京都の逸品30

English

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Footwear

In Kyoto, there are Japanese footwear specialty stores that were founded more than 100 years ago. At the same time the footwear of these shops are created by the skillful hands of craftsmen, they are naturally possess a comfortable fit for the wearer. Here, the fastidious craftsmanship of geta (Japanese clogs), which have long been stylish footwear enjoyed by people during the summertime in Japan, will be introduced.

When geta (Japanese clogs) were worn as everyday footwear, there was a Japanese saying that said "Without excellent shoes, there is no point in wearing even the finest clothes." Japanese people placed great importance on what they wore on their feet, and enjoyed stylish footwear. The strongest image that comes to mind when someone mentions geta (Japanese clogs) is of people wearing them with yukata (light kimono) during the summertime. Until shoes became a commonly worn item in Japan, geta (Japanese clogs) was the most frequently used footwear. If geta (Japanese clogs), long loved by Japanese people, could be summed up in one sentence, it would be "custom footwear made by skilled craftsman that exactly fit the wearer's feet."

Geta (Japanese clogs) consist of two separately created parts: soles (wooden part) on which the feet are set and hanao (clog thongs (fabric part)) that fit on the feet. By combining parts selected from hundreds of options, original geta (Japanese clogs) are created to the wearer's desired specifications. The soles of high-quality geta (Japanese clogs) are made of Japanese paulownia. These geta are all handmade by a craftsman. Traditional techniques such as lacquering and Kamakura engraving that have been handed down for generations and still exist today in Japan are used on the soles of geta (Japanese clogs) and they make it very hard to decide on just one set of soles when having geta (Japanese clogs) made. Hanao (clog thongs) are all also, of course, made by hand.

Hanao (clog thong) is normally written with the Chinese character meaning "nose", but it is sometimes written with the character meaning "flower". This expresses the thought that the craftsman would like to create something elegant and beautiful like a flower. In the same way that craftsmen put care into the design of shoes, craftsmen are always concentrating on creating something beautiful when producing hanao (clog thongs). The most important part of finishing a pair of geta (Japanese clogs) is the craftsman combining the soles and the hanao (clog thongs) by hand.

It's believed that for all people the size of the left and right foot are slightly different. Depending on the person, that difference can be more than 1 cm. Craftsmanship based on years of experience allows craftsmen to make fine adjustments according to the wearer's foot size that are not possible when making shoes. This not only shows dedication to beauty, but also dedication to making the footwear as comfortable as possible.

There is also a particular way to wear geta (Japanese clogs). Sandals are worn with the foot entirely on the sole, but geta (Japanese clogs) are worn with the heel set about 2-3 cm off the back of the sole, as this is thought to be more chic and stylish looking. One can get a sense of the character of Kyoto through the particular attention paid to how geta (Japanese clogs) are worn. When coming to Kyoto, having a custom geta (Japanese clogs) made is a great way to get a sense of Kyoto's traditional craftsmanship and beautiful footwear as well as the sensitivity of Japanese people.

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Japanese umbrellas and paper lanterns

Japanese umbrellas are umbrellas in which Japanese paper or silk has been spread out over a bamboo frame.

These umbrellas first arrived from China and were used by the nobility in the Heian and Kamakura periods. From the Edo period until the introduction of western-style umbrellas in the Meiji period, Japanese umbrellas were widely used amongst the general population. Paper lanterns are lighting implements that feature a cylindrical frame of bamboo as with a Japanese umbrella, Japanese paper spread over the frame, and a candle that is set inside the frame. Paper lanterns became widely used in Japan at the same time that the use of candles became widespread amongst people in the Edo period. Kyoto-style Japanese umbrellas have a very long history among Japanese umbrellas. It is believed that they have been used since the Heian period.

The city of Kyoto exhibits the characteristics of an old capital in that regional specialties from all over Japan have been gradually collected in Kyoto. Kyoto-style Japanese umbrella were also a part of this and they have been refined according to the unique needs of Kyoto residents. It is believed that more than 15,000,000 umbrellas were produced during the peak of umbrella production. As the Meiji period began and western-style umbrellas began to be used, production rapidly declined. Today, Japanese-style umbrellas are rarely used on a daily basis as in the past.

