Sugahara Glass

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Every one of the glasses are made by hand. The Sugahara craftsmanship brings out the warmth of each glass. Their motto is: “Glass is alive.” “Conversing with glass”. For the glass craftsmen of Sugahara, this is a natural expression. There is a moment when glass, as a liquid under extreme heat, attains its supreme beauty. That moment is captured, and a form is given to it. Drawing out the infinite potential of glass to the fullest. Creating a unique shine and flowing forms.

To do this, Craftsmen stand face-to-face with glass each day and listen to its voice. They aspire to deliver glassware that feels as warm as the human body, which will bring a smile to your lips when you hold it in your hand, and which will add colors when entertaining that special person in your life.

Sugahara never compromises when it comes to handmade glass. Since their beginnings in 1932, in Tokyo, the artisans at Sugahara have applied traditional Japanese design techniques to reveal and express the beauty of glass in ways never before seen, in handcrafted glassware for the tabletop and other uses.

In 1932, Kazuma Sugahara begins a private business manufacturing glassware at what is now in  Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Since then they can be found all over Japan and more recently internationally renowned glassware company.

Sugahara - Fujiyama Glass
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Kitpass

Kitpas x Bows & Arrows

KITPAS

Sea-shell shalk for clean hands

Kitpas have been producing Dustless Chalk and kids products for 80 years. Every single day, each of their employees works very hard to improve and make a difference. To respond their effort the company also makes utmost effort to realize joy of work for the employees. 

At our store we offer several types of products, which are all safe for children.

  • Chalkboards with many different colors for drawing, good for kids and adults alike.
  • Dustless Chalk - reliable product that is gentle to your body and light touch to your finger.
  • Water color paint that can be used as face paint for children.
  • Coloring set for windows and bath : Easily cleaned using water and a sponge. Eco and child safe.
  • Safe: made mainly from calcium carbonate which is also used for toothpaste.
  • Heavy particle prevents its powder to fly apart to mess your room or clothes.
  • Clear: homogeneously-mixed particle allows clear writing without smear or graze.
  • Soft and Smooth touch allows longtime use without fatigue.
  • Lasts twice as long as gypsum chalks thanks to lower wear factor.
  • Coated body keeps your hand clean.


* Dustless Chalk is selected as compliant item for the Law on Promoting Green Purchasing.
* Product renewed! All Kitpas Dustless Chalk (calcium carbonate chalk) products use scallop seashells since 1 August 2005.

Kitpas - Holder 12 Colors
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Kitpas - Notebook type Blackboard
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Kitpas - Water Brush Pen
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Kitpas - Tape type blackboard (50mm)
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Edo Karakami Washi Paper

Edo Karakami is a type of decorated paper used in interiors, made by Japanese artisans. The many variations were created during the Edo period (1603 – around 1868) in the city of Edo (now Tokyo), when it became the new capital of Japan.

The origin of the decorations dates back to the Heian era  (749 – around 1192) in the city of Kyoto, which was run by court nobles who used these decorated papers for writing poetry.

Edo flourished during the 265 rule of the Tokugawa family shogunate. Many artisans from Kyoto moved to the city and cultivated their techniques there, and it became an important period in the developing artistic culture of Japan

The population increase made construction a necessity, and many decorative papers were made as interior materials for building. Edo Karakami was used in many important places such as temples, castles, and palaces, as well as in the houses of merchants.  The techniques and designs to decorate Fusuma sliding doors were developed at this time.

Washi paper is traditionally produced using Japanese vegetable fibres such as Gampi, Mitsumata, and Kozo. These have a very strong resilience and consistency and smooth surface. The oldest existing Washi is a handmade paper dating from 770AD.

The Colorant and materials for the decoration are made from natural materials, also used in Japanese traditional paintings. One of the is Kira, mica in English, which has a very beautiful brightness. Kira reflects in many gentle ways, depending o the light.

Tokyo Matsuya was founded in 1690 by Ihei Matsuya as a dealer in kusazoshi woodblock printed lieterature and other forms of publishing. Subsequently at the end of the Edo era and into the Meiji period the business began to specialize in paper products for home such as shoji partitions, materials for hanging scrolls, and in various types of hardware of the day. The market for this special paper and prints collapsed durning WW2 and Matsuya abandoned the trade. In 1992 Rihe Ban decided to revive this area of work. Working with craftsmen who maintain the difficult skills needed to print Edo Karakami.

Founded in 1690, the showroom at Higashi Ueno in Tokyo remains in its original location. It features many interior products for Japanese houses, around 350 types of Edo karakami, woodblock prints including some from the Edo period, and a variety of made-to-order handmade Washi. 

Adapting to modern times they now offer picture folders and name card holders that open two ways and are made in the tradition of screen separations. 

These are available at our store and online.

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Fude Calligraphy Brushes

Kumano Fude

Kumano town in home to the Kumano brush “fude”, a traditional brush with a history of 180 years; about 80% of the total domestic production takes place here. The Fudenosato Kobo facility plays a central role in presenting the local characteristics that go into the brushes.

