Saturday, October 01, 2022

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book: Color your Masterpiece & Clear Your Mind

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book.

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book

by Andrew Vigar

Tuttle Publishing (2016)

ISBN: 978-4805313947
Paperback, 96 pp

Adult coloring books? Are those some kind of modern-day shunga?
Nope. Adult coloring books are a big thing these days, letting children of yesteryear relive their childhoods, relax frayed nerves, show their artistic side or just plain revel in nostalgia.

For Japanophiles, quite possibly the best choice of adult coloring books is Andrew Vigar's Floating World, which consists of copies of 22 Japanese wood block prints, all dating between 1777 and 1930. More than 90% of readers of one book review site rate this book at four or five stars.

The pictures to color are all from the ukiyo-e (literally "pictures of the floating world") genre, and readers will recognize some of them for sure. The most famous print to color, Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," is also on the cover of the book. ABC Television news has called the picture, "possibly the most reproduced image in the history of all art."

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book.

But, if you don't care about the history of Japanese wood block prints, you can simply grab your pens or pencils and just start coloring. Some say that the paper is not thick enough for sharpie-based markers, but that seems to not be a consensus opinion. In any case, color pencils will work every time.

Prints include geisha, kabuki actors, flora and fauna, and beautiful scenes/landscapes. Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms? Of course. The book is 9 x 12 inches (22.9 x 30.5 cm), with some parts of most pictures being very detailed. You can color in great swaths at once, or you can color in fine detail.

After the short opening of two pages of the history and background of wood block prints and ukiyo-e, and two pages of a somewhat-interesting history of the seals on the prints, the book is split into four-page sections.

The first, right-facing pages have 2-5 paragraphs on the artist and/or the history of the print, including the date. The next two pages are the print on the left side and your soon-to-be magnum opus on the right. The fourth pages are blank, save for the name of the previous artwork with the artist's name and year of completion in small letters at the bottom of the page.

Of course, there is no need to copy the original colors. Color in "The Great Wave" as all red, or even chartreuse if you want. There are no art teachers around to give you a low score or unwanted suggestions.

When you are done, leave your masterpieces in the book, or tear them out using the perforations on each page that you've colored.

Hokusai, who is said to have influenced painters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Claude DeBussy, has three pictures represented in the book, but Utagawa Hiroshige has the most, with seven. Most of these may be familiar to you, especially "Suijin and Massaki on the Sumida River." Two of Hokusai's contributions come from his famous series entitled, "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji."

An adult coloring book of Japanese classics by Hokusai, Hiroshige etc.

Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

Looking to buy Japanese art directly from Japan? GoodsFromJapan is here to help.

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

変なホテル henn na Hotel は変じゃないホテルー浅草橋

Henn na Hotelーvol.2

前回このブログでオープンしたての「変なホテルー仙台」を紹介しました。

コスパ最高、コロナ感染対策満点の有良ホテルとして取り上げたのですが、今回は東京の浅草橋に泊まってみました!

浅草橋といえば、スカイツリーは目と鼻の先。東京を訪れる観光客にはとっても魅力的なエリアです。

まずは変なホテルの一番の売り、ロボットが受付でお出迎え。

ホテルの特徴その1、受付はロボット.
ホテルの特徴その1、受付はロボット

セルフチェックインなので入力などに少し時間はかかります。

でもその分、宿泊料金(1泊ツイン1人当たり¥3,500~)に還元されているので、これぐらいの手間はまあいいか。非対面なので何より安心。

玄関には電動キックボード「Luup」も設置されています。これで、下町を闊歩するのもいいですね! あと10歳若かったら、絶対トライします。ちなみに20代のカップルは楽しそうに試乗してました(悔し涙)。

電動キックボードもレンタルできる
電動キックボードもレンタルできる

2階フロントでは1時間置きに15人のロボットたちが華麗にダンスを披露。可愛い。シャープが開発した人型ロボットとスマホが合体した作品。ロボットファンには垂涎の的で、これ目当てに訪れる人もいるようです。


さて、お部屋に入ってみましょう。

私が推す変なホテルの特徴その2。アメニティが良いです。この価格帯のホテルだと、ボディシャンプーや髪の毛のシャンプーにそう期待はできません。使った後、髪の毛ゴワゴワ~でも「まっ、しょうがないか」とあきらめることも多いのですが、ここのは香りもチープじゃなく、仕上がりも適度にしっとり。女性客のニーズを掴んでいると思いました。

アメニティは意外と高品質.
アメニティは意外と高品質

そして、前回仙台編でもお伝えしましたが、自動クリーニングマシンの LGstylerで脱いだお洋服をリフレッシュするのもお忘れなく。スチームジェネレーターが、衣類についたしわや、嫌なニオイを除去してくれます。変なホテルチェーンはほぼ全室これを完備しているので、これを使わないと、ここに泊まった意味がありませーん!

