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Obon Festival & Banshu Hamono tools

Publié le août 07 2021

Now that the Olympics are finish we will all try to get back to our normal routine, get the corona numbers back down, prepare for summer holidays, celebrate All the athletes, and remember cute moments like this one:

This man stood outside the Tokyo Olympic Village every day from 7am - 9am outside the Olympic village to motivate athletes and was on the news because he had such a sweet sign! 

The man, who wished to remain anonymous held up the sign every time a bus transporting Olympic the athletes passed by. The man says he initially started holding up Welcome signs on July 22 – a day before the opening ceremony – but changed his sign to its current supportive message on July 26, after seeing so many people obsessing over the medal count. His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Appreciative athletes have posted pictures of him on Instagram and turned him into a viral star of the Games. 

Cuteness and dedication are two of the many things we really love about Japan!

We also love Yamagi Mokko, a small furniture company in Hokkaido’s that made the cases for the Olympic medals. The 3rd generation president Yuichiro Yamagami bid on the contract, along with Chiba-based industrial designer Shinya Yoshida. The pair proposed a subtle yet striking design that blends traditional and modern woodworking techniques. Made from locally-sourced Japanese ash wood that would later be dyed in dark indigo blue, the cases were first created by a CNC drill and then later finished by hand. A total of eight small magnets embedded in the case and lid hold the two parts together. The medals themselves were designed by Junichi Kawanishi are are made from recycled cell phone components.

Click Here to see how it was made!

Highlights of the opening of the Olympic Ceremony was when Naomi Osaka lit the torch designed Oki Sato of Nendo, design studios. The form was intended not only to represent the sun but also all the life and energy that the sun gives birth to. And in a nod to the future of energy, hydrogen is being used to fuel the flame for the duration of the Olympics.

During the Closing Ceremony we finally got a Taiko drummer (instead of the tap dancers at the opening that really confused everyone). Ending with the closing of the caudron where the sun became the moon and the baton was passed to Paris for the next Olympics. At the end there was an incredible light show of flags of colors blending together to create the Olympic ring! We wish France the best of luck for the next Olympics and pray that they will not face the same challenges as Japan had in these last years. 

Click Here to view Highlights of the Closing Ceremony!

Obon:

Obon is a summer festival similar to the Mexican, “Day of the Dead” where we remember our ancestors. Every summer we celebrate Obon for about 3 days, which is a yearly Buddhist. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives.

Obon starts with “mukaebi” on August 13th, which are ‘welcoming fires’, we make a small bonfire in front of our houses to guide spirits for their return back to their homes.

In most older Japanese homes (grandparents house) there is a ‘butsudan’ alter for our deceased family and ancestors with small memorial tablets, fruits, flowers, Japanese sweets, salt, and sake - a practice used to offer late loved one’s objects they enjoyed in their lifetime. Prayers are made at the altar to pay respect and to seek guidance. Most important is the ihai, a wooden tablet inscribed with two items: the date of death, and the special name given to the deceased by a priest. This alter is a kind of communication place between the worlds of the living and the dead, butsudan are used whenever a family member wants to pay respects to, consult, or share news with a deceased ancestor.

While practiced mostly in countryside areas recently, some regions will also prepare horses made of cucumbers and cows made of eggplants with wooden sticks for legs. The symbolism behind it is that the horse will help spirits return home as soon as possible, while the cow will take them back to heaven slowly as soon as the festival is over.

During the second and third days of Obon celebrations, families following the tradition will invite a Buddhist priest to their home, or visit a temple or shrine, to recite a sutra and perform a memorial service. They are called hoyo or kuyo in Japanese. 

After the recital, we have lunch together, recalling old stories of our deceased. The meal, called shojin ryori (monk food), is purely vegetarian, and usually includes stewed beans, spinach with soy sauce and sesame, or pickled cucumbers.

Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples.

At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region.

The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan's three major holiday seasons (alongside New Years and Golden Week). In recent years, travel activitiy in mid August has become somewhat more spread out and less concentrated, but it is still considerable on certain days.

This is also the beginning of summer holidays. Many people plan trips around this time both domestically and abroad. If you have plans to travel around Japan in this time, expect higher prices and plan far in advance.

Banshu Hamono: Knife & Scissors for your gardening this Summer!

Since the Edo era (1603-1868) the blacksmith and hardware industry known as Banshu (in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan) started long ago as a Katana (sword) manufacturers. Each sword carefully handmade which have stood the tests of time and are still remain an exceptional instrument. 

Banshu Hamono was originally a family business coming from this region and history of craftsmen. What began as an industry producing swords, they began to produce knives for the kitchen and have since expanded to now manufactures a variety of products including utility knives, traditional Japanese razors, Japanese gripping shears used for cutting thread, pruning shears, floral shears, and various gardening tools.

Each individual piece is painstakingly hand-made by skilled craftsmen using the same techniques that have been employed for generations. For about 250  years, various new designs have been created to meet the needs of customers.

Higonokami Folding Knife Brass:

Higonokami's simple design hasn't changed for over 100 years, and is a long-life design that has been and is still loved. This famed Japanese pocket knife, comes with a shape that hasn't changed since the Meiji period (1868-1912). This folding knife is very versatile and can be easily carried in your bag, and to be used for many purposed. Only one last crafter, Motosuke Nagao, who has inherited the family's blade crafting skill, is able to produce the true Higonokami.

His family has intilaly started the knife making at Miki, which is one of the birthplace of iron-sand crafting in Hyogo prefecture, Japan. The crafter Motosuke is the 4th generation, and to recruit one skilled member of his family was also part of the creation process of this famous pocket knife series.

The handle of this pocket knife is made of brass and the blade is made from the famous Japanese “blue steel” (aogami). As the Higonokami knives are purely hand made, each knife is unique, and may come with a slight difference, resulting from the variations during the final finishing step. 

Brass and steel knives can be perfectly polished and sharpened at home, making it a precious tool, but patina is always coming back, showing higonokami's true value: being a humble and daily tool for the ones who appreciate them!

For: cutting paper, wood, craft

Care: After use, clean the blade with cotton soaked with olive oil to prevent it from rusting. 

Please visit Bows & Arrows to see this knife or visit our website HERE to purchase it online.

Ikenobo Basami Flower Scissors:

Scissors for bonsai, specifically for cutting flowers with thick stems like lilies and other flower arrangements. They come in different sizes such as Koryu style and ikenobu style. The blades are set at an acute angle in order to cut cross-sections without crushing plant fibers, allowing for flowers to absorb water and live longer.

Ikenobo is a flower arrangement used by the school called Ikenobo, which has schools all over the world.

Length 180mm 237g

About the maker: Akira Inoue, a 90-year-old craftsman, creates a flower scissors by hand forging. He is one of the best scissors craftsmen in Japan who makes scissors from a single iron rod. Not to mention the sharpness, you can feel the artistry of the handmade scissors and the stylish atmosphere of the sound when you cut it. They are scissors that represents Japan.

Please visit Bows & Arrows to see this knife or visit our website HERE to purchase it online