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The Tools of Printing UKIYO-E

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 11:50:52 AM Asia/Tokyo

The Tools of Printing UKIYO-E


Several tools are especially important to print ukiyo-e on paper. These tools have enabled the ukiyo-e printers to complete their works while sitting from the Edo Period.


Hake and Brush


The Edo Period ukiyo-e printers only used the Japanese traditional brush, hake, to apply the inks on the woodblock. The craftspeople cut firm horsetail into 4~5cm length pieces and make a hake. Because of the material, the new hake is so firm that it will damage the woodblock and create uneven ukiyo-e. Therefore, the craftspeople of hake have to improve the tool with sharkskin. The sharkskin makes it smoothly curved. On the other hand, the modern ukiyo-e printers use both a hake and a modern soft brush. The new tool allows them to spread ink evenly on the woodblock; the traditional hake enables them to make color gradations in their pictures. However, they can`t use ink effectively with a hake because inks easily enter among bristles of it. That`s why the modern printers use both tools. In addition, the painters use the other kinds of brushes according to the certain purposes. For example, mizubake is a 17-centimeter-wide brush that moisturizes the paper to let the paper absorb inks easily. Another example is a 40-centimeter-wide brush, dosahake. The printers used it to paint the special liquid dosa all over their finished artwork, which prevents inks from bleeding on the picture. They can use the liquid effectively with the brush because they can adjust the density of 3~4-centimeter bristles of it by themselves, so.




As ukiyo-e was becoming popular, the ukiyo-e printers improved the unique tool, baren. They use baren to press the paper onto the woodblock and let the paper absorb inks. The traditional baren is made from layers of paper, circular steel, and bamboo leaves. The craftspeople wrap the layer and the steel in a bamboo leaf. Then, they twist the ends of a leaf and knot them. Although the construction of it is simple, it took more than one mouth to create the layer of paper. Therefore, there used to be stores that sold baren in the past. However, the modern printers have to create baren by themselves because there is no store today. Although there is difference in how barens are acquired, both the old and modern printers must fix the tool by themselves. Therefore, fixing baren is one of their most important tasks. The quality of baren displays the skill of the printer.


Tokibou (hakobi)


Tokibou is the small brush made from a wet bamboo leaf. The printer uses it to mix colors, and put colors on the woodblock or the hake. In addition, they make tokibou by themselves. First, they cut a hard part of bamboo into 6-centimeter lengths and let the piece soak in water for about 30 minutes. Next, they break the 2-centimeter head of the piece into fibers with a wooden hammer. Finally, they use a string to connect it with a small bamboo stick.




Bokashi is one of the unique ukiyo-e techniques of color gradation. The technique can show a sense of perspective and third dimension in the picture. The printers usually make a gradation from dark color to subtle color. There are several techniques of bokashi.


Ita bokashi (the gradation method of carving woodblocks)


Wood-carvers usually carve deeply to define the boundary between colors, but they sometimes create 0.4-centimeter gentle slopes in their woodblock to grade the boundary softly.That is the technique of wood-carvers, ita bokashi. There are several steps in the technique. First, they carve deeply. Then, they cut the edge of the boundary at an angle toward the bottom of the groove with a knife or a bent knife, aisuki. Finally, they polish the cutting surface and adjust the angle of the surface with a scouring rush plant, tokusa. Although ita bokashi is mainly the wood-carver`s work, only skillful printer can create beautiful color gradation of ita bokashi.


Fuki bokashi (the gradation method of wiping)


Another technique of gradation is fuki bokashi. There are many types of fuki bokashi. The first technique is fukisage bokashi. It means the gradation method of wiping from the top to the bottom. The printers often use fukisage bokashi to show the immensity of the sky. They make a subtle color gradation on the woodblock, and then they put dark color on the top of the block. After that, they create one gradation from dark color to subtle color. The next one is fukiage bokashi. It`s the opposite of fukiage bokashi: the printers make the gradation from the bottom to the top. The final one is kata bokashi they wipe an ink line and make gradation. This technique enables the printers to create curve and diagonal gradations. Kata bokashi includes hitomonji bokashi and atenashi bokashi



Hitomonji bokashi (the gradation method of the form of one)


Hiroshige Utagawa, the master of ukiyo-e, often used hitomonji bokashi to paint the skies of The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido. hitomonji bokashi literally looks like the form of the kanji of one (一), a horizontal line. Hiroshige had to express endless sky in the 2-centimeter upper part of his works because almost all his works are about 24-centimeter-lengths. Therefore, he effectively used the technique. As a result, his work became one of the most popular landscape style in the art history. The steps of hiitomonji bokashi are simple. First, the printers draw a centimeter horizontal line in a color ink at the top of the paper, and then they moisten the a centimeter line blow the ink line. After that, they press the paper with baren. As a result, the ink bleeds toward the bottom of the paper and it makes a beautiful gradation. The technique needs drawing a straight line because a distorted line blurs color boundary too much. Therefore, a wrong line can negatively affect the composition of ukiyo-e.