シャワーを浴びて一息ついたら、もう夕暮れ。スカイツリーが夏の夜空に光を灯しはじめました。

浅草橋から望むスカイツリー、美しい!
浅草橋から望むスカイツリー、美しい

浅草橋は神田川沿いの下町情緒あふれる街です。小粋なカフェや飲み屋さんも多く、そぞろ歩きにはぴったり。一昔前の時代にタイムスリップしたかのようなレトロで独特の雰囲気があり、外国人にも人気があります(特にフランス人)。私は勝手に「ここは日本のカルチェラタン♪」と思っていて、泊まるなら浅草駅や東京ソラマチ界隈よりも、絶対お薦め。

すみだ葛飾北斎美術館にも近い.
すみだ葛飾北斎美術館にも近い

朝食は地階の「インド料理GANGA」でいただきます。

これが変なホテルの特徴、その3。レストランが面白い。GANGAでは、日本食と本格インドカレーやナンのビュッフェが朝から楽しめます。タンドール窯でチキンも焼きたてですよ!

朝食は本格インド料理と和食のビュッフェ.
朝食は本格インド料理と和食のビュッフェ

ちなみに、「変なホテル―赤坂」にはアイリッシュパブCRAICが階下に入っています。こんな風に変なホテルはローカルの客層も取り込んで、国際色豊かなダイニングを提供しているんです。グローバルな雰囲気に浸れて、毎回お泊まりする楽しみの一つです。

やっぱり今回も「変なホテルhenn na Hotelは変じゃないホテル」でした!

www: 変なホテル―赤坂 henn na Hotelを予約

www: 変なホテル―浅草橋 henn na Hotelを予約

下町歩きにはうってつけ。

Gallery

変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Kabosu Juice Oita Prefecture

Oita Kabosu Juice 大分カボスジュース

Kabosu fruit on a tree.
Kabosu fruit on a tree

Kabosu are a southern Japanese citrus fruit, closely related to yuzu. While yuzu, however, are most popular for their peel, kabosu are famous for their juice.

Kabosu juice is essentially used for the same purposes as lemon juice but it has a much stronger acidity and a rich unique aroma - much richer than the mass-produced Californian lemons commonly available at Japanese supermarkets. Thus, people in Kyushu, Japan's main southern island, clearly prefer the kabosu over imported lemon. In many cases, they also replace vinegar with kabosu juice.

Kabosu Fruits

Kabosu fruits grow on evergreen trees sporting sharp thorns. The harvest season is from about late August to early October, depending on the area.

Kabosu are generally harvested while being green and thus unripe - this is the time when their flavor is the best. Kabosu can already be used to full effect in their green state. When stored, kabosu fruits then turn into a bright yellow.

A box of Oita kabosu.
A box of Oita kabosu

Oita Kabosu

While you can find the occasional kabosu tree successfully growing fruits even in the Chichibu Mountains close to Tokyo, the main area for kabosu is Kyushu, and there specifically Oita Prefecture in the northeast of the island.

Oita Prefecture has some kabosu trees more than 100 years old, some are said to be 200 or even close to 300 years old. Such old kabosu trees cannot be found anywhere else. This leads some historians to believe that the fruit is an indigenous Oita Prefecture plant.

Today, Oita Prefecture is the main producer of kabosu in Japan, harvesting more than 5,000 tons of the fruits annually, mostly grown in orchards around the ancient cities of Usuki and Taketa.

Bottle of MOHEJI Oita Kabosu Juice.
Bottle of Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Oita Cuisine

Kabosu are an integral part of Oita cuisine, replacing lemon in most local restaurants and used in many households as a daily ingredient. As juice or sliced as a garnish on fish dishes. Kabosu juice gets sprinkled over sashimi, kabosu slices are added to some udon noodle soups, kabosu are also used in a wide variety of sweets.

People in Oita also often add kabosu juice to their shochu. Oita shochu like Shitamachi Napoleon, Nishi no Hoshi and Iichiko are famous all over Japan - they are however best with a bit of kabosu juice added to the shot.

In Oita, people pour kabosu juice into ice cube forms and keep it in their freezer - ready for use throughout the year. In short, in Oita, kabosu are part of daily life.

In recent years, dried and powdered kabosu peel has become a popular ingredient in spice mixes such as the Shichimi Togarashi.