The town of Kumano is located at small field basin surrounded by mountains with their heights around 500 meters above sea level. The town is long and narrow stretching from north to south, and surrounded by three cities: Hiroshima, Kure, and Higashi-Hiroshima.

Among its population of over 25,000, 1,500 people are craftsmen called "Fude-shi" engaged in Fude manufacturing. Also, Kumano has twenty highly skilled craftsmen who passed an official test and were designated as masters in traditional Fude making by the traditional crafts industry law (This law was made to promote the traditional Japanese crafts.). For the materials used for Fude, animal hair of goats, horses, weasels, deer, and raccoons are mainly used.

Around the end of 18th century (late Edo period), people of Kumano were having a hard time making a living just from farming, partly because of the fact that there wasn't much flat land for agriculture. They started purchasing Fude and sumi ink from Nara region, and reselling them during the agricultural off-season. That was the beginning of the close relationship between the town of Kumano and Fude.

Then about 180 years ago, with Hiroshima clan's encouragement of crafts and a prospect of selling Fude and sumi ink all over the country, they seriously set out to learn Fude-making skills.

The pioneers of Fude making in Kumano were young villagers. They learned the skills from Fude craftsmen who were invited to Kumano to teach, and also some of them were sent to Nara prefecture or Arima of Hyogo prefecture where advanced Fude-making skills were available.

And later, with villagers' efforts and enthusiasm Fude making skills was firmly established in Kumano. When school system was set up in 1872 and four years of education became mandatory in 1900, the use of Fude in school education contributed to the significant increase of Kumano's Fude production. 

After World War II, Shuuji (Japanese calligraphy) classes were deleted from the school curriculum, and their production of calligraphy Fude has dropped at one period. However, around 1955 , they started a production of Fude for painting and Fude for makeup, and in 1975, for the first time in Hiroshima prefecture, the Fude of Kumano was designated as one of the Japanese traditional crafts by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Today, Kumano's share of domestic Fude production has increased to 80 % not only in calligraphy Fude but also in Fude for painting and Fude for makeup. This tradition of Fude making of Kumano is still being passed down from one generation to the next.

The Process of making a brush:

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1 "Senmo" "Kegumi"

The Fude making process begins with choosing the right hair. After the right hair is selected, its length and quality are adjusted depending on the surface the tip of the Fude will come into contact with. The most suitable hair is picked out by hands from one cluster of hair at a time. This is an extremely delicate process and said to take a few decades of experience to distinguish the right material with perfect accuracy.

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2 "Hinoshi" "Kemomi"

Now the selected hair goes through a process called “ Kemomi”. Kemomi is a process of removing the oil and dirt from the animal hair to refine the quality of the hair. This is an essential process to make the hair absorb sumi ink well.

Next, the hair is cut to length, and rice-hull ash is sprinkled over it. Then, hot iron called “Hinoshi” is applied to the hair. The temperature of Hinoshi and how long it will be applied are slightly adjusted depending on the type of hair used. After that, the hair is quickly wrapped in deer skin, and massaged well. The most careful attention was paid in the process so that not to bend the hair.

By applying the heat and massaging the hair, natural oil and dirt get removed.

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3 "Ke-soroe" (Setting the hair)

The hair is combed well and any loose fluff was taken out. Then the hair is stacked flat in layers by a small cluster at a time. The hair is combed many times in order to enhance the quality of the hair.

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4"Sakage" "Surege-tori"

Removing the hair facing wrong direction / damaged hair. The hair is trimmed straight at the end, and by feeling the hair with hands, any hair in the wrong direction or damaged hair is picked out and removed by a small knife called “Hanzashi”, so that only the hair with good quality remains.

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5 "Sungiri"

The Fude head can be divided into five parts. The very tip of the Fude head is called “Inochi-ge”(life-hair), then the part little above that is “Nodo”(throat), the middle section of the Fude head is “Kata” (shoulder), the part closer to the root is “Hara” (abdomen) and the very root of the Fude head is “Koshi”(waist)

“Sungiri” is a process of cutting the hair into the different sizes of these five parts. A special tool called Sungi, which is cut to the required length of each part, is used as a scale to cut the hair with the end of the hair as a baseline. The process of cutting the hair is done very carefully and slowly by making sure if the end of the hair is cut completely even. After the hair is cut into the lengths of the five different parts, it is now mixed and put together as one bundle called “Kure”.

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6 Neri-maze (Mixing)

“Neri-maze” is a process of arranging the hair by soaking it in the water, so that there will be no irregularity when the hair is put together as a Fude head. The “Kure” is taken apart and the hair is laid flat thinly. Then the hair is mixed well by repeatedly folding it. Any unusable hair is removed, and the hair is trimmed and combed. The quality of the hair is examined thoroughly, and the hair is glued together with “Funori” (seaweed glue) and laid out flat and put together as a flat sheet called “Hirame”.