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Japanese Doll

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 6:29:22 PM Asia/Tokyo

日本人形 Nihon Ningyo (Japanese traditional costume doll)

Nihon Ningyo is a generic name for the Japanese traditional dolls that wear Japanese traditional cloths (Kimono) and put her hair up with Japanese traditional hair style (Nihon-Gami). Generally speaking, a name of Nihon Ningyo is used for Isho Ningyo or Ichimatsu Ningyo. The following dolls are also included in Nihon Ningyo : Kimekomi Ningyo, Hakata Ningyo, Kokeshi, Gosho Ningyo, Nara Ningyo, Odai Ningyo, etc.
There are Nihon Ningyo as a crafts, so decorated as an ornament in home. On the other hand, there are also dolls of high artistic value.
When Ichimatsu Ningyo was presented to U.S.A. as a doll ambassador in 1927, the explanation of “Nihon Ningyo” was attached.
Nihon Ningyo is made in mainly Tokyo and Kyoto by many craftsmen that handle each works, for example, making the head, making the arms and legs, making Kimono, etc.


衣装人形 Isho Ningyo (Japanese traditional dress-up doll)

Isho Ningyo means a doll wearing the cloths, that is to say, Japanese traditional cloths Kimono. It is made with the various cloths, so we can find the position or occupation. For example, “Maiko (Apprentice geisha)”, “Fuji-Musume (Girl from one of Japanese traditional dances), “Machi-Musume (Daughter of merchant family in Edo period)”, “Guke-Musume (Daughter of Samurai family in Edo period)”, “Himegimi (Princess)”, etc.


市松人形 Ichimatsu Ningyo (One of Japanese traditional dress-up doll)

Ichimatsu Ningyo is one of Japanese traditional dress-up doll. It is known familiarly as “Ichima-san” in Kyoto-Osaka area. It is also called Azuma (East = Tokyo) Ningyo, Kyo Ningyo. And, Yamato Ningyo is a generic name for these dress-up dolls. The doll makers brought out a name “Yamato Ningyo” because the name of these dolls was different in each area.


おやま人形 Oyama Ningyo (One of Japanese traditional dress-up doll)

Oyama Ningyo is a generic name for female dress-up dolls. Many dolls wear the costume of Japanese traditional dance such as “Fuji Musume”, “Shiokumi”, etc. It is called Oyama Ningyo in tribute to a doll artist, OYAMA Jirosaburo. It is made by many craftsmen that handle each works, for example, making the head, making the arms and legs, making Kimono, etc.


能人形 Noh Ningyo (Doll taken a subject from Noh play)

Noh Ningyo is taken a subject from Noh play. A word of “Noh” was came from the Sino-Japanese (Japanese from China) for “skill” or “Talent”. It is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since 13th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles.
Noh Ningyo represents a dancing scene from a Noh pray, for example, “Hagoromo”, “Okina”, “Shojo”, etc. It is for decoration.


木目込人形 Kimekomi Ningyo (One of Japanese traditional costume doll)

Kimekomi Ningyo is a wooden doll with Japanese costumes made from cloth with the edges tucked into grooves in the wood. The movement “cloth with the edges tucked into grooves in the wood” is expressed “Kimekomu (verb) in Japanese. It is said that a person served in Kamigamo shinto shrine in Kyoto stated to produce it. There are Kimekomi Ningyo that represents humans such as Hina Ningyo, the Seven Lucky Gods, etc. and also represents the another such as Eto (Zodiac), Temari (Ball), etc.
The ancestor of Kimekomi Ningyo is Kamo Ningyo (Kyoto), small dolls carved of willow and decorated with cloth scraps.


御所人形 Gosho Ningyo (Doll of Imperious palace)

Gosho means the old imperial palace in Kyoto. Mainly, Gosho Ningyo have the shape of boy baby or Mikado (Emperor) made from the earth or Toso (cray concocted the wood powder and glue) . It was started to produce from Edo Kyoho period (1716 - 36) in Kyoto. In Edo period, it was called Shiragiku (white chrysanth) Ningyo, Zudai (large head) Ningyo, Izuzo (a name of Ningyo shop) Ningyo. Gosho Ningyo is called from Meiji period. Gosho Ningyo has a high artistic value for decoration.


御台人形 Odai Ningyo (Doll of Imperious palace on the base)

Odai means a base, that is to say, Odai Ningyo is attached Gosho Ningyo, artificial flowers and another dolls on the wooden base and represents the scene of Noh pray or lucky items. Originally, Odai Ningyo was a very special doll that Japanese Emperor and Empress have presented the daughters in Imperial family for their birth or their first seasonal festival.