The English-language website of the Oita Prefecture Kabosu Promotion Association gives an informative and richly pictured introduction to the manifold uses of kabosu in the region.

Oita Kabosu Juice

Boxes of freshly harvested Oita kabosu are a popular autumn gift in Japan. Outside of Japan, however, kabosu fruits are hard to come by.

Many countries prohibit the direct import of fresh fruits.

Bottled Oita Kabosu Juice however can be shipped worldwide. It's 100% fruit juice without any additives and ready for use in all the ways freshly pressed kabosu juice is used in Oita Prefecture.

Similar to purely pressed lemon juice, it is highly concentrated and cannot be consumed as a drink as such. Just add a little of the juice to a glass of cold sparkling water and you have a refreshingly sour drink for the still pretty hot late summer / early autumn days in Oita and elsewhere. Add a few drops to a hot black tea and you have a great warming winter tea.

Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Numerous companies press, bottle, and ship Oita Kabosu Juice. The bottled juice pictured here comes from Moheji, a Tokyo-based company that, according to its website, is active all over Japan and closely cooperating with producers of traditional agricultural products, striving "to create safe, reliable, and high-quality products that bring out the magic of the ingredients and to deliver authentic flavor and the diverse food culture born in every corner of Japan to our many customers."

Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice comes in 150ml bottles. As the juice is highly concentrated, a bottle or two might last for quite some time if used in a regular family setting. Restaurants, of course, will have a much higher demand.

Unopened bottles stay in good condition for about one year. After opening, the bottles should be kept in the refrigerator.

MOHEJI Oita Kabosu Juice.
Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Purchase Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice & A Range of Other Foodstuffs From Japan

You can buy Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice directly from Goods from Japan.

Purchase a range of Japanese foodstuff and drinks from GoodsFromJapan.

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by Johannes Schonherr

© GoodsFromJapan.com

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Jinbei & Samue

Japanese Summer Dresses: Jinbei and Samue 甚平と作務衣

Jinbei are traditional, Japanese summer wear.
Jinbei are traditional, Japanese summer wear

In Japan, beating the summer heat has been a major concern for centuries. From summer retreats in the mountains for the rich to traditional architecture that puts much emphasis on the most thorough ventilation to the creation of refreshing summer drinks - finding ways to alleviate the heat has always been on people's minds. So, it's certainly no surprise that the fashion designers of yore did their best to contribute. One such invention was the jinbei.

A jinbei worn in the Nagano countryside.
A jinbei worn in the Nagano countryside

Jinbei 甚平

With its upper part loosely based on the haori, a traditional jacket worn by men over their kimono, the jinbei of today is a casual combination of short-sleeved light jacket and somewhat Western-style knee-length pants made of cotton or hemp.

The jinbei jacket is held in place by two sets of cords: the right side of the jacket is worn inside and fit into position by the set of cords to the left. The left side is worn outside and fixed by the cords to the right. It's the same principle that also the yukata, the light summer kimono employs. Just that in the case of the jinbei jacket, no obi belt is necessary - the cords do the trick.

The jinbei jacket typically has a pocket on the left side, jinbei pants may or may not have pockets.

Jinbei sets come with jackets and pants in the same color, usually solid indigo, blue, brown,  or black with a muted or no pattern.

The seams connecting the sleeves to the jacket as well as the side seams of the jacket leave space for ventilation, assuring the airy quality of the jacket.

Relaxing in a jinbei in Japan.
Relaxing in a jinbei in Japan

History

The history of the jinbei is up for debate. Though its roots in the haori seem to be quite clear, some fashion historians claim that the design has been based specifically on the jinbaori, a very basic haori worn by samurai over their armor in order to display their kamon, the symbol of their allegiance.

Jinbei jackets more in line with today's style became a fashion in Osaka during the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926). Those were however knee-length and didn't come with trousers.

The current design - a short jacket and short pants - is said to date back to 1965.

Gaps between the jinbei jacket and its sleeves provide good ventilation.
Gaps between the jinbei jacket and its sleeves provide good ventilation

Wearing Jinbei

Jinbei are traditionally men's clothing though jinbei for small children are also popular. Women seem to prefer the yukata over the jinbei when it comes to light summer dress.

Jinbei are considered to be very casual attire. They are typically worn around the house, in the garden or for short walks in the neighborhood, like say, to the convenience store.

While very few middle-aged men can be seen wearing jinbei in public, younger men attending summer festivals often see the jinbei as a comfortable alternative to the yukata. At summer festivals and firework displays you often see groups of young people with the girls in a yukata and the guys in a jinbei.