At locations such as Gifu, which is well-known as a Japanese umbrella production center, and also Kyoto, Kanazawa, Oita, and Tottori, there are only a small number of Japanese umbrella manufacturing shops that remain. At the same time, Japanese umbrellas are an indispensable part of the tea ceremony, Japanese dance, and kabuki, and many Japanese umbrellas are used during festivals. In addition, Japanese umbrellas are also used for interiors at ryokan (Japanese-style inn) and Japanese-style restaurants to create a tasteful atmosphere.

With paper lanterns, it is believed that the prototype for the current folding paper lantern was created in the Muromachi period. There are various types such as paper lanterns with bow-shaped handles that are carried by hand and hanging paper lanterns that are suspended. The names of temples or shrines or a family crest appears on paper lanterns that are used at festivals. In Kyoto, paper lanterns are an essential item for traditional events and festivals at temples and shrines. They are also often used as signs for shops, and they can be seen in the landscape of daily life.

Kyoto vegetables

"Kyoto vegetables" is an inclusive term for vegetables produced mainly within Kyoto Prefecture. However, there is no specific definition of "Kyoto vegetables". All vegetables produced in Kyoto Prefecture are simply considered "Kyoto vegetables".

In 1987, aiming to popularize and protect various varieties of traditional vegetables that have been cultivated since long ago, Kyoto Prefecture created a new definition for "Kyoto traditional vegetables" and selected vegetables for this designation. In addition, "Premium Kyoto vegetables" were selected from among these traditional vegetables and sales of these vegetables are heavily promoted. As a result, Kyoto traditional vegetables are now popular nationwide and "Kyoto traditional vegetables" are now commonly referred to and thought of as ”Kyoto vegetables".

Cultivation of vegetables has flourished in Kyoto since ancient times. One factor in the development of "Kyoto vegetables" is that the weather and climate of Kyoto are highly suited to vegetable cultivation. The Kyoto basin is characterized by sharp seasonal differences in temperature with penetrating cold in the winter and extreme heat in the summer, and it also has a calm climate throughout the year in which there are no windstorms due to strong seasonal winds. The soil between the Katsura River on the west and the Kamo River on the east contains accumulated sediment that includes a high amount of nutrients that have flowed down these rivers from upstream, and high-quality water is supplied from these rivers and the abundant groundwater. These factors provided the ideal environment for growing high-quality vegetables.

After the capital of Japan was placed in Kyoto in 794, various cultural influences and resources started to come into Kyoto from the Asian mainland and from all of Japan, and this also included various types of vegetables. These vegetables were used for the royal court cuisine served to the Emperor and court nobles and were also used in shojin cuisine (vegetarian cuisine) which is eaten at temples and shrines. Along with the development of various cuisines, improvement in the varieties of these vegetables was also carried out in order to produce high-quality vegetables, and consumption of these vegetables also spread to the general population. In Kyoto, the relationship between vegetables and religious beliefs and social customs is deep. Customs such as the ”Zuiki Festival”, "kyuri-fuji" (using cucumbers as a ceremonial tool for warding off disease), and "daikon-daki" (boiling Japanese radishes) are still strongly rooted in all areas of Kyoto.

Development and improvement in the varieties of Kyoto traditional vegetables has been conducted since ancient times. The cultivation and harvesting of these vegetables, however, requires a great deal of labor, and because this process is much more time-consuming than the mass production and selling of modern vegetables, certain kinds of these vegetables have begun to disappear. This is why 34 varieties of these vegetables including some extinct varieties were selected for designation in 1987 as "Kyoto traditional vegetables" and preservation and raising of these vegetables began to be encouraged. At present, there are a total of 40 vegetables that have been selected: 35 "traditional vegetables", 3 "vegetables regarded as traditional vegetables", and 2 "extinct species". Additionally, 14 varieties of the "Kyoto traditional vegetables" are authorized as "premium Kyoto vegetables" and these are produced in set quantities and are used to promote the image of Kyoto as part of Kyoto Prefecture's efforts to popularize traditional vegetables.