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7 “Shintate” (Making the core of Fude)

“Shintate” is a process of forming the hair into the shape of a Fude head. Hirame was divided into separate clusters, each with enough amount of hair to make up one Fude. Then, a cluster of hair is inserted into the Fude collar called “Koma”, and the hair was made into the shape of Fude of appropriate size, which forms a core of the Fude head.

Unnecessary hair is again taken out by hands.

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8 “Koromo-ge”

The hair wrapped around the core of a Fude head is called “Koromoge”. The hair selected for “Koromoge” is of better quality than the hair used for the Fude head. After the hair for “Koromoge” went through the same processes as the core of Fude head, the Koromoge is ready to be wrapped around the core.

Putting the Koromoge evenly around the core of a Fude head requires the most sophisticated skills. After the Koromoge is nicely put on the Fude head, it is dried naturally. Then the dried Fude head is tied with linen thread at the root.

 

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9 “Itojime” (Tying the thread)

After the knot at the end of the thread is singed and firmly secured, the Fude head is complete.

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10 “Kankomi” (Inserting a Fude head into a Fude handle)

“Kankomi” is a process of inserting the Fude head into a Fude handle. Fude handles are made of materials such as bamboo and cherry trees. The inside of a handle is smoothed away evenly so that a Fude head will be easily inserted into it. 

 

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11: Finishing

To ensure that the Fude lasts for a long time, glue is applied to the Fude. The glue is applied to the end of the Fude head with a pounding motion so that it will absorb the glue well. Any excess glue is removed by using a thread. A linen thread is wrapped around the Fude head and by turning the handle of the Fude, the excess glue gets squeezed out of the hair.

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12 Engraving

After the Fude is naturally dried thoroughly, the signature of the each workshop is engraved on the Fude, and now the Fude is complete.

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We have these calligraphy brushes available at our store.

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Japanese New Year Traditions

In Japan we don't celebrate Christmas as much as we do for New Years.  The time of the year that companies are mandatorily closed so that everyone can spend time with their family which lasts from 1 week to 10 days. Here are some of our traditions:

Kagami mochi (鏡餅, "mirror rice cake")

A traditional Japanese New Year decoration. It usually consists of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a daidai (a Japanese bitter orange) with an attached leaf on top. In addition, it may have a sheet of konbu and a skewer of dried persimmons under the mochi. It sits on a stand called a sanpō (三宝) over a sheet called a shihōbeni (四方紅), which is supposed to ward off fires from the house for the following years. Sheets of paper called gohei (御幣) folded into lightning shapes similar to those seen on sumo wrestler's belts are also attached.

The kagami mochi first appeared in the Muromachi period (14th–16th century). The name kagami ("mirror") is said to have originated from its resemblance to an old-fashioned kind of round copper mirror, which also had a religious significance. The reason for it is not clear. Explanations include mochi being a food for sunny days, the spirit of the rice plant being found in the mochi, and the mochi being a food which gives strength.

The two mochi discs are variously said to symbolize the going and coming years, the human heart, "yin" and "yang", or the moon and the sun. The "daidai", whose name means "generations", is said to symbolize the continuation of a family from generation to generation.

Traditionally the kagami mochi was placed in various locations throughout the house. Nowadays it is usually placed in a household Shinto altar, or kamidana. It has also been placed in the tokonoma, a small decorated alcove in the main room of the home.

Contemporary kagami mochi are often pre-moulded into the shape of stacked discs and sold in plastic packages in the supermarket. A mikan or a plastic imitation daidai is often substituted for the original daidai.

Variations in the shape of kagami mochi are also seen. In some regions, three layered kagami mochi are also used. The three layered kagami mochi are placed on the butsudan or on the kamidana. There is also a variant decoration called an okudokazari placed in the centre of the kitchen or by the window which has three layers of mochi (pounded rice).

It is traditionally broken and eaten in a Shinto ritual called kagami biraki (mirror opening) on the second Saturday or Sunday of January. This is an important ritual in Japanese martial arts dojos. It was first adopted into Japanese martial arts when Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo, adopted it in 1884, and since then the practice has spread to aikido, karate and jujutsu studios.

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After the New Years celebration the mochi is boiled in a soup with various vegetables and styles, depending on the region.  Some examples:

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During this time we give Otoshidama which is an envelope with money for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There are reasons to believe that the roots of otoshidama lie in Japanese folklore, and that the money given to children are simultaneously an offering to the “toshigami”, the Shinto deities of the New Year. In theory, the toshigami would serve as protectors of the children receiving the money.

There used to be a Shinto ritual during which round rice cakes known as kagami-mochi, were offered to the god of the New Year. Once over, the worshippers were given a part. When they returned to their homes, they crushed the rice cakes wrapped the parts in paper, and shared them with the family and servants, which is the origin of Otoshidama. As time passed, when visiting relatives or friends homes during New Year’s Eve, it became customary to bring gifts, originally called onenshi. It is when they started to be given to children that “otoshidama” was born. 

The actual custom of giving otoshidama dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), when wealthy families and businesses distributed bags of mochi and mikan (a Japanese mandarin orange) to families as a way to spread happiness at the beginning of each year. (This is also related to the traditional New Year's kagamimochi.)