Some seniors on the other hand tend to show no hesitation in walking in public in a jinbei at all - they might take the train right to Ginza in a jinbei. Some may consider that odd but in general, the reaction is rather, "that's really cool".

Samue are traditional working dresses for monks and farmers.
Samue are traditional working dresses for monks and farmers

Samue 作務衣

The samue comes with long pants but looks otherwise very similar to the jinbei. It has a totally different background, however. While the jinbei is an urban leisure dress, the samue is the traditional working dress for Buddhist monks performing gardening, farming, and other duties maintaining Zen monasteries. This type of work is called samu, hence the name samue for the dress.

Because of its practicality, the samue has also become popular with farmers and gardeners - from there it spread to the city streets as a fashion item. Light, well-ventilated samue are perfect summer fashion.

Since the samue has its roots and is still employed as a work dress, however, there are versions for the other seasons as well. Monks and farmers do need to go out working in the winter, too. So, there are heavy-duty samue that keep you warm even in freezing temperatures.

Purchase samue from GoodsFromJapan.
Purchase samue from GoodsFromJapan

Purchase Jinbei and Samue & A Range of Other Clothing From Japan

If you want to buy a light summer samue, you will find it at Japanese department stores right next to the jinbei line.

For a winter samue, you are best visiting a work clothing store like Workman.

Or simply order jinbei and samue from GoodsFromJapan.

Purchase a range of Japanese clothing from GoodsFromJapan.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Ramune - A Taste of Japan's Summer

Ramune ラムネ

Chilled ramune on a hot summer day.
Chilled ramune on a hot summer day

Ramune is a refreshing, Japanese, carbonated drink sold in Codd-neck glass bottles. The drink is a popular staple at summer festivals across the country, it can also frequently be found in small shops near tourist destinations. The more obscure that tourist destination is, the more old-fashioned the shop is, the more likely you are to encounter Ramune.

In a country that sees highly-touted new releases of soft drinks every season by the large beverage companies, ramune survives as a sort of niche product, seen by many Japanese in quite nostalgic terms.

Most Japanese seem to have memories of drinking ramune during a summer trip to the countryside - and of breaking the bottle to retrieve the glass ball from the bottleneck to use it as a marble to play with.

Today's parents buy their children ramune to have them experience those same childhood moments, just the way their own parents did. Thus, ramune lives on through the generations - and children like to play with glass balls no matter what the newest electronic toy may be.

Ramune bottles, Japan.
Ramune bottles

Codd-neck Bottles

The word ramune is a Japanese adaptation of the English word lemonade. Ramune is however not just any lemonade. There are plenty of lemonades in Japan sold in cans and plastic bottles – they can however never be a ramune. To qualify as ramune the drink has to come in a Codd-neck bottle.

The Codd-neck bottle was patented in 1872 by British inventor Hiram Codd as an alternative to the use of cork as a bottle cap for carbonated drinks.

In a Codd-neck bottle, a glass ball, usually called a marble, is pressed against a rubber gasket in the narrow bottleneck close to the lid by the power of the carbonate in the liquid, tightly sealing the bottle by using the power mechanics working inside the bottle. You open the bottle by pushing the glass ball out of its position and into a neighboring chamber within the bottle. The tiny tool to do this comes with the bottle, sealed under the plastic wrapper covering the top.

This demands certain techniques that customers quickly learn, though often only after having a part of the drink shoot out in a gush or by the glass ball falling back into place once they raise the bottle to their mouths. That's all part of the fun, part of those precious childhood memories that make ramune a drink handed over from generation to generation.

Hiram Cobb also introduced the idea of bottle recycling. He started a bottle exchange in London where his bottles could be returned to the original manufacturer. Agents collecting the bottles were paid a fee.

What he didn't count on was the popularity of the glass marbles inside the bottles to children, the main customers of the carbonated soft drinks sold in his licensed bottles. They rather smashed the bottles and used the glass marbles for their own purposes. For playing, for trading.

Hand-drawn ramune poster at a store in Chichibu, Saitama.
Hand-drawn ramune poster at a store in Chichibu, Saitama

Banta

Codd-neck bottles became the rage all over the British Empire but it was the Crown Colony of India where a soft drink was invented that was particularly suited to and, in fact, defined by the mechanics of the Codd-neck bottle: Banta.

The lemon or orange-flavored drink soon went from the posh Colonial clubs into the Indian street markets. Codd-neck bottles were produced by the millions in small glass works. Today. Banta is still one of India's most popular soft drinks.