The definition of "Kyoto traditional vegetables" consists of the following: 1) Vegetables introduced before the Meiji period are included. 2) Vegetables produced not only in the Kyoto area, but in the entire prefectural area of Kyoto are included. 3) Bamboo shoots are included. 4) Varieties of mushrooms are not included. 5) Vegetables currently being grown and protected as well as extinct varieties are included.

* "Vegetables regarded as traditional vegetables" refers to varieties that have been developed since after the start of the Meiji period.

[Reference: Shiro Takashima "Literary Calendar - traditional vegetables and seasonal vegetables -" published by Tombow Publishing Co.,Ltd.]

Kyoto-style dolls

When generally referring to Kyoto-style dolls, many people tend to picture dolls quickly made by craftsmen as souvenirs, but the production process for these dolls is divided up into a division of labor system. With expertise being handed down from parent to child, these are very highly regarded traditional arts and crafts objects that are produced by doll head craftsmen, doll hair craftsmen, doll hand and arm craftsmen, and doll clothes craftsmen individually working at separate locations. Each process within the division of labor involves a high degree of technical expertise and attention to detail.

Kyoto is considered the birthplace of Japanese dolls. Going back in history, after the era of amagatsu and hoko (child's dolls for warding off evil) dolls passed, playing with dolls became a common pastime for children of the Heian aristocracy in the Imperial Court. The origin of Kyoto-style dolls is when dolls were no longer used as representations of people or for warding off evil, but began to be simply used as toys. As the Edo period began, March 3rd (lunar calendar) became the day for playing with dolls and Girls' Festival dolls in a sitting positions were developed. For the boy's seasonal festival also, samurai warrior dolls and ornamental samurai helmets for May 5 (lunar calendar) began to be made.

The Edo era is when various kinds of dolls began to be made. Coupled with the favorable condition of luxury Nishijin fabric becoming easier to obtain, seasonal festival dolls as well as various high-quality dolls that could be appreciated as art such as Kamo dolls, Saga dolls, and gosho dolls were developed in Kyoto along with a concurrent improvement in technical expertise, and these dolls continue to be made today. By utilizing the continuous effort of Kyoto-style doll craftsmen and the mental expertise put into these dolls, a value is created that is recognized in Japan as well as the world.

Kamo doll: Small wooden doll in which fabric is inserted into the wood grain of willow wood. According to folklore, the first Kamo doll was created in the Genbun era by a functionary of the Kamo Shrine using leftover wood from the making of ritual objects.

Gosho doll: Doll of a specified three-head size depicting an infant with chalk-white skin. Most are wood-carved with white chalk finish. These charming dolls from the Edo Period are still popular today.

Isho (elaborately costumed) doll: Seasonal festival dolls such as Girls' Festival dolls and Boys' Festival samurai warrior dolls with samurai helmets and armor that are worthy of being called Kyoto-style dolls still continue to be made today by master craftsmen.

Ichimatsu doll: Doll that is made to look like Ichimatsu Sanogawa, a famous Edo Period kabuki actor. Boy and girl dolls are made and these are used to celebrate childbirth, for seasonal festivals, and for marriage celebrations.

Kyoto-style chopsticks

Chopsticks are the world's simplest and most functional tools for eating.

With two simple sticks acting as extensions of the fingertips, one can cut, mix, break food into smaller pieces (e.g. fish), wrap, hold, pinch, pierce, and scoop. Various materials are used, including plants, animals (ivory), minerals (silver and stainless steel), and synthetic resin (plastics). There are wood grain chopsticks made from bamboo, cedar, Japanese cypress, pine, mulberry tree wood, chestnut tree wood, cherry blossom tree wood, ebony and rosewood, and also lacquer chopsticks produced through methods for producing lacquer arts and crafts. In addition to chopsticks for eating that have various uses, there are serving chopsticks, cooking chopsticks, tea ceremony chopsticks, and chopsticks for use in Shinto rituals. Kyoto-style chopsticks, owing also to the fact that Kyoto was long Japan' s capital, came to play a role in the rich culinary culture of Kyoto as Kyo cuisine and the tea ceremony developed.