奈良人形 Nara Ningyo (Doll in Nara)

Nara is a historical city as a starting point of Japan. Nara shows the prefecture of Nara or Nara area. Nara Ningyo is a local doll. It is rustic doll made from wood by one-knife carving. It is said that it started from Edo period.


こけし Kokeshi (One of Japanese traditional doll)

The naming is not clear, but it is said that these dolls were originally made during the middle of the Edo period (1600–1868) to be sold to people who were visiting the hot spring in the north-east of the country.


博多人形 Hakata Ningyo (Hakata doll)

Hakata Ningyo is a biscuit-fired doll and one of the traditional crafts in Hakata prefecture. A traditional crafts designated by a Minister of Economy, Trade and Industryy. Hakata doll was started to produce from 17th century in Hakata. It appeared in the 1890 National Industrial Exhibition in Japan and in the Exposition Universelle in 1900 and became a topic of discussion. The “Dolls of the World” which were made with Hakata techniques and were so popular at the Paris World Expo, are now in a collection at the General Research Museum at Tokyo University.


雛人形 Hina Ningyo (A set of dolls displayed through the Girls' Festival season)

Hina Ningyo displays for Hinamatsuri, Doll’s day or Girl’s day. It is a special day in Japan. Hinamatsuri is celebrated each year on March 3. Hina Ningyo is a set of dolls for this special event. It represents the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period on the platforms covered with a red carpet.


五月人形 Gogatsu Ningyo (Suit or Helmet of Samurai displayed throuth the Boy's Festival season)

Gogatsu means May. Gogatsu Ningyo displays for Tango no Sekku, the Boy’s festival. Tango no Sekku is a special event on May 5th to pray for the growth of boys healthily. This origin was came from China by the decoration Shobu (Sweet flag) to prevent illness. In Japan, from 12th century, Tango no Sekku was for boys because Shobu is same reading as Shobu ( Militarism). To pray the growth of boys healthily and strongly, a suit and (or) a Helmet of Samurai are (is) displayed through the Boy’s day. It is Gogatsu Ningyo.

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Posted in Top Art Japan Japanese Culture By JBO Admin

Kimono; Japanese traditional garment

Monday, April 21, 2014 5:04:56 PM Asia/Tokyo

着物 Kimono (Japanese traditional garment)

Some time ago, a word “Kimono” meaned simply a “thing to wear (ki “wear” and mono “thing”). In Meiji period (1868 - 1912), European clothes came to Japan. Japanese people use the words, 洋服 (Yo Fuku, European clothes) and 和服 (Wa Fuku, Japanese traditional clothes) to distinguish them. At the present day, people in the world know a word “Kimono” meaning to Wa Fuku.
Kimono are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial) and secured by a sash called Obi, which is tied at the back. Kimono are generally worn with traditional footwear (especially Zori or Geta) and split-toe socks (Tabi).
Today, Kimono are worn on special occasions, Wedding ceremony, Coming-of-age ceremony, etc... But there are many people who loves Kimono and wears it on a daily basis. Professional Sumo wrestlers are often seen in the Kimono because they are required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.

[Kimono Accessory]

帯 Obi (Sash)

Obi is a sash for traditional Japanese dress. Obi for men’s Kimono is rather narrow, 10 cm wide at most, but a woman’s formal Obi can be 30 cm wide and more than 4 m long. Woman’s wide and decorative Obi does not keep Kimono closed; this is done by different undersashes and ribbons worn underneath Obi. Obi itself often requires the use of stiffeners and ribbons for definition of shape and decoration. Obis are categorized by their design, formality, material, and use. In these days, Obis reuse for the decoration.

[kinds of Kimono]

留袖 Tomesode

Tomesode is a type of Kimono. It is an expensive formal dress worn by married women, corresponding to Evening dress in Europe. Tomesode distinguishes itself from other Kimono by only having patterns under the waistline. It has five or sometimes three family crests (Ka Mon) which indicate the formality of Kimono.
Kuro-Tomesode (Black Tomesode) are often worn for wedding ceremonies by married female relatives of the bride or groom. It is believed that the black color is to match the clean white color of the bride, as this Kimono is rarely used at other occasions than weddings of near family members (mother, sisters or daughters). A friend of the bride or groom would not wear Kuro-Tomesode, but Homongi or Iro-Tomesode. At events at the imperial palace, it is strictly forbidden to wear Kuro-Tomesode, and here Iro-Tomesode is worn. Because, it says that black is a mourning color in the imperial palace.
Iro-Tomesode (Tomesode with colors) is the second most formal Kimono and is similar to Kuro-Tomesode, except that it has light colors instead of being black. It can be worn at weddings by married women not closely relate to the bride or groom or at the other festive occasions.


