Kyo-yuzen

January 21, 2017

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, and Kanako Wakamatsu

You can see Kimono (old style Japanese clothes) all over Japan, but especially in Kyoto. Kimonos have many different patterns and colors, but do you know how many of them are actually designed? Well, the designs on kimonos are often achieved by dyeing, using a method known as Kyo-yuzen. Here, we would like to introduce some aspects of this unique dyeing method.

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Kimono

1. History of Japanese dyeing methods

2. What is Kyo-yuzen?

3. How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

4. Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

5. Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

History of Japanese dyeing methods

There have been a lot of dyeing methods used in Japan over the years, and most of these were developed from Chinese dyeing types. These were introduced to Japan several thousand years ago, and taught by people from China or Korea, they formed the basis of Japanese dyeing tradition. Before this people dyed clothes very simply by applying different types of grass, flowers or even mud. In the Asuka era, in the middle of the 6th century, there was a system developed that divided people by the color of the clothes they wore. This was to distinguish between class and status, and required greater use of color in fabrics and design. In addition, in the Nara era, in the 8th century, international trade was increased, which meant further diversification in dyeing methods were introduced and spread all over Japan, with each area developing its own style. One of the most famous of these was Kyo-yuzen, a dyeing method created in Kyoto that became hugely popular. Next, we would like to introduce this unique and beautiful, traditional Japanese item.

What is Kyo-yuzen?

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Kyo-yuzen

Kyo-yuzen is one of the dyeing methods developed in Kyoto during the Edo era of the mid to late 17th century. At that time, there was an artist in Kyoto by the name of Miyazaki Yuzensai, who had built a reputation for the exquisitely drawn folding fans he produced.  Due to this, his patrons soon began to encourage him to apply his artistic skills to designs for kimono, too, which he did.  Following this, his name quickly came to be associated with top class kimono design in Kyoto, hence the name that was given to this particular dyeing style, Kyo-yuzen.

There are some interesting features unique to Kyo-yuzen that need to be noted.  First, it is possible to apply any kind of design you want, just like drawing a picture.  Second, there are many colors and hues used in the production of Kyo-yuzen pieces.  Third, a technique using elements of glutinous rice is used to guard against colors mixing or merging together.  Finally, Kyo-yuzen is done by combining more than one dyeing method, and requires several steps to achieve a final result.  Through this, Kyo-yuzen is quite superior to other dyeing methods and has become very popular all over the world.

Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

As we said before, Kyo-yuzen is very famous globally.  For example, some events involving Japanese culture have been held recently in Paris, and there are sales booths for Kyo-yuzen products set up there.  At the booths, stainless steel mugs that are made in cooperation between Japanese Kyo-yuzen craftpersons and craftpersons in Paris are sold, and these are also available in Eigamura, a very famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto. Selling a large number of these mugs means expanding the exposure to traditional crafts of Kyoto to people in foreign countries

How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

There are two main types of dyeing method used for Kyo-yuzen. One of these is hand painting, and the other is using stencils. First, we will explain the hand painting method:

  1. Think of the design you want for the cloth and make a design pattern  
  2. Trace the design onto the cloth
  3. Apply the special glue ② to prevent the colors from mixing with each other (this is called Itomenorioki)
  4. Apply the colors to the cloth
  5. Steam the cloth
  6. Wash the cloth
  7. Steam the cloth again and stretch out the wrinkles
  8. Using a stencil, draw the design onto special Japanese paper and cut out the pattern to make the stencil
  9. Paste the cloth onto a wooden board that is called “Yuzen-Ita”
  10. Put ① onto ② and dye
  11. Same as ⑤~⑦ of hand painting method

Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

In Kyoto, visitors can actually experience Kyo-yuzen at some special studios.  Participants can experience dyeing cloth items like handkerchiefs, wrapping cloths, and so on.  One session is usually about one and a half hours long, and costs between 1,500 yen and 2,500 yen. Therefore, you can experience a traditional craft of Kyoto easily, and after the lesson, you can take the Kyo-yuzen item that you made with your own hands home with you.

Japanese dyeing methods have continued to develop over the centuries, and Kyo-yuzen especially. This method was created by combining a lot of different dyeing methods, which have been improved upon over time, and have become famous all over the world.  You can buy Kyo-yuzen items in many places in Kyoto, and you can also make them by yourself.  Why not give it a try!  

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Kyo-yuzen studio

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Kyo-yuzen items

One of the studios where you can experience Kyo-yuzen is “Marumasu-Nishimuraya” in Kyoto city.

Here’s their website:   http://www.marumasu-nishimuraya.co.jp/

You can reserve an experience time and get the access details there.

Furisode

By: Shiori Iwawaki, Hina Uematsu, Mina Ito

There are several types of kimono, and they vary from place to place. In this article, we will introduce ‘furisode’. Furisode is a kind of kimono and is important to Japanese because almost all Japanese women wear it at least once in their lifetime. We will look at what a furisode actually is and its history, and will introduce three typical situations where furisode can be seen.