Opened ramune bottle with bottle opener. The pushed-in glassball can be seen in the upper part of the bottle.
Opened ramune bottle with bottle opener. The pushed-in glass ball can be seen in the upper part of the bottle

History of Ramune

British pharmacist Alexander Cameron Sim (1840-1900) may have known about the success of Banta in India. In any case, shortly after his arrival in the newly-opened port town of Kobe, Japan, he devised his own invention, a lemon-based drink in a Codd-neck bottle that soon became known as ramune.

Introduced in 1884 to the foreign settlement, ramune soon became popular with the Japanese population after an article in the Tokyo Mainichi Shimbun praised the drink's preventative properties against cholera.

Cholera, an infectious disease caused by poor-quality drinking water, was a major concern at the time. Ramune, made from clean mountain water was seen as an easy alternative to drinking the questionable water of the wells within the big cities. As it contained no alcohol, it could also be used as a drink for small children.

Ramune Manufacturers

Today, the production of ramune is regulated by the Law Concerning Adjustment of Business Activities of Large Business Operators to Ensure Opportunities for Business Activities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME Sector Adjustment Law), a law that also regulates the production of tofu and shochu, for example.

Major beverage companies are not allowed to engage in the production of ramune and have to leave the field to a variety of smaller businesses. Hata Kousen, based in Osaka, might be the most well-known of the ramune manufacturers active today.

Ramune comes in a very wide range of flavors though the most common is still the original lemon / lime flavor. Some people like to add a few drops of lemon juice to the drink - taking out some of its sweetness and adding more freshness.

Retrieving the Marble

In the old days, the rubber gasket at the lid was sealed to the glass bottle, necessitating the destruction of the bottle to retrieve the glass ball inside.

Today, that rubber gasket has been replaced by a plastic cap that can be unscrewed from the bottle. This makes it very easy to take the glass ball out. Just make sure to turn the cap to the right, in the opposite direction of common unscrewing. The marble then easily plops out of the bottle.

Codd-neck Bottles Today

While the Codd-neck bottle was a major invention of the late 19th century, in the course of the 20th century it was almost universally replaced by the much more convenient crown cork.

Very few beverages are still offered in Codd-neck bottles today. The two major drinks among them are India's Banta and Japan's ramune - which makes the bottles collectibles among some aficionados of vintage bottle designs.

Six-pack of Hata Ramune.
A six-pack of Hata Ramune

Purchase Ramune & A Range of Other Drinks From Japan

Purchase a range of Japanese health drinks from GoodsFromJapan.

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© GoodsFromJapan.com

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Yanai Goldfish Lanterns

Unique Goldfish Lanterns of Yanai 柳井市

Kingyo Chochin lanterns, unique to Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Kingyo Chochin lanterns, unique to Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture

Yanai, a small town in the far western Japanese prefecture of Yamaguchi, is home to unique paper lanterns shaped like goldfish.

Located on the Yanai River a little upstream of where the river empties into the Seto Naikai, the Inland Sea, the tidal river in earlier times was navigable as far as Yanai.

As a result, the town developed and grew as an important port and trading center at a time when the Inland Sea was in essence the most important transportation route in Japan.

Shirakabe Street in Yanai.
Shirakabe Street in Yanai

Edo Period Architecture

A large part of the old town has escaped development and remains essentially as it was in the Edo Period. The town, in fact, is registered as a Historical Preservation District, one of only about 120 in the country.

The main street is lined with buildings displaying one of the common features of merchant towns of the Edo period, white-plastered walls.

Called Shirakabe in Japanese, quite a few tourist areas around Japan have "Shirakabe" streets. Like many of the other similar historic districts in Japan, Yanai has a wide range of local history museums, historic "open houses", interesting gift shops and cafes, and a particularly large soy sauce brewery with a museum. However, what distinguishes Yanai from all the others are the unusual paper lanterns hanging everywhere.

Goldfish lanterns strung above historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi.
Goldfish lanterns strung above historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi

Paper Lanterns

Lanterns made of paper are not an unusual sight in Japan. The classic red lantern, akachochin, hanging outside drinking establishments are well known.

Also many shrines and temples feature paper lanterns, also large numbers of them are hung during festivals with night-time activities such as cherry-blossom viewing parties, and most notably during the Obon period in August where the return of the ancestors is celebrated.

However, the lanterns you see in Yanai are unique and are not round or cylindrical, but shaped like goldfish.

Display of paper lanterns with designs of goldfish during the goldfish lantern festival in Yanai.
Display of paper lanterns with designs of goldfish during the goldfish lantern festival in Yanai

Goldfish

Goldfish, kingyo, have been a popular feature of Japanese summer festivals since the Edo Period, with children playing kingyo sukui, scooping up the tiny fish using a kind of paper scoop. Towards the end of the Edo Period a local merchant named Kumatani Rinzaburo had the idea that maybe the town's kids would enjoy lanterns shaped like goldfish.