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On NEW YEARS DAY:

We go to an onsen to cleanse ourselves from dirt of the last year.

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Then we eat Soba. 

Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦), year-crossing noodle, is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten on New Year's Eve. This custom lets go of hardship of the year.

The custom differs from area to area and it is also called misoka soba, tsugomori soba, kure soba, jyumyo soba, fuku soba, and unki soba. The tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life. The buckwheat plant can survive severe weather during growing period, soba represents strength and resiliency.

It is a tradition to not break the noodle while you eat it for good luck for the new year. For Japanese people, we don't feel like it is a new year until we eat soba.

The making is quite easy, you put the soba and cook it the same way you cook pasta. Just a few minutes and then add tsuyu sauce. You can use any topping that you like, for example nori seaweed, negi green onion, ginger, wasabi, etc. These noodles can be eaten cold with a dipping sauce or in a hot bowl.

If they are eaten cold we use a dipping called tsuyu which is a mix of soy sauce, mirin, fish stock. We can also use grinded sesame with soy sauce for vegetarians and vegans.

For hot soba we can use the same stock. For vegetarians, it’s possible to use “dashi” made with Kombu seaweed, not fish.

Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦), year-crossing noodle, is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten on New Year's Eve. This custom lets go of hardship of the year.

The custom differs from area to area and it is also called misoka soba, tsugomori soba, kure soba, jyumyo soba, fuku soba, and unki soba. The tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life. The buckwheat plant can survive severe weather during growing period, soba represents strength and resiliency.

It is a tradition to not break the noodle while you eat it for good luck for the new year. For Japanese people, we don't feel like it is a new year until we eat soba.

The making is quite easy, you put the soba and cook it the same way you cook pasta. Just a few minutes and then add tsuyu sauce. You can use any topping that you like, for example nori seaweed, negi green onion, ginger, wasabi, etc. These noodles can be eaten cold with a dipping sauce or in a hot bowl.

If they are eaten cold we use a dipping called tsuyu which is a mix of soy sauce, mirin, fish stock. We can also use grinded sesame with soy sauce for vegetarians and vegans.

For hot soba we can use the same stock. For vegetarians, it’s possible to use “dashi” made with Kombu seaweed.

Then we go to the temple to ring bell. For good luck you must be in the first 108 people to ring the bell to represent the 108 sins in Buddhism. During this time the monks light a bonfire where you burn things that are precious and you want to let go of but do not want to throw in the garbage. 

Then the monks open a sacred sake drink that everyone enjoys together. 

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During the next days we eat "Osechi" good luck food with food for health, work, family, ahppieness. In this way we appreciate our living family and ancestors and can say "Akemeshite Omedeto to put the last year behind and open ourselves to the new year.

These are our traditions.

 

 

Noh Masks

The word Noh is derived from the word for Skill or Talent. As Noh is an art form that uses masks, there is a great variety of them depending on if you they are portraying a man, woman, old, young, angry, funny, etc. There were originally about 60 basic types of Noh masks, but today there are well over 200 different kinds in use.

Masks have played a central role in Noh theatre since the art form was created in the 14th century. The masks are connected with the appearance of the gods on stage.

Covering the face with a mask is much like wearing makeup. However, Noh performers feel that the Noh mask has a certain power inherent in it which makes it much more spiritual than a prop used to change ones appearance. The Noh performer will carefully choose a Noh mask, known also as a noh-men or omote. In most cases, the exact mask is not predetermined, but depending on which Noh is being done, the shite has a variety to choose from. In the end, it is up to the shite to make the final determination as to which mask is chosen.

As it is often difficult to tell the actual feelings expressed in a noh mask, it is said to be made with a “neutral” expression. The mask carver tries to instill a variety of emotions in the mask.

It is up to the performer to imbue the mask with emotion. One of the techniques used in this task is to slightly tilt the mask up or down. With terasu (tilting upwards) the mask appears to be slightly smiling or laughing and the expression lightens somewhat. While kumorasu (tilting downwards), produces a slight frown and can express sadness or crying. Basically, by using minute movements, the performer is able to express very fully.

Noh masks, like costumes and props, are extremely valuable heirlooms and handed down from generation to generation.

After having the costume put on, the shite then goes to the kagami no ma (mirror room) where in front of a mirror, the shite faces the mask. In putting the mask on, the word kaburu (putting on clothing) is not used. Instead the word kakeru (to hang) or tsukeru (to attach) is used. In this way, it is implying that the performer is “becoming” the mask, and its emotions, in order to better express the characters feelings.

As the eye holes of the mask are very small, the field of vision of the performer is very limited when wearing the mask. Consequently the simple design of the stage and the use of hashira (pillars) assists in helping the performer know their location during a performance.

However, even without wearing a mask, the performer is meant to “make their face a mask.” The performer must inject power and emotion into their performance while not using their face to express.

We have 2 vintage Noh Masks on display at our store if you are interested in viewing them. They haven't yet had the faces painted on them and are collectors items to visualize the possible faces. 