 

History of the furisode

A furisode is a style of kimono that can be worn in the coming-of-age ceremony which is called Seijinshiki. The furisode originated in the mid-1500s as middle and upper-class children’s clothing for both sexes, and at that time it was not worn by adults. At first, furisode had quite short sleeves and were used as everyday wear. However, furisode is a form of very tight clothing, so some people couldn’t wear them all the time as they were not practical. As time went by, sleeves became bigger and bigger and they became an elegant form of dress worn mainly on special occasions. Nowadays, popular furisode have long sleeves, but at first they weren’t that long. In the Genroku Era, from 1688 to 1703, furisode sleeve lengths were about 55cm to 95cm, but in the Edo Era, furisode sleeve lengths became about 95cm to 122cm. There was actually a reason that the lengths became longer, and that was because they started to do special dances at that time, and the movements looked much more beautiful if they had longer sleeves.

 

According to a 17th century text, boys could wear furisode until their 18th year or until they went through their coming-of-age ceremony, while girls were supposed to stop wearing them when they married or reached their 20th year. Initially, furisode were not that different for boys and girls, but fabric designs started to become more gender specific in the 19th century.  In the 20th century, furisode became restricted to women only, mainly due to western influence on clothes for boys and girls. As the furisode became increasingly associated with young adult women, the shorter-sleeved children’s type became known as Wakiake.  This means open-sided, in English.

 

When and where they are worn

Furisode are mainly worn in three situations. One of them is at a wedding as an attendee and another is at Yuino. Yuino is a proof of engagement ceremony when both families and the matchmaker gather together. However, the most common situation for Japanese is at the coming-of-age ceremony. People who became 20 years old are called ‘seijin’ in Japan and a coming-of-age ceremony is held on the 2nd Monday in January. On that day, women who became 20 years old wear furisode and celebrate becoming ‘seijin’. Originally, furisode could only be worn by women who were not married, therefore, almost all women wear furisode in the ceremony even though they are already married. Also the design of furisode has changed. In the past, the designs of furisode were older, traditional patterns, which could fit the Japanese mind, but now, along with the times, the designs are changing to more common patterns like leopard print. There are many more kinds of design than a long time ago, so we can choose from a large variety of patterns of furisode. The clothes which we wear today are comfortable to wear and easy to move in, too. On the other hand, furisode are very tight and hard to wear and move and run in.

Do you know the differences between kimono and furisode? Actually, they are basically the same. As there are many kinds of dresses, so there are many kinds of kimono. All furisode have long sleeves, but they can be divided into three different types, which are ko-furisode, chu-furisode and o-furisode. The ko-furisode is usually worn with a hakama for graduation ceremonies. The sleeves are a little bit shorter than furisode sleeves at about 75-87cm long, but they are still longer than standard female kimono sleeves. The chu-furisode is the most common type of furisode. Young girls usually wear it during their coming-of-age ceremony. The chu-furisode has medium size sleeves somewhere between ko-furisode and o-furisode, and the sleeves are about 91-106cm long. The o-furisode, also called the hon-furisode, is the most formal furisode, and mostly worn by brides. The O-furisode has super long 114-125cm sleeves, as well as a train. They are quite heavy, and difficult to walk around in. Furisode come in various styles and designs and it is lovely to see women and girls still wearing them in modern society, on their wedding days, special occasions, and especially on the day of the coming-of-age ceremony.

Hina Uematsu wear red furisode

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Shiori Iwawaki wear blue furisode

 


Mina Ito wear pink furisode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hina Uematsu’s ribbon color is black with white flower

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Mina Ito’s ribbon color is black with yellow and pick flower

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Shiori Iwawaki’s ribbon is gold with red and green flower

 

 

 

Geta

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

Have you ever heard of ‘Geta’?

Maybe you know “Kimono”, which is a traditional style of Japanese clothing, but how about “Geta”?  Geta are a kind of shoe or sandal, and Japanese people wear them when they wear Kimono, like women wear high heels when they wear dresses.  Here, we are going to introduce Geta to you in three ways:

What are Geta?

History of Geta

Different types of Geta

In addition, we are also going to give you some surprising facts about this interesting Japanese clothes item.

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Geta

What are Geta?

As we mentioned before, Geta are a kind of old Japanese style shoe and people wear them with Kimono or Yukata, in general.

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Kimono

Geta are usually made of wood, with the price changing by the kind of wood used. If Geta are made of “Kiri”, for example, then they would be a high price indeed. There are some different styles of geta, but in general, they have three main components to them; “Dai”, “Ha”, and “Hanao”.  Dai is the base board that people put their feet on, and Ha are the pieces of wood that support the Dai from below. Ha means teeth in Japanese, and the name comes from the side view of a Geta.  Geta usually have 2 “Ha”. The Hanao is made of cloth and it is placed on the Dai. When people wear Geta, the Hanao passes between the big toe and the second toe, a little like a beach sandal. Geta consist of these 3 parts, and this type of Geta is the latest type. Then, how about the old style?

History of Geta

In olden times, Geta were made and used as work shoes in Japan. In the Yayoi period (about BC 300 ~ BC 300) people in Japan started using “Ta-Geta” (“Ta” means “rice field” in Japanese). At that time, rice farming was started, and people could not move easily in the rice fields because the ground was muddy and soft. Therefore, they made Ta-Geta to make it easier to work in rice fields. However, Ta-Geta did not have Ha and their Hanao were made of straw. Furthermore, another style, “Nezura-Geta” (“Nezura” is a kind of fish in Japan), were used on the beach or in the shallows. Nezura-Geta had needles attached to their soles, like spiked shoes, and people wore them to catch fish.

