NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/9/25


京都ゑびす神社 Kyouto-ebisu-jinja Kyoto Ebisu Shrine

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The Kyoto Ebisu Shrine is located in Yamato-ooji Douri, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture.
The shrine honors the gods Yaekotoshironushi-no-ookami, Ookuninushi-ookami and Sukunahikona-no-kami.
It was reportedly built at the current location in 1202 by Yousai, the founder of the Rinzai Zen School and it was intended as a guardian shrine to protect Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple.
The shrine is one of the Three Greatest Ebisu Shrines in Japan which are thought to bring prosperity in business. The shrine is commonly called “Ebe-ssan”.
Bamboo is a symbol of the Ebisu beliefs and visitors receive amulets and lucky charms with bamboo motifs.  The association with bamboo began at the Kyoto Ebisu Shrine and it spread to other Ebisu shrines.  Bamboo grows straight and upright. It also has an elastic trunk and it does not break easily.  Moreover, bamboo leaves do not change color or fall off the stem.  The leaves remain fresh and green all year round. These characteristics made bamboo the symbol of family prosperity and success in business.
The Ebisu Festival, held every January 8th through 12th, is a busy and lively event filled with visitors who celebrate until well after midnight.
The Kyoto Ebisu Shrine is, along with the principles of the Ebisu beliefs and the Seven Lucky Gods, well rooted in the hearts of and loved by the local people.
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2008/9/19


高野純一 Takano Junichi Junichi Takano

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Junichi Takano works as the Store Manager at the Shirakiya Nakamura Denbei Store, an old store established in 1830.  Mr. Takano supports Satoru Nakamura, the seventh successor who inherited the name and the store.
Along the side of the Kyoubashi River in Tokyo that is now an expressway there once was, in the Edo Period, a commercial river port called “bamboo river bank” where 50,000 to 60,000 sticks of bamboo were unloaded every day.  It was also a trading hub for all sorts of materials used for daily products.
The founder of the Shirakiya Store, Toubei, began making houki brooms from bamboo and houki-morokoshi (millet), and this “Edo-bouki” (as Toubei’s houki are called) has been created in the same traditional way and at the same place since.
Junichi Takano initially came in as a part time delivery boy. He was soon fascinated by the “practical beauty” of Edo-bouki and the work being done by master houki maker Seiichi Takagi. Since then, he fell in love with making houki himself and he has now become an indispensable talent for the store.
A houki, unlike some modern disposable tools, lasts a long time.
The craftsmen, anticipating all the possible ways the houki might be used, give it lightness, firmness and pliancy. The user understands that the houki is a tool to purify a house and as he or she sweeps the tatami mat from inside to outside, he or she “collaborates” with the houki. The relationship established between the user and the tool is a further development of the relationship already established between the craftsman and the craft.
Using fine materials, expert techniques and human ingenuity, as an artist, Mr. Takano takes elaborate efforts to continue to preserve the relationship between human and tool and pass it on to the next generation.
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山口源兵衛 Yamaguchi Genbee Genbee Yamaguchi

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Genbee Yamaguchi is one of the most respected kimono makers. In 1981, he became the head of “Kondaya”, a long-established wholesale store of obi sashes that was founded in Kyoto in 1738.  As the tenth head of Kondaya, he devoted himself to advancing obi making.  His recent works, however, have been more involved in designing and making the whole kimono. He also takes an active role in revitalizing the dyeing and weaving technologies through such measures as the revival of Koishimaru - a specific type of silk worm cocoon found in Japan and the preservation of a unique village in the Philippines called “Dreamweaver”.  In 2003, Yamaguchi received the Japan Culture Award.  After successful collaborations with Kengo Sumi, an architect, and Hiroko Koshino, a designer, he released a new kimono line called Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu, in collaboration with UNITED ARROWS, a specialty retailer. It is an exciting and bold kimono collection for men.
Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu is inspired by the men of the Momoyam period (approximately 1568 to 1603) who loved to live a wild and flamboyant life-style. Japanese men in those days were respected as the toughest of the world.  Kabukimono is expressive of that type of man who pursued an extraordinary and “cool” life style.  The fashion of Kabukimonotachi-no-keifu evokes masculinity and the true “rock and roll” spirit of the time.
“If you keep on pursuing the basics, there will be a moment when you will suddenly see limitlessness revealed to you, as once Zeami (the greatest playwright of the Noh theater) said.   Mastering the basics is the shortest road to freedom”
The vital life force and sexiness in Yamaguchi’s designs come from the inner depth of his creative process.
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2008/9/4