The lanterns are made in the same way as traditional lanterns, out of paper and thin strips of bamboo, but with the big, dramatic eyes, and drooping tails and fins, the kingyo chochin are just as decorative during the daytime with the lights off.

Historic streets of Yanai illuminated by unique goldfish lanterns.
Historic streets of Yanai illuminated by unique goldfish lanterns

Kingyo Chochin Festival

The lanterns can be seen all year round along the streets of the old town with hundreds of them hung from the buildings, and are especially delightful when illuminated after dark, but starting in late July even more of the lanterns start to appear, culminating in the town's Kingyo Chochin Festival on August 13th.

Part of the town's Obon celebrations, both banks of the river have large numbers of lantern displays, as well as along Shirakabe Street.

The highlight of the festival are giant goldfish lanterns on floats pulled by local teams. This is very much an influence of the famous Nebuta Festival of Aomori. Bon dances are held alongside an array of traditional festivals stalls, and the culmination is a large firework display.

Goldfish lantern display along the river in Yanai.
Goldfish lantern display along the river in Yanai

Purchase a Range of Lanterns from Japan

Purchase a selection of Yanai lanterns from GoodsFromJapan

Jake Davies

Gallery

In earlier times trading vessels docked at the riverside merchant town of Yanai.
In earlier times trading vessels docked at the riverside merchant town of Yanai
The goldfish lantern has now become the symbol of Yanai, appearing everywhere, even on drain covers.
The goldfish lantern has now become the symbol of Yanai, appearing everywhere, even on manhole covers
Goldfish lanterns strung along a street of historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi.
Goldfish lanterns are strung along a street of historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi
Kingyo chochin, a goldfish lantern from Yanai in Yamaguchi.
Kingyo chochin, a goldfish lantern from Yanai in Yamaguchi

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Japanese Dolls World of Ningyo

Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo

Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo.
Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo

Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo

by Alan Scott Pate

Tuttle

ISBN: 978-0804849777
Hardback, 272 pp

Dolls, models - usually small - of humans and used by children for play but also used in magic and religious ritual, seem to be fairly universal and are found all over the world and date back millennia. Collecting dolls is also a widespread phenomenon not limited to any geographic area or specific time, and it is about the collecting of Japanese dolls that this book begins.

With short chapters on such things as the first Western collectors of ningyo, looking behind the scenes of a Meiji-era Japanese Doll Shop, etc. and the book ends with hints and tips for those who may be thinking about starting to collect Japanese dolls, including a list of dealers around the world who specialize in them, but the greatest part of the book focuses on the dolls themselves.

Page from the book showing text and photos
Copyright Tuttle


Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo covers eighteen different styles of dolls across seven broad categories, and while there are plenty of other types of Japanese dolls, most with regional variations, it covers most of the types of doll you are likely to come across. There are the obvious types such as the dolls found on display at Hina Matsuri, but also several types of mass-produced ceramic dolls and the extremely simple Kokeshi wooden dolls. Interestingly bunraku puppets are also included as are two types of karakuri ningyo, mechanical dolls.

For me, the most intriguing are the iki-ningyo, known as "living dolls" which exhibit a realism that cannot be surpassed and are truly miniature sculptures. For each style of doll we are given the origins of the style and its historical development, but more importantly perhaps, the context for the dolls, how they fit into the broader culture, the whys of their purpose etc.

More meaning is found in the costumes, the poses, the humans that the dolls are modeled on, leading us to a greater appreciation of any dolls we may come across. However, the best reason for buying this book are the photos, 400 of them, almost all full color, some whole page, and all very detailed. This is most definitely a coffee table book that will draw you in after flipping a few pages. For anyone thinking about collecting Japanese dolls, this book is a gold mine, but anyone interested in Japanese art and culture will find plenty to expand their knowledge.

Japanese doll.
Copyright Tuttle

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More Japan Book Reviews

Japanese Kokeshi Dolls: The Woodcraft and Culture of Japan's Iconic Wooden Dolls

Monday, June 20, 2022

Japanese Crafts In Kyoto

Japanese Craft Stores in Kyoto 京都

Japanese crafts are often regarded as formal and for special occasions only. But this is not true. Just as many handicrafts are simple, inexpensive, and created for everyday life. And even simple, daily-life things are skillfully and patiently created by Kyoto craftsmen, who pride themselves on making beautiful things that last for a long, long time. Here are some arts and crafts from Kyoto's most famous stores.