During the Heian period, (BC 794 ~ BC 1185), one type of Geta, “Takaba”, which had only one Ha, were worn by priests. They usually wore them when they climbed up and down a mountain. It sounds very difficult to climb up and down a mountain wearing Takaba, but apparently they were quite suitable for slippery mountain roads. However, towards the end of this era, nearly all the common people wore “Zouri” (that were made only of straw and very simple) instead of Geta, and Geta became a rare and expensive thing for the average person.   

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Zouri

It wasn’t until the Edo era (BC 1603 ~ BC 1868) that people started to wear Geta again, and this was because people started to become more interested in fashion.  They wore Geta not only as work shoes, but also as a fashion item. Also, up to then, Geta had usually only been worn on rainy days, however, from the middle of the Edo period, people began to wear them on sunny days, too. Thereafter, the skill of making Geta improved and the shops selling them began to appear, and in greater numbers. Because of this, more than 200 kinds of Geta were made at that time, and Geta became more and more famous among common people. So, what types are there around now?

Different types of Geta

Actually, there are many kinds of Geta still worn now, and a good example is “Ippon-Geta”. They have only one Ha, supporting piece, and are very good for your body balance. If you wear them, it can make your upper body stronger. It is also said that wearing Ippon-Geta can heal back pain or gonalgia, too. Another type is called “Tengu-Geta” because it has been said this type of Geta was worn by Tengu, a sort of Japanese monster, and also god, that has a long nose and red face. This simple variety is very similar to the Ta-Geta we introduced earlier.

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Ippon-Geta

Finally, we have “Okobo”. Okobo are often worn by Maiko. We talked about Maiko in a previous article:  

http://thekyotoproject.org/english/the-long-journey-of-becoming-a-maiko/)

The height of an Okobo is about 10cm, and are worn mostly by women. In the “Shichi-Go-San”, a festival in Japan to celebrate the healthy growth of children, girls often wear them. They also go by some other names, including Pokkuri, Koppori or Bokkuri, but this is different from place to place.

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Okobo

Conclusion

Geta is a traditional Japanese shoe, and, in olden times people used them as work shoes. Now, however, they are worn still as a fashion item, too. Recently, in Kyoto, the number of rental Kimono shops is increasing because of the number of foreign visitors interested in this style. If you go to one of these shops, you can try wearing Kimono and Geta and go sightseeing with them on. Also, most of the shops have hairstylists, so if you are women, you can try a traditional hairstyle. It costs around 3,000 yen 〜 6,000 yen, so we recommend you to try it. It may be difficult to walk wearing Geta for the first time, but it really is a uniquely Japanese traditional experience. You will surely enjoy Kyoto even more if you try out the old Japanese clothes style, Kimono and Geta!

Kyo-Kanoko

by Manami Otahara & Miki Sawai

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Today we went to Miyako-messe. Miyako-messe is a museum, you can see traditional crafts in Kyoto. When we entered in Miyako-messe, we were very surprised, because there are many people in there. In Miyako-messe, you can see demonstration by craftspeople. The demonstrations are very powerful, so we were excited. Next, we went to the souvenir corner. You can buy many kind of traditional crafts. For example, scarfs, bags, hair accessories and so on, however we were most impressed by the Kanoko.

There are 74 traditional crafts in Kyoto. Everybody knows about kimono, however not everyone knows Kanoko. What is Kanoko? There are two patterns of kimono, one is dyed, another is woven. Kanoko is dyed cloth. Kanoko is used for Kimono and Kanoko is one of the 74 crafts.  However it is different from dyed Kimono. There are many bits and wrinkles. How is it made? It is made from one piece of cloth. The cloth is made by craftspeople. Craftspeople twist one by one.

How many twists do you think it takes to make Kanoko? One hundred? One thousand? This Kimono is twisted three hundred thousand times. When people make Shibori Kimono, it takes 6 months to 1 year. Why does it take a lot of time?   Why is called it Kanoko shibori?   The reason is because Kanoko means young deer in Japanese. Japanese people believe Kanoko looks like a deer pattern, therefore people say Kanoko.

History

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In 7c, Kanoko was introduced to Japan from India. This was written about in a book and there are some Waka poems about Kanoko Shibori from 7c as well. In 10c, Shibori was worn by princesses, princes, and rich people. In the Edo period, it was around as a brand clothes in Japan, and it was made in Kyoto, which was called Kyo-Kanoko Shibori. For a long time, craftspeople passed on the technique of how to twist from generation to generation.

In Kyoto, are there many souvenirs? If you come to Kyoto, what souvenir will you buy? Sweets? Kimono? Macha? I recommend Kanoko. Kanoko is used to make hair accessories and it is a reasonable price. Kanoko Kanzashi is a good item, because Maiko wear Kanzashi. Kanzashi is a hair accessory, and it is able to hold up your hair with only one stick. It is very cute! Another one is furoshiki, it is big cloth, so it can wrap ground something. For example, you can wrap a present in it to become a bag so it is easy to carry. If you come to Kyoto, you should buy a Kanoko item for a souvenir for your family.