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Chasen Tea Whisk

The making of tea whisks began in the middle of the Muromachi period (1333-1568), when the younger son of the lord of Takayama was asked to make a whisk by Murata Juko, who had been instrumental in perfecting the tea ceremony. Thereafter, the production method was kept a guarded secret by the lord of the castle and his family and was carefully handed down from generation to generation.


However, sometime later the secret was revealed to sixteen of the family's chief retainers and the techniques were passed on without interruption. Takayama is now the only place in the country where tea whisks are being made.

There are about 120 different kinds of Takayama Chasen, the type of material, shape and number of splines varying according to the school of tea, and also on the kind of tea, whether it is weak or strong, to be served in very formal surroundings or at an open air tea ceremony, or if the whisk is for a travelling set. The taste of the tea is also said to differ slightly according to the workmanship during the whittling process. A part from the traditional whisks, some are now made for decorative purposes, while others are made to produce a good head of froth on milky coffee.

In modern times, we usually use chasen only for “macha” powdered green tea. For other types of tea that we get from the best "tea farms" in Uji, Shizuoka, Kyoto areas, all organic, available in store: 2 different matcha, sencha, genmaicha, hojicha, kukicha) which we have at our store : we use tea pots from design specialists.

 

For this type of tea you can make it much like you would for an Earl Grey tea. According to your preference, you keep the tea in as you like. We usually use the tea leaf for about 1 minute for the first time and then about 2 minutes for the second pot. But it is up to you to determine the taste that you prefer.

The typical bamboo considered good for chasen is said to be that from the mountains of Hyogo, Nare, Kyoto and other areas on the Pacific Ocean side of the Kinki region. This is because this area is low in nutrients causing the bamboo to grow strong and sturdy. The craftsman then takes the piece of bamboo and divides it into sixteen pieces, they’re then cut into large and small segments to make the number of tines required. The ends of the tines are boiled in hot water and placed on a stand, then thinned from the base to the tip. After carving, the bristles are tapered to create a brush-shape, smoothing out all the rough edges and then finish it off by fixing the base securely with thread


You don't actually "whisk" the tea with them the way you would egg whites; you move it in a "m" motion instead in the tea bowl.

To clean, rinse then dry before storing. You can buy stands (referred to as "forms") that you put them on to dry to help them retain their shape longer.

Old and broken ones are taken to temples once a year, generally around May, and burnt there in a ceremony called "Chasen Koyō." It is considered bad form to simply toss one in the garbage,

We recommend that you get the bamboo whisk wet just before you use it. The bamboo whisk is susceptible to dry conditions. When it is dry, it becomes brittle and easy to break. 
It is better to store the bamboo whisk on a whisk keeper after using it. This will help the whisk to retain its shape.

These tea whisks are available at our store. We also have multiple types of Japanese tea 2 different matcha, as well as sencha, genmaicha, hojicha, and kukicha at our store with a selection available on our website.

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Hagoita

Hagoita are rectangular wooden paddles from Japan that date back to the 17th century. They were originally used to play “Hanetsuki” (a game similar to badminton), but they are often used more for ornamental purposes. When playing “Hanetsuki”, since the Hagoita’s movement is similar to the “Harau” action (a Japanese expression meaning “drive away”), it is thought to be effective to drive away evil spirits and is thus often used as a charm against evil.

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During the Edo period, “Oshie-Hagoita”, paddles designed with images of elegantly made-up Kabuki actors, grew to become popular. The “Oshie” drawings are usually created with washi or cloth cut out in the shape of flowers and people, and then pasted onto the paddle with cottons inside them to give them a three dimensional aspect.

By the turn of the 17th century, a huge variety of “Hagoita” had spread across Japan. Some high quality paddles even used gold leaf and silver foil, and so many different kinds appeared that Japan’s feudal government had to ban and impose constraints on production at one point. Then, at the start of the Meiji period, new technologies allowed the line-up of “Hagoita” to increase even more.

These are frequently painted, usually with lacquer, with auspicious symbols, or decorated with complex silk collages. The game itself is now rarely played now a days but crafting decorative Hagoita is still commonplace. They are generally sold at traditional fairs (Hagoita ichi) which are held in December.   

We have two vintage Hagita at our store if you would like to view them

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Kokeshi Wooden Dolls

Kokeshi (こけし kokeshi), are Japanese dolls, originally from northern Japan. They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face. The body usually has a floral design painted in red, black, and sometimes yellow, and covered with a layer of wax. One characteristic of kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs. The bottom is typically marked with the signature of the artist.

Kokeshi were first produced by kijishi (木地師), artisans proficient with a potter's wheel, at the Shinchi Shuraku, near the Tōgatta Onsen in Zaō from where kokeshi-making techniques spread to other spa areas in the Tōhoku region. 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 springs in the north-east of the country.