Japanese people acquired a unique aesthetic sense and system of etiquette through the practice of using chopsticks. Traditionally, the correct way to hold chopsticks is to place them in the palm so that they are parallel and spaced 2-3 cm apart. There are various materials for chopsticks and various functions, and each style of chopsticks is used for a particular purpose. In Japan, wooden chopsticks such as lacquer chopsticks are most common, followed by bamboo chopsticks. In Kyoto, there are stores that sell as many as 400 kinds of chopsticks. This is because, to meet the needs and exacting standards of the first-class chefs and tea ceremony iemoto (grand masters) concentrated in Kyoto, Kyoto-style chopsticks continually developed as chopsticks to support the culinary culture of the city.

Redwood Rikyu chopsticks: These chopsticks, used for kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine), possess a beautiful straight cedar woodgrain, a faint scent, a shape that fits perfectly into the hand, and a soft feel, which makes them the highest expression of omotenashi (hospitality).

Exotic wood chopsticks: These chopsticks are made with wood that is heavy as well as exceptionally hard for material used for chopsticks. The natural luster of the wood grain makes these beautiful and durable chopsticks.

Lacquer chopsticks: These chopsticks are characterized by each production area using distinct lacquering methods and decoration.

Wakasa lacquer chopsticks: These chopsticks feature luxurious design with mother-of-pearl and gold and silver leaf.

Wajima lacquer chopsticks: These are lacquer-finished chopsticks with a graceful style that feature picture design and decoration methods such as inlaying lacquer with gold and lacquerware with gold or silver.

Tsugaru lacquer gold chopsticks: These chopsticks are made by carefully applying layer after layer of lacquer to produce durable chopsticks with a polished, thickly layered finish.

Writing brushes and Japanese stationery

Writing brushes came to Japan from China about 1600 years ago. Production in Japan of writing brushes began about 1200 years ago while they were being adopted into Japanese culture. Along with the development of kana characters, the writing brush evolved into a unique Japanese writing implement. In addition to writing brushes, other tools such as ink, inkstone, and paper were needed as tools to pass down literate culture to successive generations. These "four tools of calligraphy" were each continually produced by separate craftsmen specializing in each tool.

When writing with a writing brush, an inkstone and ink are needed. Writing is done by pouring a small amount of water into an inkstone, rubbing the inkstone to produce black ink, and then using the black liquid to write on paper. When writing a letter in an especially polite manner in everyday life and when registering one's name at a reception desk of a wedding or exhibition, a writing brush is sometimes used.

Today, there are calligraphy pens in which the ink is included in the writing brush and ink and an inkstone are unnecessary. Many Japanese people use calligraphy pens to easily write letters. At regular stationery shops today, expensive writing brushes are seldom seen. More modern writing implements such as calligraphy pens and fountain pens that are more commonly used in everyday life are usually being sold.

Writing brushes and ink are sometimes purchased by foreign tourists. For these types of people who are using a writing brush for the first time, a calligraphy sets that include a convenient carrying case such as types made for elementary school students are recommended. These sets include a brush, ink, an underlay, a paper weight, a container for water, and paper. It is possible to write letters using a writing brush using one of these sets.

Kyoto-style tofu and Kyoto-style yuba (dried bean curd skin)

From ancient times up to the present, yuba has been thought of as one of the jewels of Kyoto, and it is considered one of Kyoto's regional specialties.

Its origin is unclear, but it is believed that it was introduced long ago from China together with Buddhism. The climate and natural features of Kyoto's scenic beauty are ideal for the making of yuba. In addition, because Kyoto is the capital of Buddhism in Japan and has many temples, the making of yuba is still promoted today because of its essential role in shojin cuisine (vegetarian cuisine) and kaiseki cuisine (tea ceremony cuisine). Yuba, created using the highest quality soybeans and traditional techniques, has a light taste and has been much loved for many years for its characteristic Kyoto flavor that features an abundant amount of nutrients.

To make yuba, soybeans that have been soaked overnight and mashed into a paste form are placed into a large pot and boiled. The paste is then strained using a fine mesh bag to divide it into okara (soy pulp) and yuba milk (soymilk). The soymilk is moved to a large, flat pan and heated, and a thin film forms on the surface. This film is yuba. This method is similar to making film on the surface of milk by heating it. In the present day, because tending a fire can be difficult, yuba is made through a process of warming by immersion in hot water.