Address

Miyako-messe
9-1, Okazaki Seisyoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8343

The Contrast of Red and White

by Mayu Kuwahara, Karen Takeda, Yuri Nonaka

Why people are attracted to Maiko

The Gion district in Kyoto is one of the famous places where you can spot a Maiko. These places are called “Hanamachi.” On Hanamachi street, if you are lucky, you will have a chance to see maiko in the early or late evening. You would probably fall in love with their beauty. Especially, the contrast of their pure white skin and the vivid red lips; it attracts many people irrespective of their age or gender. Some girls yearn for being such a beautiful maiko, and I was one of them.
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Longing to be a Maiko

Why do Japanese girls want to be a Maiko?
​When I was 15 years old, I watched a TV documentary about how a girl became a maiko in Kyoto. The protagonist was a  15-year-old-girl who looked normal, and yet she really yearned to be a maiko, the same as me. In the program she said that she wanted to live in the hierarchy, the mysterious world which cannot be seen easily, and the world with traditional conventions. Also, she felt a special attraction for living just next to the things that have been handed down since olden times. When I heard that, I realized these she and other girls who want to be maiko were meant to live in Hanamachi.  At the same time, I was moved to tears and thought what a nice thing it would be to master the skills of a maiko!

Maiko Makeup Step by Step

There is one step to becoming a Maiko in Kyoto and anyone can become a maiko by following this way of make up.
1. Soften the “bintsuke abura,”* which is waxy/oily undercoat, in your hands and apply liberally all over the face, neck and top of the chest. This method is used as the foundation for the “shironuri,” the white base.  The workmanship of shironuri is different depending on the way bintsuke abura  is applied. Therefore, this part is very important.
2. Dilute the “neri oshiroi”* in a dish and dissolve it in water. Then, paint it over the same areas where you applied the bintsuke abura with a special brush called “itahake.”* Use a sponge to blend the makeup. In this part of the process, maiko apply the make-up to their own neck while using a mirror, or the maiko will help each other to apply this coat. After that, apply  the “kona oshiroi”* over your face and press by using a puff.
There are two meanings of neck make-up; one is to make the neck look slim and the other is to wish the maiko will perform well. For Japanese people, showing the nape and neck line is thought to be erotic.
3. Dust “tonoko”* onto the upper half of the face with a brush. Do the same for cheeks.
4. Draw the eyebrow with the black eyebrow pencil. Then, add red lining to the black eyebrows.*
5. Make a small diamond shape on the outer corner of the eyelid with red lining color. These are called “mebari”* in Japanese. Then, use a cotton swab to bring excess color from the diamond underneath the lash line.
6. Use black liquid eyeliner to create a fine line and apply a second or third line to create a thicker line.
7. Put red lining color on the lips. Apply slightly higher than the natural lip line. Maiko who only have one year of experience use different ways of makeup. To show their loveliness, only their lower lips are painted with red lining color.

Become a Maiko

If you were over 16 years old, it might be too late to be maiko, but what if you could turn yourself into a maiko for a single day? There are many places where you can experience becoming a maiko in Kyoto. Turning yourself into a maiko is one of the most popular activities for tourists and girls who yearned once to become a maiko in Kyoto. Unlike other activities, you can get an impressive and fun experience thorough traditional Japanese culture. If you are in Kyoto, maiko makeover experience is a must!
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* bintsuke abura : Waxy/Oily undercoat
* neri oshiroi: White face paint
* kona oshiroi: White face power
* tonoko Rouge: Pink/Red power
* mebari/beni Red Lining Color: Red cream
* itahake: Wide brush

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wagasa

by Yu Sakamoto, Kazu Shibao, and Taishi Nishikawa

Japanese Umbrella

Japanese Umbrella

Which item do you think every person definitely has at least one of? Although it could be several different things, the umbrella is certainly one of them. Did you know that Japan has its own original umbrella? It is called the wagasa. When you walk around Kyoto, you might encounter a woman wearing a kimono. She often is also carrying a wagasa, which can be of an even more vivid color in the sunshine. This is a necessary part of traditional Kyoto life and culture. However, the wagasa has dramatically decreased in production. This is because the western umbrella is cheaper and more convenient for modern Japanese people. Nevertheless, Kyoto actually has its own original umbrella: the kyo-wagasa.

Kyoto has been at the cultural center of Japan for more than 1,000 years. The wagasa has been around for almost as long. It is said that the Kyo-wagasa features the ancient aesthetics of Kyoto. Nobody knows when it was created exactly, but it is said that it’s production and use expanded in Edo period (1603~1867). One of the salient features of kyo-wagasa is the kind of paper used to make it. There are three kinds.

Gokayama-washi from Toyama prefecture. The traditional skills to make gokayama-washi have been protected throughout the centuries. Although there were more than one thousand five hundred factories, there are only three factories now. It is thinner than any others. But it is very strong and used for making Shoji (paper sliding door).

Minou-washi from Gifu prefecture. This type of paper has been around for more than one thousand three hundred years. It is used in many different situations, like for the recording sheet. Unlike other types of paper, it does not turn yellow after 100 years or more.

Echizen-washi of Fukui prefecture. The traditional skills to make this paper have also been protected. And many of them are handmade. It is made from three kind of natural materials. Then this paper is used to make things used in daily life. For example, echizen-housoushi, which is wrapping paper upon which Japanese designs are drawn, postcards, business cards, and more.