振袖 Furisode

Furisode is a style of Kimono distinguishable by its long sleeves, which range length from 85 cm for Ko Furisode (Small) to 114 cm for O Furisode (Big). Furisode is the most formal style of Kimono worn by unmarried women in Japan. Furisode is made of very fine, brightly colored silk, and is commonly rented or bought by parents for their daughters to wear when celebrating Comin-of-age day the year they turn 20. By wearing Furisode, a young woman signifies that she is both single and a legal adult, and thus available for marriage. Furisode is generally worn for the formal social functions such as the tea ceremony or wedding ceremonies.

訪問着 Homongi

Homongi replaces the role of Furisode when a woman marries. It is given to the woman, when she marries, to signify her womanhood has transcended into a married life. It is less colorful and attention-drawing than Kimono of unmarried women, but it can be worn by unmarried women too. Directly translated Homongi means “visiting wear” and it was very popular among the upper-class women in Meiji period to wear as a formal dress for going out. Homongi is the most ostentatious Kimono for married women and the second most for unmarried women. Usually, Homongi are worn to tea ceremonies and wedding ceremonies. Homongi is characterized by flamboyant and colorful pattern running continuously over the seams. The sleeve length varies and unmarried women wear longer sleeves. 


白無垢 Shiromuku

A color white was used for parament as a holy color. From the end of Muromachi period to Edo period, Shiromuku is for wedding, parturition, funeral rites or Seppuku. In Meiji period, the European custom came into Japan, a color black has been used for funeral rites and a color white has been used for wedding.

浴衣 Yukata

Yukata is a Japanese garment, a casual summer Kimono usually made of cotton or synthetic fabric, and unlined. Yukata are worn by both men and women. Like other forms of Kimono, Yukata are made with straight seams and wide sleeves. Men’s Yukata are distinguished by the shorter sleeve extension of approximately 10 cm from the armpit seam, compared to the longer 20 cm sleeve extension in women’s Yukata.

Thus, although their use is not limited to after-bath wear.Yukata are worn at outdoor summer events such as Hanabi (Fireworks) or Bon-odori (Dancing) festivals. They are also worn at Japanese Inns (Ryokan) afther bathing. Many hotels in Japan prepare Yukata in a room as night cloth.

[Kimono Fabric]

友禅 Yuzen

Yuzen is one of the popular traditional dyeing techniques in Japan. MIYAZAKI Yuzen-sai (1654 ? - 1736), an artist of fan painting, had started to dye by a technique of Yuzen in Kyoto. Yuzen came from his name, Yuzen-sai. Originally, Dyeing by hand-writhing was only called Yuzen, but nowadays, stencil dyeing or printing patterns with Yuzen styles are also called Yuzen. It is the most representative dyeing in Japan. In particular, Kyo Yuzen (in Kyoto) and Kaga Yuzen (Kanazawa-city, Ishikawa) are famous. Yuzen is very beautiful and elegant with the traditional or natural motifs. The clothes dyed by Yuzen turn to not only Kimono but also many articles like the decorations that adorn the walls.

西陣織 Nishijin Ori (Nishijin fabric)

Nishijin is a district in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto. Nishijin Ori (Nishijin fabric) is a traditional textile produced there. Nishijin Ori was created over 1,200 years ago by using many different types of colored yarns and weaving them together in decorative designs. During Edo period, Nishijin Ori continued to thrive. Many Japanese studied the art and continued to pass down their trade through the generations by the skilled professionals. But, there was an abrupt stop to the Nishijin trade due to produce unavailability because of unproductive crops until 1837.
Kyoto had fallen on hard times and Japan had decided to change their capital in 1869 and announced that Tokyo was the chosen location. This was the end of Nishijin trade. In the years to come the Nishijin trade began to flourish once again. Starting in 1872 with the trip to Europe to learn from the European weaving trade. During this trip the Europeans taught Japanese new techniques. The Japanese adapted to the use of European methods and machinery. By 1898 the Nishijin Textile trade was developed and encompassed the technology shared by the Europeans. This marked a beginning of a new era of Nishijin Ori and implemented the use of machinery in the Japanese trade. Nishijin has continued to be a successful textile industry throughout the years.
Today Nishijin Ori is seen more frequently in Japanese ceremonies. The main ceremony to view this unique trade would be in a wedding. The work of the Nishijin Ori is present in the traditional clothing of the bride. Her traditional Kimono is beautiful and shows the Nishijin designs that have been handed down through the generations. These traditional designs range from scenes of nature, different breeds of birds and several different type of flowers. There are many other products available through Nishijin Ori. These products range from Kimono, belts, shawls, many different types of cloth and decorations that adorn the walls.

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Posted in Japanese Culture By JBO Admin
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