Lacquerware Soup Bowls.

Lacquerware Soup Bowls

New black or dark red lacquer tableware is expensive. But Kyoto's Uruwashi-ya offers you a great solution: used lacquerware. Used or antique lacquerware is very reasonable. However, you should inquire about how it will hold up in dry climates because lacquer is ideally suited to high humidity environments. On the south side of Marutamachi, east of Fuyacho. Open 11 am - 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays. Tel: 075 212 0043.

Brushes & Brooms

Need a handmade brush or broom to clean the house or your garden? Then you've come to the right place. Naito Shoten, an early 19th-century handmade brush and broom shop, has everything you could possibly hope for. Everything from large to small, including brushes for long glasses, pot cleaners, and mats (from ¥400). On the north side of Sanjo, just west of the Kamogawa River. Open daily 9.30 am -7 pm. Tel: 075 221 3018.

Kakimoto, Kyoto.

Japanese Washi Paper Table Decorations

Warm to the touch and naturally colored, Japanese handmade paper or washi can easily be adapted to serve as a table cloth, coasters, and for all kinds of other table decorations. And best of all: washi is so strong that it can be used over and over. For a great selection of washi, go to Kamijikakimoto, on the east side of Teramachi, about 100 meters north of Nijo. Tel: 075 211 3481. (www.kamiji-kakimoto.jp)

Japanese Crafts In Kyoto.

Japanese Bamboo Takehei 竹平

In operation for over 100 years, and now in its 4th generation, Takehei Shoten is known by many as Japan's bamboo specialist.

Within their vast warehouse, they stock about 100 different kinds of specialty bamboo, ranging from the standard to the very exotic. The age-old expertise that Takehei has built up over 100 years is sought out by bamboo artisans, architects, traditional musicians, designers, and antique dealers from all over the country.

Takehei also exports bamboo materials overseas (mainly to antique dealers, interior decorators, landscaping specialists, and architects). As the fastest growing plant in the world (1.2 meters in 12 hours), bamboo is a remarkable material that remains the preference for many of Japan's traditional designs and utensils.

Their curved window frames (for a Japanese home or tea ceremony room) are just one of Takehei's many unique products. (There are only a handful of artisans left in Japan that can make frames of this high quality and intricacy.)

Takehei is located on the west side of Omiya, north of Gojo. Open from 9 am to 6 pm, except on Sundays and public holidays.

Takehei
403 Omiya-gojo, Shimogyo-ku
Kyoto 600-8377
Tel: 075 841 3803

Kanzashi Hair Ornaments 幾岡屋.

Kanzashi Hair Ornaments 幾岡屋

Ikuokaya has been doing business in the world-famous Gion district for more than 150 years. They specialize in kanzashi hair ornaments, fans, bags, and accessories.

Stepping into the shop, one enters the world of accessories that add to the exotic charm of the geiko: splendid, colorful kanzashi (hairpins), exquisitely designed handkerchiefs, little richly patterned silk bags with drawstrings, sandalwood combs. Many of the patterns and designs express the seasonal elements for which Japan is so well known: flowers, bushes, and important symbols like the moon, pine trees, cranes, and rabbits.

Ikuokaya is located on the south side of Shijo, east of Hanamikoji. Open 11 am-7 pm (closed Thursdays). Tel: 075 561 8087. Gion-Shijo Station is the nearest station.

Ikuokaya
577-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa
Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto-shi
605-0074

Asahi-do Ceramics, Kiyomizu, Kyoto.

Asahi-do Ceramics 朝日堂

Asahido is one of the most famous of Kyoto's Kiyomizu yaki pottery stores. It has been a landmark for generations of visitors to Kiyomizu Temple since its establishment in 1870.

From everyday tableware to one-of-a-kind tea ceremony bowls by well-known ceramic artists, Asahido has something for every taste and budget.

The relaxing atmosphere of the traditional Japanese interior offers a welcome break from sightseeing, and the colorful items are displayed under warm, soft lighting. It almost seems more like a ceramics museum than a store. There is also a tea room and gallery space, which exhibits selected ceramic art.

Asahido's exquisite merchandise has won it an international clientele, and it has also been privileged to supply items to the Japanese Imperial Household. However, the wide range of items is sure to provide anyone with many excellent and affordable souvenir ideas. Asahido goods can also be bought at other places around Kyoto: in the Kyoto Tokyu Hotel, the Kyoto ANA Hotel, and Arashiyama Syoryuen in Arashiyama.

Also try Asahido Toan, located just a few shops down the street from the main Asahido store for a range of Japanese crafts.