There are two main types of Kyo-wagasa. One is for a rainy days. It has a water-resistant finish, either by using linseed oil (traditional) or with the use of modern chemicals. The other one is just for show or indoor use. In this case, there is no water repellent finish. It continues to develop and evolve. Recently, a new kinds of Kyo-wagasa have appeared, for example, an illumination design, a mini Kyo-wagasa for appreciation, and an architect interior design, and more.

The Structure of the Japanese Umbrella

The structure of the Wagasa is made to be much more delicate than the Western umbrella. There have many kind of Japanese umbrellas in Japan. Even Japanese craftsman who make typical Japanese umbrellas, do not know how to make a traditional kyo-wagasa. The main materials of the Japanese umbrella are bamboo (harvested in October and November), the wood of ego (Japanese tree) string, washi (Japanese paper), oil paint of cashew (oil of cashew nuts shell), silk and so on. All of these materials put together become a Japanese umbrella by a lot of craftsman. The Japanese umbrella takes a few months to create. There are many delicate and complicated processes to make a Japanese umbrella. In fact, there are over 100 processes involved in its production. The most important process is shaving bone, Hari (paste), and finishing. This article will introduce the important processes.

Shaving Bone

Japanese umbrellas should look like bamboo growing in the nature. Paper and string should be perfectly aligned to pass between the bones. The craftsman must mark the bamboo perfectly, and then shave it to make many sticks. After that he must collect all the sticks and repair it to one stick.

Hari (paste)

Hari does not only paste the paper in the umbrella. This paper needs to be compact, because head of the Japanese umbrella is thin. At this point, the craftsman should not wrinkle the paper as much as possible and he must calculate everything to make beautiful circle when people open the Japanese umbrella. Umbrellas damaged by rain can ruin the motion of open and close. Therefore Japanese umbrellas need to protected from such damage by water. This process is so difficult. Therefore professional skill is required.

Finish

The finishing person paints the wax on the paper of umbrella and dries the Japanese umbrella under the sun. At this point, if the wax is too much, the papers will stick to each other and then the umbrella cannot open. However if the amount of wax is too little, the paper will be broken by the rain. After a few days, the craftsman paints a cashew at the top of the bone. The finishing person will paint a cashew quickly and exactly only on the top of the bones. This part is pure art.

Structure of wages

Structure of wages

In Kyoto, you can buy a wagasa at many places. However, there is only one shop that makes proper traditional wagasa in Kyoto.  We can see the wagasa quite well in Arashiyama, Teramachi or Kawaramachi, but the wagasa which they are selling is mostly just the umbrella with wagasa design. Therefore the price is much cheaper and the weight is lighter, so it is easy to get one. That should be reason why those are very popular. The cheap wagasa made by washi is not waterproof, so it’s not available on a rainy day. It doesn’t matter If you only use as a parasol or you want to hold it when you wear the kimono, but if you want to use it during any weather, I don’t recommend it.

As I first said, in Kyoto there is only one shop that makes proper traditional Kyo-wagasa. The name of that shop is Hiyoshiya. Hiyoshiya was first established about 150 years ago, around Gojo Honkaku temple in the late Edo period. After that, it moved to Kamigyoku Touzai town; the second generation Yozo Jiro had a wagasa shop in front of the Houkyo temple. Later, the third generation was Isaburo, and the fourth generation was Emiko. So for hundreds of years, they have been making a Wagasa. When Queen Elizabeth II and princess Diana came to Japan, the wagasa made in Hiyoshiya was used at a special tea ceremony. In this way, Wagasa has been used as a means of brightening the traditional performing arts, such as tea ceremony, Noh, and Kabuki, all of which are indispensable for Japanese culture. With the changing times, the production and use of wagasa is probably going to decrease little by little, but for transmitting traditional Japanese culture, I hope that wagasa will become to the one of the ways foreigners can get interested in Japan.

The Long Journey of Becoming a Maiko

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, & Kanako Wakamatsu

In Japan, geiko are women who wear beautiful kimono, paint their face white, perform songs or dances, and play a traditional Japanese stringed instrument called the shamisen. Geiko have existed for about 300 years, and are more commonly known as ‘geisha’ outside of Japan.

Originally, geiko were the girls who served tea. Later, the tea was changed to alcohol, and the girls came to not only serve alcohol, but also perform songs or dances. At this time, the girl was called a geiko. To become a geiko requires lots of training. Girls who train to be geiko are called maiko. Now, geiko and maiko are one of the most popular symbols in Kyoto. Not everyone can be a maiko; there are certain qualifications. In this article, we are going to introduce 3 important points related to how to become a Maiko: age, house rules, and strict training. We are going to reveal some surprising facts about Maiko, too.

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Maiko


Age of Maiko

Only girls between the ages of 14 and 17 can start their training, and the age limit is 20. The reason is due to child labor laws. These girls must decide their future after they graduate from junior high school, but they do not need to worry about their school career and other requirements. Maiko must also have Japanese nationality.

House Rules

Maiko must live and train in a training house called an ‘okiya’. In the old days, because being a maiko was thought of as deeply traditional work, generally families who had connections or relationships with an okiya could send their daughters to become maiko. But nowadays present Japan is modern, so there are some websites for finding the right okiya and also for the recruitment of new maiko.