Yuba can be broadly classified into fresh yuba and dried yuba. Fresh yuba is the raw type that has just been lifted up from the pan. Now, because all homes have refrigeration appliances, fresh yuba can also be eaten at home. Even so, the period over which fresh yuba is still good is only about three days. Fresh yuba is very good to eat in the same fashion as sashimi (raw fish) together with soy sauce mixed with Japanese horseradish, soy sauce mixed with ginger, or ponzu sauce.

For something that has a longer period over which it is still good, there is dried yuba. Dried yuba can be kept for about 2 months at room temperature. To eat dried yuba, pour water into a sieve containing the dried yuba, and then let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes after draining the water. Then, put the yuba into a pan and rapidly boil it adding salt, soy sauce, sugar, mirin (sweet cooking sake), etc. to add flavor. By preparing dried yuba this way, it can be eaten while it is soft just as with fresh yuba. Dried yuba is also good when added to broths, miso soup, unthickened stew, sukiyaki or nabemono (one-pot dishes).

Yuba is recognized as a very nutritious food. Its components are rich in vegetable protein and fat, and it is very easily digested. In addition to Japanese and Chinese cuisines, it has been used in French and Italian cuisines in recent years. Yuba itself has a light taste, so it can be expected that cuisines in various countries will incorporate it in ingenuous ways in the future.

Nishijin fabric

Fabric technology was brought from the Asian mainland in the 5th century, and in Nishijin, accompanying the relocation of the capital to Kyoto, silk fabric production flourished along with the encouragement of production of high-quality fabrics such as twill and brocade, which was an integral part of royal court culture. This type of fabric is characterized by use of highly creative design and advanced weaving techniques to produce pre-dyed figured fabrics using a system for producing various goods in small quantities. Decoration of the fabric is luxurious and gorgeous and 12 types of this fabric have received designation under the Law for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries. So many varied types of this fabric are produced that there is almost nothing that cannot be woven with it.

Nishijin fabric is characterized by the use of dyed thread to weave designs. There are approximately 20 processes that are performed before completion of the fabric, and each is performed by a separate craftsman in a division of labor system. After the relocation of the capital to the Heian capital in 794, a fabric organization was started and the fabric industry was established as a state-operated industry. However, many craftsman left the area during the wars of the Ounin period, and the fabric industry declined. When these wars ended, craftsmen again gathered in Kyoto and the cotton fabric industry was revived.

This fabric is called Nishijin fabric, but there is not actually a ward called Nishijin in Kyoto. The name of the Nishijin area, where many of the craftsmen involved with Nishijin fabric production reside, originates from the fact that the western forces during the wars of the Onin era had their camp in this area. After the introduction of technology from China, fabrics in which multicolor patterns and designs were weaved using pre-dyed thread became possible, and the foundation of Nishijin fabric as a luxury silk fabric was established. This type of fabric includes many types of fabrics, all of which are luxurious and gorgeous.

At the same time Nishijin fabric and the production center Nishijin enjoyed the protection of the Imperial Court and Hideyoshi Toyotomi , the craftsmen continued to develop their craft and sought ways to master new techniques, such as accepting production techniques from the Asian mainland, in order to produce excellent fabric. Even though sales tend to decrease every year due to changes in people's lifestyles, the Nishijin fabric industry holds a place as Japan's representative silk fabric industry and it continues to be the most highly regarded luxury fabric producing area in Japan.

[Reference: Nishijin Web Nishijin Textile Industrial Association http://www.nishijin.or.jp/index.html]

Braids

Among the various types of string used in everyday life, braids have a special aesthetic quality and are "strings" with a definite artistic beauty.

There are tens of ways that a braid can be braided. Different braiding methods are used depending on how a braid will be used. Long ago, braids were used for sageo (cords for attaching swords) and were used as suspension cords for mosquito nets in houses during the summer. Now, as elegant traditional arts and crafts objects, with antiques they are mainly used as medicine case strings and netsuke (ornament on end of cord) strings, and with tea ceremony utensils they are mainly used as cords for tea caddies or tea utensil pouches.

