrows to the face

The armor they wear is called o-yo-ro-i.

Yo-ro-i got o-so-de (arm guard), se-n-da-n no-i-ta; right chest protector, Kyu-bi-no-i-ta ;left chest protector, tsu-ru-ba-shi-ri; smooth leather covering, Ku-sa-zu-ri; segmented leather and they are hip and thigh guard.

You can read the history of Yoroi here at wikipedia website.

Samurai weaponry..

Samurai primarily used arrows and sword.

The Japanese sword is made distinctly for cutting.Therefore, it is single edged and curved. Generally, hilt is long and made to be held with both hands.

I came across History channel’s documentary show on Samurai history on youtube.Nice piece to learn more about our country.

If you are a blog subscriber, please click here to watch the video at youtube website.

History of Samurai..

By the way, my ancestor’s father had a castle in Gifu prefecture which is in main island of Japan. He was going to give the right to take over the castle to my ancestor, but he gave the right to take over the castle to his younger brother.

I only know the story just that and I wonder what happened to our ancestor after passing the right to take over the castle.

I heard about the story from my father but, I have no idea how much more he knows.

I found it interesting. I wonder what my ancestor ended up doing for life.

I also found that Tokyo has Samurai museum if you are interested;near Shinjyuku station.

Here is the official website.

Sep 14, 2016 | 0 | Japan

Kokeshi (Japanese wooden Dolls)

If you have been to Japan, chances are you would probably have seen the kokeshi dolls (Japanese wooden dolls)  while you were in Japan.

What is kokeshi dolls?

Kokeshi is the traditional Japanese wooden dolls for children inspired by the climate and culture of the Tohoku district.

Tohoku area is located in northeast in the main island of Japan.

These dolls are handmade from wood, and unlike other dolls for kids, they have a simple straight body and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face.

The body has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax.

One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is that they do not have arms and legs. The bottom is typically marked with the signature of the artist.

History of Kokeshi dolls..

Kokeshi is originated from end of edo period (1804-29 )and it was originally made by craftsman as souvenir for visitors’ kids who visited the hot spring (Onsen) in Tohoku area.

Tohoku region is famous for hot spring (Onsen).

It became popular as kids toys but later on, popularity went down with arrival of new dolls made by different materials.

After that, it became popular among those who collect kokeshi dolls as folk crafts.

Interesting thing about kokeshi is that, there are many types of kokeshi dolls depending on the region.

According to Japan atlas website, in the six prefectures of the Tohoku region there are a total of 10 types of “Kokeshi.”

The most dominant type is the Naruko variety (you can twist the neck and it makes squeaking sound.) originally made in Miyagi Prefecture, which can also be found in Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata prefectures.

These days not only dolls with a traditional style but also creative Kokeshi that incorporate contemporary taste are being made.

Some people have suggested that in “matryoshka,” the nesting Russian dolls that originated in the nineteenth century, some influence of “Kokeshi” can be seen.

You can read the full article on kokeshi here

How Kokeshi is made..

According to kidshouldseethins website,the wood used to make Kokeshi dolls are from Cornel, Mono maple, Cherry trees and Pagoda.

Trees are cut and dried during winter time, and artisans continue to dry them enough to shape them on a potter’s wheel with a plane or a knife, called Bankaki. The artisans draw the Kokeshi’s face and body, then apply wax on it.

You can read the full article on kidshouldseenthis website here.

Here is the general steps to make kokeshi.

  1. Wood is cut and left to dry
  2. 6 months later, it is cut into smaller pieces (to the size of kokeshi dolls)
  3. Then, edges are shaved and rounded off
  4. The wood is roughly shaped into the doll with a plane on the lathe and further shaped with a smaller plane
  5. The surface is filed with a paper file
  6. The face and body are drawn on and painted with a brush
  7. White wax or silicon wax is applied on the latheand the surface is polished.Many kokeshi is painted with girls faces and floral design on the body

Here is the video where you can watch how the kokeshi dolls here made

Wouldn’t the craftsmanship be amazing?

If you happened to be visiting Miyagi prefecture around Naruko city for hot spring (Onsen), drop by and check out their kokeshi festival.

Here is the official festival information site for kokeshi festival. The website itself is in Japanese but you can see the pictures there and if you like to ask questions regarding the festival, e-mail to info@naruko.gr.jp

Aug 16, 2016 | 1 | Japan

Washi (Japanese paper) in Japan

When you visit Japan, you will see lantern with unique Japanese paper called Washi. “WA” in Japanese in this case, means Japanese and “SHI” in this case means paper in Japanese.

Washi is a Japanese paper with long history and softer texture than Western paper.

Traditionally, it has been made by hand, but these days, some are made by machines with the use of non traditional ingredients.

These machine made washi does not have the same characters.

According to Japanese Wikipedia website here, Washi is known to have much  longer fiber compared to Western paper and, even if they are thinner, it is stronger (tough) and lasts longer and has its own unique texture.