There are 5 main organizations of maiko and geiko. It is called ‘Gokagai’ in Japanese. They are Gionkoubu, Miyagawachou, Pontochou, Kamishitikenn and Gionhigashi. When a girl is introduced to one okiya, she can meet the landlady. However, nowadays maiko is an especially popular job among woman, so if there is no financial support from the okiya, she cannot go to train.

The last trial is an interview with the landlady. The landlady looks to see if the girl can put up with the hard training of being a maiko. She also looks at how much mutual understanding their is between the girl and her parents. If she judges that the girl cannot put up with the hard training or is not suitable for this work, then she rejects the girl.

Life in an okiya is unimaginable for us. Maiko is a traditional thing, so there are many strict and traditional rules. Okiya is a place where people gather, so maiko have to live in a community-style life. Okiya is not a for-profit business; they pay for all of the girls: their life, their food, clothes, makeup tools and more. For this reason, the landlady is always very strict. She always judges the girls, and tests their strong intentions and humanity. It is said that one’s look is not the most important qualification of being a maiko, but you have to improve both your humanity and figure.

Maiko Training

After the final interview, at last the training will start. The training term is called the ‘preparation term’. The girls live in the okiya, and learn Japanese dance, Kyokotoba, behavior, and the manner which is called ‘iroha’ in Japanese. The landlady and other trainers check the girls behavior in daily life. The girls have no free time of their own. Half of applicants fail on this point. It means the training is so hard, and they must do their best every time. Maiko is beautiful work on the outside, but the hidden side is strenuous and challenging. At this point, it is hard for the girls to imagine that luxurious work of a geiko is in their near future.

Once girls finish the preparation term, they can be a maiko. Before then, they are called ‘minaraisan’ which means ‘not enough’. The main work place is called ‘ozashiki’, where the girls can treat customers with their dance or song. After 5 years of being a maiko, it is called ‘nennki’ in Japanese. They cannot receive a wage because they have to give the okiya their money during the training term. Also, they cannot quit their job.

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Maiko in Ozashiki


Being a maiko is a specific job because maiko is not the end goal; it is a training position. When girls become about 20, they are eligable to be a geiko, which is the main goal for a maiko.

How to Become a Maiko

The shape of a girl’s body is certainly an important point toward being a maiko. Girls must wear shoes called ‘oboko’, which are 10cm high, so the girls cannot be too tall. Also, a Maiko must be accomplished in several areas, so they must develop skill in Japanese dance, Japanese songs, and in playing the shamisen. They also must learn kyokotoba, which is the traditional Kyoto dialect. The work of Maiko is hard, so girls must find ways to work hard and overcome their difficulties.

Maiko Puts On Oboko


Surprising Facts About Maiko

There are some prohibitions in the maiko world. The first is that girls cannot take a bath for a week, because their hairstyle is difficult to make again. Second, is that girls must not enter food stores and cafes, because the image of the maiko is important. Maiko must maintain the pure image of traditional culture. Third, maiko are prohibited from using a cellphone in the presence of other people. This is also related to the problem of maintaining a traditional image. Finally, maiko are not supposed to talk while they are walking. It is a kind of maiko manner.

Finally, after finishing this strict training, maiko can become geiko. As we said before, it is very strict. However, it is a traditional thing, so we should not be quick to change the rules, but rather protect the traditions to maintain the image of Kyoto throughout the years.

Conclusion

A maiko is a woman who trains as a Geiko. To become a maiko you have to be 14~17 years old, and have Japanese nationality. To train as a geiko, maiko have to live in okiya and do a lot of strict training related to performance, behavior and so on. Maiko is one of symbols of Kyoto and also one of the old Japanese traditions, so we have to respect this tradition. In addition, one of the maiko’s manners is that they cannot talk while they are walking, so if you see Maiko on the road, you cannot talk to them. This is the reality of the maiko.

Chochin: Traditional Japanese Paper Lanterns

by Narumi Kitagawa and Akane Kitakido

If you walk down a Kyoto street at night, you will almost certainly see some paper lanterns hanging in front of an Izakaya which is Japanese-style bar or ramen restaurant. And at festivals in Japan, you will also see a lot of lanterns hanging in a row. These are all traditional Japanese lanterns, also called chouchin. ‘Chou’ means to hang, and ‘chin’ stands for a light. Originally chouchin were used to shine light at people’s feet when they walked on dark street at night. Now, chouchin are used in not only this way, but also other ways. In this article, we will explore the history and cultural significance of chouchin.

History of Couchin

Looking at the history of Japanese paper lanterns allows us to rediscover how the Japanese way of life has changed. The first appearance of paper lanterns was during the Muromachi era (from 1336 to 1573). At that time, paper lanterns came from China and looked like baskets made with bamboos. They were quite different from today’s Japanese lanterns, so clearly people were trying to develop the lanterns in Japanese ways over the years. After a few decades, original folding lanterns based on the Chinese design were created. These folding lanterns were used in funerals. The new lanterns also became necessary for soldiers to use during war, so they became more and more popular in Edo period (from 1603 to 1868). Due to such development, not only people of high rank in society, but also normal everyday people were able to use Japanese paper lanterns easily in their daily lives. Also, more and more people were able to travel around Japan and go out at night because of the expanding merchant economy. The lanterns helped guide their way and suit their new lifestyle.