Since the Heian period, Kyoto has been a production center for braids and Kyoto braids are designated as one of Japan's traditional arts and crafts objects. Kyoto braids are elegant traditional arts and crafts object produced by braiding together many individual threads. The production process is very long and is broken up into detailed tasks in a division of labor system. After detailed tasks such as making dyed thread from raw thread and filature are finished, braiding and the finishing process are performed. Braids have a long history, but their shape and use have also changed along with the changing times.

Heian period design emphasized courtly grace and elegance, and braids were used with clothing and accessories such as hirao (belts for kimono sash), sodekukuri (sleeve fasteners) , kabuto-no-o (cords for decorative headwear). In the Kamakura period, braids were mainly used with weapons. In the Muromachi period and the Azuchi-Momoyama period, accompanying the rise in prominence of the tea ceremony, they were mainly used for items such as takuboku (hanging strings) for hanging scrolls and design was comparatively subdued. In the Edo period, braids began to be used as haori (half-coat over kimono) strings, cords for kumiobi (braided kimono sash) and handbags, and as cords for hair ornaments, and they began to be used among common people. From the Meiji period, braids have primarily been a Japanese clothing accessory used mainly as obi (kimono sash) cords.

With just the basic type of braiding method, there are approximately 40 types of braids. If different designs are included, however, the number climbs to approximately 3,000 different types of braids. Braids are created by wrapping bundles of tens of threads into several balls and braiding the bundles while diagonally crossing them. Crossing the threads diagonally creates flexibility in the braids. Braids are often used with obi (kimono sash) cords on Japanese clothing. By having flexibility, obi (kimono sash) cords can be adjusted according to how the wearer breathes so that they are not too tight or loose.

Tea ceremony utensils

The art of the tea ceremony consists of the manners and performance involved in boiling water, making tea, and serving tea.

The tea ceremony emphasizes a feeling of unity between the host and guest as well as the beauty of serving guests. Tea ceremony utensils such as tea bowls and hanging scrolls that are hung in the alcove of a tea ceremony room are all high-quality pieces of art, and these contribute to the overall art of the tea ceremony during the time over which a tea ceremony is held. Due to the tea-growing district of Uji and because there are many tea houses, the culture of tea ceremony utensils has thrived in Kyoto from long ago. With each type of tea ceremony utensil, there are many individual utensils that show the technical expertise of Kyoto's traditional arts and crafts.

The season is an important part of the tea ceremony. There are two primary seasons in the tea ceremony. May to October is the season in which the furo (portable stove) is used to make tea, and November to April is the season in which the ro (hearth) is used. The first points in tea ceremony etiquette that are learned are the basics of tea ceremony etiquette. Tea ceremony etiquette is performed using the following tools with water boiled in an iron kettle.

Chawan (tea bowl): Chawan (tea bowl) have a side that is considered the front side. The side with a picture is considered the front. When making tea and when serving it to a guest, the front of the chawan (tea bowl) always faces the guest. When receiving tea, the chawan (tea bowl) is taken with the left hand and rotated clockwise before drinking. After the tea is drunk, the chawan (tea bowl) is rotated in the opposite direction so that the front side faces the guest. It is then rotated so that the front side faces the host when returning the chawan (tea bowl).

Kensui (waste-water container): This container is used to throw away the water used to clean the chawan (tea bowl).

Chasen (tea whisk): A chasen (tea whisk) is a tool used to make tea. It is constructed from thinly cut bamboo that is stitched with thread. There are various kinds that each have different uses. The chasen (tea whisk) shape and the bamboo type will differ depending on the tea ceremony style.

Chashaku (tea scoop): This is a tool resembling a spoon used to scoop tea from a natsume (tea caddy) or other container. It is mainly made from bamboo.

Chakin (tea napkin): This is a linen used when wiping a chawan (tea bowl).

Natsume (tea caddy): This is a type of tea container. There are wood and bamboo natsume (tea caddy) as well as ceramic ones and ones made by applying lacquer to Japanese paper.

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