Elm-Yukara ori is an entirely hand crafted textile of Hokkaido that is typically used for items such as kimonos, obi sashes, haori coats, bags, rugs and cushions. The main material is locally made wool that is hand dyed, spun into threads and woven on a loom using the ‘tsumugi’ technique. It is a light, warm fabric with designs that are inspired by the picturesque scenes of nature in Hokkaido, a northern island of Japan, and the patterns of traditional folklore. Up to two or three hundred colors may be combined in any one work, creating a textile that resembles an oil painting.
Although ‘Yukara’ is an Ainu word meaning lore, legend or epic poem, the textile is a relatively recent product of Hokkaido and is not a traditional Ainu fabric. (Ainu is the language used by indigenous people of Hokkaido.) Yukara-ori was created by textile artist Aya Kiuchi from Asahikawa City, Hokkaido during the 1950s; in 1962 she established a full scale manufacturing house. Kiuchi chose the word ‘yukara’ in the hope that the craft would endure and be passed on to future generations. Her work has been widely acclaimed both nationally and internationally. In 1977 she received the highest award at the Japan Folk Crafts Public Exhibition, and in 1978 she was awarded first place at the Hungarian International Textile Biennale.
This small coin purse with two compartments is a fine example of elm-yukara woven wool. It was found at a temple market in Osaka.
Murakami Tsuishu urushi lacquerware is a traditional handicraft in which wood-carved reliefs are finished with many layers of thickly coated red lacquer. The craft began in the Edo period and continues today. Formidable skill is required to produce the elaborate carving and beautiful vermillion color tones.
It is said that about 600 years ago lacquerware came to Murakami from temple building in Kyoto. Successive lords encouraged the craft and lacquer tree cultivation increased. 270 years ago Murakami samurai Jirou Hyodo spread wood carving and plantings of black sedge within the clan and significant progress ensued. Murakami wood carving was designated a “Niigata prefectural cultural property” in February 1953, and in February 1959, a “national traditional craft”.
The tray below, discovered at a temple market in Osaka, is a lovely example of the craft. It measures about 27 cm in diameter and is 2 cm high at the outer edge.
If you would like to see how Murakami Tsuishu urushi lacquerware is made, take a look at this interesting YouTube video
Please visit my Etsy store to see my collection of vintage and antique Japanese treasures.
This small coin purse is made from a hand woven silk fabric called Gujo ori, a traditional Japanese folk art.
Gujo, in current Gifu prefecture, was influenced and enriched by interaction and exchange with the capital even during the Nara era, and developed its own unique folk art and culture.
Gujo tsumugi ori is one well known example of its folk arts. Using silk floss extracted from the double cocoons of spring silkworms, fibers are spun by hand to create tsumugi yarn. It is then hand dyed with organic materials such as herb roots and tree bark, and finally woven by hand.
Designs are mostly stripes, crossed stripes, splash patterns (Kasuri) and some geometrical patterns. It has qualities of both silk and wool: strong, warm and free from wrinkles.
In 1947 the Gujo Weaving Institute was founded by Rikizo Munehiro in an effort to preserve the traditional craft. In 1982 he was awarded the title of Living National Treasure.
Recently I visited Mitaki-en, a cosy restaurant complex in a magical forest setting near the beginning of Therapy Road, not far from the town of Chizu in Tottori Prefecture. I spotted a wooden ball covered by its own little wooden roof hanging under the eaves. A Japanese friend, Natsuki from Tottori city, told me that it is called a ‘sugi-dama’ or ‘cedar ball’, made from cedar needles and twigs, and symbolising hope and peace. Continue reading Sugidama: a cedar ball
Kanazawa is well known for its wide variety of traditional hand made Japanese sweets. Last week I visited the Kanazawa Museum of Wooden Japanese Sweets Molds located on the second floor of Morihachi Honten, a sweets store with a history dating back to 1625. There are over a thousand wooden sweets molds on display, grouped into several time periods starting from Edo and finishing with the Showa period.
I bought this pair of pretty hashi-oki chopstick pillows at a temple market held at Gokokujinja in Rokko, Kobe city on the 4th Sunday of each month. The temple grounds are a lovely setting for a market and the roving musicians add a delightful carnival atmosphere. Continue reading Hashi-oki chopstick pillows: Genji-mon crest