How to Make a Japanese Paper Lantern

Paper lanterns are actually quite easy to make. A thin strip of bamboo is used as a framework of body. A circle is then made with the bamboo strip, and on which is attached washi, or Japanese handmade paper. The bamboo circles are set to a model and connected with thread. This work affects whether the paper lantern will be a good one or not, so it needs a skilled hand to do well. After this, glue is put on the bamboo frame and it is all washi. After drying, the bamboo frame is removed from the model. Originally, a candle was placed inside to provide light. Thanks to the protection of the washi cover, the candles seldom went out. But these days, electric lights are used in most paper lanterns.

How Chouchin Are Used Today

Nowadays, Japanese paper lanterns are used in many ways and in many places. The most traditional use is when families hang them outside of their homes during Obon, a special time of the year during the first few weeks of August. These lanterns are called bon chochin, and it is believed that they welcome home the spirits of each family’s ancestors.

The most popular chochin these days are the ones that decorate restaurants and festivals. The lanterns outside restaurants can attract much more attention for passengers than other signs because of the attractive effect of one bright lantern at night. In festivals, we often see chochin hanging in a line over our heads, and that creates a traditional and festive atmosphere. Moreover, some people use Japanese lanterns as a fashionable lamp in their homes. As you can see, Japanese paper lanterns are loved by all generations and are used in various ways.

Chouchin

Kojima Paper Lantern Shop

One of the best places that you can get your very own chochin is Kojima-shoten, a well known paper lantern shop in Kyoto. This shop started to make cochin from the middle of the Edo period. The 9th successive owner is currently running this shop. Recently, Kojima-shoten was featured on television, and they are promoting their products and skills widely.

The most attractive point is that craftsmen in Kojima-shoten create paper lanterns in in the traditional way: by hand. It takes much more time to make them one by one than mass-produced versions made in factories. Craftsmen cut the bamboo thin and wind it around with a stick of bamboo to design the distinctive shape of the lanterns. This way of creating the lanterns is called the ‘Jibari style’, and only in Kyoto can we see it. In addition, all the materials of lanterns in Kojima-shoten are of excellent quality, as they are made of bamboo and washi, all natural, plant-based materials. In contrast, most other shops create lanterns with plastic in order to sell them cheaply.

Even better, at Kojima-shoten you can experience making chochin by yourself. The process is simply and enjoyable. You start by watching a video about how to make chochin. After that, the owner will teach you the process in person. You can choose two types of lanterns to make. One is a small chochin lantern, which is popular among students. Another one is a chochin that you can also paint on. Not only adults, but also children can participate. You can also observe artists making chochin on site.

As you can see, it is worth a visit to Kojima-shoten in order to discover the real attraction of Japanese paper lanterns.

Access

To Kojima Paper Lantern Shop, you can use train or bus. You will get there by 5 minutes walk from Tofukuji station of Keihan line or Imagumano bus stop.

Adress:605-0971 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Imagumano Naginomoricho,11

Kyo-Kanoko

 

Learning how to Kyo-Kanoko: A special trip to the Miyako-messe

 

by Manami Otahara & Miki Sawai

14/12/2015

 

無題

 

Today we went to Miyako-messe. Miyako-messe is a museum, you can see traditional crafts in Kyoto. When we entered in Miyako-messe, we were very surprised, because there are many people in there. In Miyako-messe, you can see demonstration by craftspeople. The demonstrations are very powerful, so we were excited. Next, we went to the souvenir corner. You can buy many kind of traditional crafts. For example, scarfs, bags, hair accessories and so on, however we were most impressed by the Kanoko.

There are 74 traditional crafts in Kyoto. Everybody knows about kimono, however not everyone knows Kanoko. What is Kanoko? There are two patterns of kimono, one is dyed, another is woven. Kanoko is dyed cloth. Kanoko is used for Kimono and Kanoko is one of the 74 crafts.  However it is different from dyed Kimono. There are many bits and wrinkles. How is it made? It is made from one piece of cloth. The cloth is made by craftspeople. Craftspeople twist one by one.

How many twists do you think it takes to make Kanoko? One hundred? One thousand? This Kimono is twisted three hundred thousand times. When people make Shibori Kimono, it takes 6 months to 1 year. Why does it take a lot of time?   Why is called it Kanoko shibori?   The reason is because Kanoko means young deer in Japanese. Japanese people believe Kanoko looks like a deer pattern, therefore people say Kanoko.

History

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In 7c, Kanoko was introduced to Japan from India. This was written about in a book and there are some Waka poems about Kanoko Shibori from 7c as well. In 10c, Shibori was worn by princesses, princes, and rich people. In the Edo period, it was around as a brand clothes in Japan, and it was made in Kyoto, which was called Kyo-Kanoko Shibori. For a long time, craftspeople passed on the technique of how to twist from generation to generation.