History and usage of Washi (Japanese paper)..

Japanese paper has been made for more than 1,000 years from local plants like Kouzou (paper mulberry) and mitsumata, mixed with pure river water.

There are several area famous for Washi making.

One of them is Mino city in Gifu prefecture in Japan.

Gifu prefecture is located in the center of the main island.

Mino city is also famous for street which are in the style of the early Edo period (1603-1868).

The Washi made in Mino city is called Mino washi and highly respected in our culture.

Japanese paper making history has several theories but, according to Japanese wikipedia website, evidence you can find as paper usage is around 4 century where we started recording events on paper.

By the beginning of 6 century, paper making has started.

By the middle of 6 century, family registration on paper has begun (and we still have ko-se-ki system,where you report birth,moving, marriage,death and all that and all of those are recorded in the municipal system.).

Mino city is facing Japan’s famous water Nagara River and being surrounded by rich green mountains.

Mino washi paper is not only used for these important documentation but also used for interior items such as lantern, umbrella,paper fan (u-chi-wa), restoration for Conservation of Cultural Property.

Washi Japanese paper itself can be used for envelopes, postcards, letter paper, and business cards too.

How Mino Washi paper is made..

Below, you can watch how Mino Washi is made but here are the break down of general method of making them.

1.The bark of kouzou and mitsumata are soaked in the water to soften them.

2.The softened barks and water are placed in water and they are boiled with soda ash.

3.The bark is struck to break down the fiber into small pieces

4.Fibers and tororoaoi (suspension material made from yum) are put into water tank and mixed

5.Paper is made by sheet,using the paper mold

6.The water is drained from the paper.Paste paper which is brushed onto the board to dry.

Mino Washi Japanese paper..

If you know me, I am kind of a person who is interested in hands on experience/cultural stuff more than simply looking around the building and all that when traveling.

When my husband and I were still dating, I planned a visit to Kobe city in Japan (western part of Japan in main island). Kobe had paper making place where tourists can go there with appointment and learn how paper is made.

I thought it would be interesting for both of us and we visited the spot,and watched and learned how paper is made、 and we got to make our own paper too using the rectangle screen with two hand hold area as shown in the youtube video.

It was a lot of fun.

Here are some articles I found on Mino washi paper.

You can read the washi article at japanesepaperplace website here.

If you visit Mino city and interested in Mino Washi, you can visit Mino Washi museum there. Here is their official website for you to learn more about the museum.

Jul 18, 2016 | 3 | Japan

Japanese unique traditional craft; Wajima nuri Lacquerware

 In the previous entry titled “Japanese unique pottery:Arita yaki (Porcelain products in Arita,Saga prefecture)“,I have introduced one of famous potteries called “Arita yaki” in Saga prefecture,which is located in the northwest part in the Kyushu island.

In this entry, I would like to introduce another famous traditional crafts in Japan called ” Wajima Nuri (Wajima Lacquerware)”.

I think Wajima nuri lacquer is very Japanese and represents our traditional crafts very well.

The technical used to make this durable lacquerware was developed by the discovery of jinoko (powder obtained from the soil in Wajima city, Ishikawa prefecture).

Ishikawa prefecture is located in the main island “Hon shu”.

How Wajima nuri (Wajima lacquerware) is made..

1.  Wajima nuri lacquerware making starts from wood called “Ke ya ki”. Forming this wood into a bowl will be the first step done to make the beautiful lacquerware.

The wood used to curved and shaped into a bowl has been left and dried for many years.

2. Next step is nu-no ki-se step; A piece of fabric is plastered onto the fragile breakable parts of the bowl.

3. Then, Jizuke step; Lacquer (which we call U-ru-shi”) , mixed with ji-no-ko  (powder obtained from the soil) are applied to the bowl and then polished. They repeat this process.

U-ru-shi (lacquer) is obtained from sap of the u-ru-shi tree. The sap is collected,refined and aged. Hardened/dried U-ru-shi (lacquer) is water proof and protect the object from the heat. It makes them very durable lacquerware.

4. Then, Uwa-nuri step; Good quality lacquer is applied to the bowl with brush

5. After that, Chi-n-ki-n (gold foil)/Ma-ki-e step;It is the step where lacquerware is drawn on with a brush,engraving with a chisel is done,and gold,silver is embedded in the lacquerware.

6. Last step is called “ro-shi-ro”. Polishing the bowl with charcoal or applying more lacquer to make the finished  product

 You can view various kinds of Japanese Lacquerware at Nihon Ichiban website here.

You can watch how Wajima lacquerware are made via video at Japanese Government Internet TV website here.

Also, if you had a chance to visit Wajima city, Ishikawa prefecture, you can visit Wajima Lacquerware museum. You can find the information on the museum here.


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Jun 10, 2014 | 0 | Japan