"Traditional" kokeshi (伝統こけし dentō-kokeshi) dolls' shapes and patterns are particular to a certain area and are classified under eleven types, shown below. The most dominant type is the Naruko variety originally made in Miyagi Prefecture, which can also be found in Akita, Iwate, and Yamagata Prefectures. The main street of the Naruko Onsen Village is known as Kokeshi Street and has shops which are operated directly by the kokeshi carvers.

"Creative" kokeshi (新型こけし shingata-kokeshi) allow the artist complete freedom in terms of shape, design and color and were developed after World War II (1945). They are not particular to a specific region of Japan and generally creative kokeshi artists are found in cities.

The woods used for kokeshi vary, with cherry used for its darkness and dogwood for its softer qualities. Itaya-kaede, a Japanese maple, is also used in the creation of both traditional and creative dolls. The wood is left outdoors to season for one to five years before it can be used.

We  keep Kokeshi dolls to represent the soul of a precious child.

We have a selection of vintage Kokeshi dolls at our store.

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Jusan Yu Japanese Combs

If you have ever seen the beautiful women of the famous prints in Ukiyoe block prints wearing beautiful combs in their hair and using them to brush their hair and would like one of your own, we have these for you.  We bought them from a very special craftsman store in Kyoto called Kushi Ya.

Kushi means Comb Shop.

When the “Juni-hito” (ceremonial robe of a court woman) came about in around 1185 AD, the fashion in Japan changed to our real style without influences from other east Asia countries. From this time Japanese nobility started wearing glamorous combs in their wigs or normal hair and using them in their daily life. After decades, these are the combs that are used by Maiko and Geisha that preserve the tradition.

The wood for the combs takes 40 years to grow and prepare. By then the wood is suitably hard, the cutting and drying the timber takes another 10 years. After that, the wood is smoked, using its own saw dust, and meticulous care must be used in this process.

To make a comb, first the, “teeth” of the comb are sawn with craftsmen tools. They are then polished with a shark skin brush and a kind of a dried grass called Tokusa and finally with dear skin, which gives the naturals, fine shade and rich luster to the comb.

These combs are offered as a treasure to the Isse Shinto Shrine’s “Sun Goddess” Amaterasu, who has been worshiped as part of the Imperial Household.

Everything is made by hand with much care. One mistake would mean that the comb cannot be used.  So much care is taken, with respect to the trees and the way that we treasure and use these combs.

The traditional craft of making the finest combs demands the craftsman and entire family who never cease to work hard to produce comb of our level of quality.

Maiko and Geisha use these for care and also as adornments. In the west you can use them for multiple uses for male and female.  

For care:

- Please don't wash them in water

- Clean them using camellia oil or olive oil

- Take any hair or dandruff out with a brush

-With care these brushes can last you a lifetime.

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We have a selection of combs at our store.

 

Maruyama Nawrap Linens

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Maruyama

quick-drying, absorbent & durable disch cloth

Maruyama Fiber Industry Co. Ltd was founded in Nara, Japan in 1930. They began manufacturing traditional mosquito nets that were woven from cotton and hemp fabrics. Mosquito nets later lost their relevance in Japan because of modern living and convenience. The traditional mosquito net fabric has since been adapted using traditional weaving technologies, into a line of multipurpose eco cloths. This absorbent, quick-drying fabric is perfect for the home. It is high quality, durable and soft. They have products that will work in your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and more!

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What is Multipurpose Eco Cloth?

Multipurpose Eco cloth is made from coarse fabric that was traditionally used by Japanese to make mosquito nets. Due to the increase of modern technology and declining demand for mosquito nets, materials were instead made to Multipurpose Eco Cloth while keeping its traditional weaving techniques.

The Bath Towels are 100% naturally made. They feature a unique weave that is exclusive to Japan and are made without any dyes or chemicals. The persimmon and charcoal towels naturally absorb odor and bacteria and ideal for after the bath or shower.

Discover Maruyama products at our store and on our e-shop.

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Maruyama - Kaya Dishcloth
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Cul de Sac

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Cul-de-sac

from the deep forests of Aomori prefecture to your house

Ms. Mineko Muraguchi grew up in her parents home which is also a lumber mill specializing in Aomori Hiba wood in Aomori prefecture in Japan. Aomori Hiba is unique to Japan and considered one of the three major beautiful trees of Japan, along with Kiso hinoki cypress and Akita cedar. As it grows slowly by weathering the northern severe snowstorm with a high resistance, Aomori Hiba has been used as building materials of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples since ancient times.

Since she grew up with the fragrance of the Hiba trees, she was not initially interested in working as it had been so close and familiar to her. However, several years ago she started to feel that she wanted to design the wood products and spread the beautiful scent of Aomori Hiba wood within Japan and all over the world because of it’s unique scent and anti-bacterial properties.

The origin of Cul de Sac, the company’s name as well as brand’s name derives from a French term meaning a street which ends, traditionally there are houses or stores lining this end with a sense of community. In fact, their shop & atelier is in real "Cul de Sac". Ms Muraguchi loves this space that she hardly renovated from an old house as well as the peaceful environment.