In Kyoto, are there many souvenirs? If you come to Kyoto, what souvenir will you buy? Sweets? Kimono? Macha? I recommend Kanoko. Kanoko is used to make hair accessories and it is a reasonable price. Kanoko Kanzashi is a good item, because Maiko wear Kanzashi. Kanzashi is a hair accessory, and it is able to hold up your hair with only one stick. It is very cute! Another one is furoshiki, it is big cloth, so it can wrap ground something. For example, you can wrap a present in it to become a bag so it is easy to carry. If you come to Kyoto, you should buy a Kanoko item for a souvenir for your family.

Address

Miyako-messe

9-1, Okazaki Seisyoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8343

Kyo-Chiyogami

by Momoko Sonoda and Haruna Sugimto

Kyo-Chiyogami

Kyo-Chiyogami


 

Kyo-chiyogami is a colorful paper that is made with washi, or traditional Japanese handmade paper. It is a very fine example of a traditional Kyoto-style handicraft. It is also quite popular as a souvenir for tourists. The beautiful design is very attractive. Kyo-chiyogami can convey a quality of Kyoto through its color and design. When we see kyo-chiyogami, we can feel warm and happy.

History of Kyo-chiyogami

Kyo-chiyogami has 1,700 year history in Kyoto. When the first kyo-chiyogami was made, it was used only by the emperor of Japan, which he used for official documents. It was made not of washi, however. Instead it was made of hoshoshi, which is a kind of fine quality, thick, white Japanese paper. This type of kyo-chiyogami was expensive and of very high-quality. Eventually, kyo-chiyogami became common in the Edo era, so that all people could buy and use it. This is because kyo-chiyogami began to be made with washi, which was much cheaper than hoshoshi. Moreover, washi was easy to get, so people could get it for reasonable price. Kyo-chiyogami was designed with big patterns many years ago in the Edo era. This was due to the accumulation of techniques for woodblock printing. Now however, there are more than 1,000 kinds of different designs for kyo-chiyogami.

How to Make Kyo-Chiyogami

Washi is made using fibers from the bark of the gambi tree, the mitsumata plant, the mulberry, and various other sources of fiber, such as bamboo, rice, hemp, etc. All of these main basic ingredients can be found in Japanese mountains and countryside. After the washi has been made, then it is bleached. This is done with hot water and paste. Next, washi is dyed in various ways to create the base color. Finally, washi is naturally seasoned and patterned. The whole process takes about a day to complete. In old times, kyo-chiyogami was made with wood-block prints, but now it is made mostly by machines.

The Maruyama Coating Company is one of the more famous kyo-chiyogami manufacturers. The company is located in Nantan City of Kyoto Prefecture. They have all original designs and color. Moreover, they always make the paper by hand. Furthermore, production is entirely domestic, so they do not rely on materials from foreign countries.

Uses of Kyo-Chiyogami

There are various ways to use kyo-chiyogami. For example, people made dolls and fans with kyo-chiyogami in the old times. It looked a lot like what we now know as origami, or Japanese paper folding art. Origami was popular from the Edo Period, and many of those themes from the Edo period still exists. For example, men wore special helmets during that time, so people were often making origami helmets. There was even origami class at school from the Meiji period. Recently however, people are creating much different things with origami, like small boxes and cards.

Kyo-chiyogami is also used in Japanese arts, outside of origami. First, children like to use kyo-chiyogami to create or decorate things because of its classic Kyoto-style patterns. Many children use kyo-chiyogami for their summer vacation craft-work. Second, people use kyo-chiyogami as wrapping paper for gifts. If people wrap their presents with kyo-chiyogami, it will have a distinct and splendid Kyoto feel to it. Third, people decorate their rooms with kyo-chiyogami. This allows them to both appreciate and enjoy kyo-chiyogami in their rooms. It especially matches a Japanese style room. Some hotels in Kyoto decorate their rooms with kyo-chiyogami.

Paper Cranes - Orizuru (折鶴 - using Kyochiyogami

Paper Cranes – Orizuru (折鶴 – using Kyochiyogami


 

As you can see, kyo-chiyogami is popular among people of all ages and has many methods of use. For this reason, kyo-chiyogami has many charms.

Yamamoto Fumido

There are many shops selling kyo-chiyogami in Kyoto. One of the most popular shops is called Yamamoto Fumido, which was founded in 1872 in the Nakagyo ward of Kyoto City. It follows the traditions of Kyoto-style stores. For example, there is a big showroom in Yamamoto Fumido, where many types of kyo-chiyogami and small crafts made from kyo-chiyogami are on display and for sale. The kyo-chiyogami for sale there is of very high quality, so many people greatly admire the shop. There are so many designs there, which is one of the main selling points of their paper. For example, kousai is a vast array of color, containing many beautiful flowers. Aizome is a bright blue color, and contains castles drawn on it. Wazome, on the other hand, contains patterns of old fashioned toys. This is most popular with children. And all of these kyo-chiyogami are handmade. There are also many types of folding fans made with kyo-chiyogami for sale. For example, the kazari fan is red and has golden cranes and white crane on it. It is a luxurious folding fan.

How to Get There

The best way to experience the beauty and elegance of colorful kyo-chiyogami is to visit Yamamoto Fumido. The address is 612-1 Daimonji-cho Tominokoji-dori Shijyo-noboru Nakagyo ward of Kyoto City.  It is near the subway of Karasuma-oike station. The shop open at 10:00 am~16:30 pm and closed Sunday, Wednesday and public holiday.

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