Asahido Toan offers a range of authentic Japanese traditional crafts, including woodblock prints, bamboo items, incense, as well as Kiyomizu yaki pottery. Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. Packing and delivery service available. Located on Kiyomizuzaka, in front of Kiyomizu Temple. All major credit cards are accepted.

Asahido
1-280, Kiyomizu
Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto 605-0862
Tel: 075 531 2181

Access: Take the Kyoto city bus #206 from Kyoto Station to Gojozaka bus stop, then a 10-minute walk.

Kita no Tenmangu.

Kyoto Fleamarkets

Japan is well known for its temple and shrine flea markets, and Kyoto boasts two that draw crowds from around the country: one at Toji Temple, in south Kyoto, and the other Kita no Tenmangu, in northern Kyoto. The market at Toji is called Kobo-san by locals, which refers to the monk who founded the Kobo sect of Buddhism. It is held on the 21st of every month, on the grounds of Toji. Shoppers in the know arrive very early and bargain hard. Four days later, on the 25th, "Tenjin-san" is held at Kita no Tenmangu Shrine.

Though they are both pilgrimages and take place on religious grounds, the overall feel at both is that of a lively outdoor market. At both, antiques, clothing, statues, fabric, kimono, and fresh vegetables are for sale at booths set up early in the morning by vendors who often come long distances to sell their wares. Ceramics such as tea bowls and pots are also widely available. Pictured above left are good luck charms--mainly for driving and luck on university exams--that are sold at Kita no Tenmangu.

Tenjin-san is west of Nishijin, Kyoto's traditional weaving district also has geisha dance performances on occasion.

The markets date back many centuries, and in addition to food and clothes, and antiques they also feature games for children. There is, for example, the goldfish scoop: with a flimsy net children attempt to scoop up goldfish, which if successful they can take home. There are other cards and shooting games that will be familiar to anyone who has been to an American carnival. The vendors at the games are usually young and in many cases borderline yakuza. Count your change.

Crowds are worst when the weather is good, after 10 am, and at year's end. The smart shoppers will arrive by 6 am to pick through the best goods.

Directions

Toji Temple

Take the Kintetsu Railway local train one stop from Kyoto Station to Toji Station. Walk two blocks west. (Tel: 075 691 3325)

Kita no Tenmangu Shrine

Take the 59 bus from Shijo or Sanjo in downtown Kyoto.

OR

Take the Keifuku Railways train to Kita no Hakubaicho, and walk two blocks along Imadegawa Dori. (Tel: 075 461 0005)

Chionji Temple

Chionji flea market is on a much smaller scale than Toji and Kita no Tenmangu, specializing in hand-made crafts. Chionji market is held on the 15th of each month, and it is often easy to get a space on the morning of the market. The market is on the grounds of Chionji Temple on the northeast corner of Hyakumanben near Kyoto University.

Buses #17, #201, #206. (Tel: 075 781 9171/075 961 0005 to register)

Washi paper art.

Kurotani Washi 黒谷和紙

Kurotani is well-known for its wagami ('rice' paper) production. Appreciation for this lifetime-absorbing craft has led to the paper art of Kurotani being designated an Important Cultural Property of Kyoto.

The history of Kurotani village traces back eight centuries to a warrior of the Taira Clan who, having failed at battle, saw it as his duty to leave an art form for following generations. A communal determination to stay with the traditional techniques employed from the start have led to paper of consistent quality, and to world-wide fame.

Wagami, or washi, is made from the Paper Mulberry tree of the Mulberry Bush family, characterized by its durable, fibrous quality. The delicate beauty of each sheet is apparent, and kept in good condition this kind of paper lasts literally a millenium or more - a stunning technical achievement for the craftspeople of the Heian era.

In the centre of Kurotani the Wagami Exhibition Hall provides paper information (mainly in Japanese). It also offers also a tour of neighborhood homes and workshops, where the paper making process can be viewed. Visitors have the opportunity to produce paper themselves and to purchase products made from washi such as wallets, name card holders, greetings cards, notebooks and zabuton cushions.

Kurotani Washi Kaikan
3 Higashidani, Kurotani-cho
Ayabe City
Kyoto 623-0108
Tel: 0773 44 0213
www: kurotaniwashi.jp

Monday-Friday 9 am-4.30 pm closed weekends and national holidays.

Take the JR Sanin Main Line from Kyoto Station to Ayabe Station (70 minutes by limited express) and exit the station from the south exit. The Kurotani Washi Kaikan is a two minute walk from the Kurotani Washi Kaikan Mae stop on the Aya Bus Kurotani Line.

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