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Cul-de-sac extract the natural hiba oil from the wood waste of over 250 year-old Aomori Hiba wood through water vapor distillation. There are more than 40 different kinds of ingredients in the essential oil extracted from the Aomori Hiba. Two ingredients, Hinokitiol and β-Dolabrin, have the strongest antibacterial effect. Trees with Hinokitiol and β-Dolabrin are rare in the world. In Japan, only the Aomori Hiba has these two ingredients. This also keeps pests such as moths and insects away. Wild Incense Spray has a fresh and organic forest aroma.

Non-woven fabric bag containing Hiba fine wood shavings for pillows. Place fabric bag in a pillow case for a pleasant, relaxing aroma or under a pet bed to reduce unpleasant odors. We also have a potpourri set and wood oil diffusers for room your room scent, closets, or under your pillow for sleep and relaxation.
Discover Cul-de-sac line of hiba fragrance in our e-shop and in store.

Cul-de-sac - Hiba Wood Oil
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Cul-de-sac - Hiba Candle
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Cul-de-sac - Deep Oil Wood
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Aqua Culture Vase

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Aqua Culture Vase

A clear vase to see slow-growing life happen

Kinto is a design studio since 1972. This vase was designed primarily for people living in urban areas and are unable to have a garden. It is also designed to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of growth, from each leaf that grows, to watching the roots get longer in the water.

The two-part glass plate and vase make it easy to clean and care for the plant. The top part is removable so it is easy to remove and clean wash the roots and glass so that green algae doesn't stick on the roots. We also recommend that you wash the glass at least once a week so that calcium doesn't accumulate on the glass. We have special bottle cleaning brushes from Edoya for this. For Japanese people, caring for a treasured plant is a form of meditation. But this is not just for Japanese, it is in many cultures. We hope that you can enjoy this as well.

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You can grow herbs, flowering bulbs, avocados, etc. It is fun to experiment with new things that you can try to grow and refreshing to watch something changing and life happening in front of your eyes.
Discover Kinto's Aqua Culture Vase at our store and on our e-shop

Glico - The Running Man

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In 1919 in Osaka, Riichi Ezaki created a caramel candy product containing glycogen. This product was named “Glico”, a shortening of the word glycogen. The tag line of the product was “300 Meters in a Single Piece” and the logo was a running man.

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Since then Glico has created many of our favorite treats, both sweet and savory, which are staple snacks all over Japan, sold in convenient stores and supermarkets.

One of the best sellers is the Pretz and Pocky series. Pretz which comes in savory flavors, was already a popular pretzel stick snack item. The simple concept of covering it with chocolate was the beginning of Pocky. Now we can find Pocky in many flavors including strawberry, green tea, pudding, etc.

Another very popular product is Bisco, which is a very nutritious snack for 1 year olds and is good for teething.

They also have a wide variety of yogurts, jellies, and snacks.

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In 1935 Glico put up a large neon sign in Osaka’s famous Dotonbori street. It is a landmark where people who don't know Osaka well can meet up, much like Hachiko in Shibuya. The neon sign is revised to support sports events like World Cup or Olympics. The spirit of Glico is health and fitness.

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This logo has become in a sense the symbo of Osaka.

We have a selection of savory and sweets at our store from the Glico brand, including Milky Peko-chan, which is a time tested nostalgic treat for adults and a favorite for children. Healthy cute and yummy.

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Domo-kun

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Visit the world of Domo-kun. He is the mascot for the Japanese National News Network and super cute!

“A long, long time ago, in a world where TV, smartphones, schools, baseball, soccer, and NHK WORLD had yet to exist, the Domo tribe lived a sometimes dangerous but fun and carefree life with the dinosaurs.”

The characters, are a brown furry monsters with a large, saw toothed mouth that is locked wide open. His favorite food is nikujaga (a Japanese home cooked dish made of meat, potato, onion, carrots or other ingredients in a stew depending on your household). Domo-kun hates apples for an unknown reason. According to a Tokyopop press release of the Domo comic book, Domo "communicates in a special language that only his friends can understand.

Domo lives in and underground cave with Mr. Usagi (Mr Rabbit) who is very wise and gives Domo-kun lots of advice that he hardly listens to. Mr. Usagi likes to watch television and drink green tea. He does not own a telephone. Of course his favorite food is carrots. 

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If you want to watch some video clips of his cute little adventure you can find them on the NHK website:

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/domo/dw/?cid=nwd-adwords-text-domo_world_fr-domoworld

We currently have a few Domo-kun’s for sale at our store. We love all of them!

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Edoya - A Japanese Brush Workshop From The Old Times

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Edoya is workshop, specializing on high quality brush making in Japan, since 1718. The founder of the company was one of the exclusive brush makers for the Shogun family back in the time. Back in that era, the brushes were majorly used to paint on the woodblock and hanging scrolls etc.

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Nowadays, only natural furs, from pigs and horses are used by the craftsman for the making of various brushes. Inheriting from the traditional craftsmanship back in the time, each craftsman was well trained to perfectly place bristles through the holes by hand, so that the tips of the brushes do not lose their shape.