天神祭 Tenjin-matsuri Tenjin Festival

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The Tenjin Festival is a spectacular boat festival held at the Oosaka Tenman-guu Shrine in Kita-ku, Oosaka, and it is one of the Three Greatest Festivals in Japan. Oosaka Tenman-guu Shrine was built in 949 by the order of Emperor Murakami. The shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, who was deified as the patron god of learning.
The origin of this festival dates back to 951, two years after the foundation of the shrine, when kamihoko, a portable shrine with a halberd on its top, was released into the river near the shrine and a temporary funeral hall was built at the place where the kamihoko washed ashore. Local people who worshiped at the shrine rode on boats and welcomed the arrival of the kamihoko, which was said to mark the beginning of the festival. Since then, the event has been held every July 24th and 25th.
In modern days, the first day of the festival begins with the Yoimiya Festival to pray for the success of the Hokonagashi ceremony. It is followed by the actual ceremony in which the sacred halberd is released from the Hokonagashi Bridge at the sound of a ryuuteki flute.
On the following day, the holy spirit of the Tenjin deity is transferred to a portable shrine called gohouren and paraded around for about 4km from the Tenman-guu Shrine to the point of embarkation, accompanied by as many as 3,000 festival participants. Gohouren is then transferred onto a boat and, accompanied by some 100 river boats, while it moves toward the Naka River to the Okawa-river, with spectacular fireworks overhead.
The Tenjin Festival is a grand festival that brings a dramatic and stunning display to the water city of Oosaka.

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2008/9/1


春日町 おまんと Kasuga-chou Omanto Omanto Festival at Kasuga-cho

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Omanto at Kasuga Town is a festival held at the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines in Kasuga-cho, Aichi Prefecture, on the first weekend each October.
Its origin is not known, but it is believed that the festival started in the beginning of 1800, when horses were dedicated to the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines to pray for rain.  The festival is said to be the biggest in the Nishi-mikawa region.
In the festival, young men wearing happi festival coats and jikatabi rubber-soled socks enter a riding arena of about 100 meters in circumference and start running toward horses that have been decorated with bells and flowers. They grab the horses’ muzzles and run around the arena at a fast speed.
In precincts of the Omanto Shrine there is a rounded square preserved solely for this festival. On the day of the event, 40 ~ 50 horses are gathered from seven neighboring towns and released in the square. All participants running with horses become as if they were one with the horse, and a powerful and exciting scene unfolds in front of a big crowd of spectators.

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2008/8/29


箒 Houki Houki (Japanese broom)

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A Houki is a broom traditionally used in Japan for sweeping trash and dust.  There are two kinds of houki:  zashiki-bouki (room broom) and niwa-bouki (garden broom), depending on where they are to be used.  
Zashiki-bouki are generally made from hemp palm fibers and morokoshi ( millet- a kind of grain) fibers . The hemp-palm broom is more widely used in Western Japan and it is made from gathered “oni-ge” (demon hairs) which are extracted from hemp palm bark.  The morokoshi plants used to make houki are harvested after growing for one year when they are about 2 meters high.   The ears of the millet plants are threshed and dried in the sun for about a week. Then, high quality ears are selected and gathered for making  houki.
Besides their obvious practical application as a cleaning tool, houki also figure in various traditional customs associated with the idea of “sweeping away”.
There was a spell in which a houki was stood upside down when a host wished his guest to cut his long stay short and go home.  In some areas, a houki was considered a guardian charm for the easy and healthy delivery of a baby. The houki was placed by the bedside of the pregnant woman and, once labor started, a light was attached to the houki and the woman prayed to it.  Her belly was then caressed with the houki.
Houki were believed to be sacred and stepping it over or on them was avoided as it would incur divine punishment. Such customs still can be seen today all over Japan.
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大獅子小獅子の舞 Oo-jishi-ko-jishi-no-mai The Dance of Big Shishi and Small Shishi

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The Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance (Dance of big shishi lion and small shishi lion) takes place once a year at the spring festival of Handa City. Its performance is dedicated to the Narawa Shrine.
There are a number of shishi dances dedicated to religious rituals, yet this Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance has an especially long history. It is recorded that the dance had already been performed by the middle of the Edo period and it was formally influenced by styles that existed even earlier.
The dance is performed by two dancers together comprising the legendary four-legged  lions.  It is done in a style called Gigaku Shishi.
The ritual starts with the Oo-jishi dancers being accompanied by a boy wearing a white crest on his head and holding an instrument called sasara.   Oo-jishi Dance consists of four dances: Ran-jishi; Hana-jishi (Flower Shishi); Tobi-shishi (Kite Shishi) and Ken-shishi (Sword Shishi).
After the Oo-jishi Dance comes the Ko-jishi Dance. Okame and Hyottoko (a pair of female and male characters) play clowns while Ko-jishi performs twelve dances to an upbeat tempo. The dances, said to symbolize farmers praying for rain, show a dragon writhing on ground and trying to gather clouds and ascend to the sky.
In 1967, the dance was designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Aichi prefecture.

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はりみ(紙製ちりとり) Harimi(Kamisei-Chiritori) Harimi (Paper Dustpans)

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When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.

Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.

Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.

Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
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