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Up to todate, Edoya is making and working with a wide range of brush types, from various body brushes, to shoes and clothes brushes. Among the most popular types, their clothes brushes were often highlighted by the users. They are known to maintain usability for a really long time. The Edoya clothes brushes made with delicate, firm, and high-quality pig bristles take a good care of fabric, by removing lint and dust while effectively keeping static away.

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KOSHO’s Sukajan Jacket - The art of Japanese Embroidery

The core of the KOSHO embroidery is the creation of the design from the inspirational, Japanese historical patterns, and apply them onto the dedicated mold. Here we introduce the "mold" as the foundation of embroidery.

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These molds were cut out according to the design with a crest paper (rice gob) that was impregnated with persimmon juice (liquid for waterproofing / preservation, retrieved from astringent fruit) in Japanese paper. The craftsman place the mold on the cut fabric and paint with a brush mixed with zinc white (zinc white = powder produced by combustion of zinc, which is hard to dissolve in water), and then glue from above. By doing so, the same shape pattern as the mold remains on the fabric, and the dimensions that the craftsman embroidered along the guidelines. This method is unique to kimono embroidery, a similar type has been used for embroidery of silk fabrics and kimono from ancient times.

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When comes to the sewing, each of the design of Sukajan was horizontally waving embroidered by a skilled craftsman on the fabric. The Sukajan was often called back in the era as "Souvenir Jacket" or "Wagon Tiger Dragon Embroidery Jumper".

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The embroidery used for Souvenir Jacket requires certain advanced technology.  A special sewing machine called "side swing sewing machine" is required for the completion of the task, instead of general automatic sewing machines. By gradually adjusting the speed with the foot pedal and the swing width of the needle with the lever on the right knee, each skillfully craftsman is obliged to move the fabric with embroidery slowly by hand. The influence of each embroidery work depends largely on craftsmen's skills and their senses on width of the embroidery, the needle foot, and the color of the embroidery thread.

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Suikawari - A Japanese Summer Game For Kids

Suikawari (スイカ割り suika-wari, lit. Watermelon Splitting) is a traditional Japanese game that involves splitting a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded. Played in the summertime, suikawari is most often seen at beaches, but also occurs at festivals, picnics, and other summer events.

The rules are similar to piñata. A watermelon is laid out, and participants one by one attempt to smash it open. Each is blindfolded, spun around three times, and handed a wooden stick, to strike with. The first to crack the watermelon open wins.

Afterwards the chunks of watermelon produced are shared among participants. Because the watermelon can fall into the sand and get dirty, a sheet, a piece of cardboard, or other element is commonly placed beneath it.

All kids love this game, adults too! 

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Senko Hanabi - A Tradition From Japan

Senko hanabi ( 線香花火 senkō hanabi ) (sparkler - literally: incense-stick fireworks) is a traditional Japanese firework. Essays about them date back to at least 1927.

They are a thin shaft of twisted paper about 20 centimeters long with one end containing a few grains of a black gunpowder. The black powder composition consists of three basic chemicals: potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal .

The pointed end is lit and held straight down, so that the flame is at the bottom. After a few seconds a glowing, molten slag will forml. The molten ball will ignite the second phase of the senko hanabi, silently spraying an array of delicate branching sparks with a range of up to 20 cm] They are ignited away from the wind and held with a steady hand, so that the delicate molten head does not drop and that the two phases of ignition are completed. Senko hanabi are included in packets of fireworks and are ignited last amongst other fireworks.

Senko hanabi are said to somehow hypnotize the viewer into silence and to evoke mono no aware(translated as "an empathy toward things," or "a sensitivity to ephemera"), a Japanese term describing a flash of sadness felt when reminded of the beauty and briefness of life. The poignantly ephemeral has long been appreciated in Japan and is still felt in the quiet celebration of senko hanabi.

Adults and children alike light up senko hanabi. With our superstition, the longer you can keep it burning, is like your life line. Unlike western fireworks, this one is very quiet and gives us a sense of peace and reflection on our lives.

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Tenugi - The Traditional Hand Towels from Japan

Tenugui are Japanese traditional hand towels. The history of tenugui dates back to the Heian period (AD 794 - 1192), when they were very precious and only used for religious shinto ceremonies. Traditional tenugui cloth is made of pure cotton and the borders are simply cut without being stitched. The Tenugui therefore loses fibers at the beginning. The benefit is that Tenugui dry quickly.

About 100 years ago it became popular to add colorful patterns to Tenugui towels when artisans applied the chusen dyeing technique using stencil paper. The dye infiltrates the cloth and the patterns appear on both sides (there is no right or wrong side). When the dye fades the tenugui gets a beautiful aged look. At NIHON ICHIBAN we also offer Tenugui using other dyeing techniques such as Arimatsu tie dyeing.

Most of tenugui is 90cm in length and it could be easily used in many ways. For wrapping a gift, wrapping a lunch box, as a small bag, a handkerchief, a fashion accessory, a wash cloth, a towel, head covering under a helmet, a souvenir, etc. 

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