Coming Of Age Day

Seijin Shiki or 成人式or Coming of Age day comes on the second January of every year. This year it is on January 14th. It is for everyone that have turned 20 years old in the last year, both male and females look forward to this special day. We are alerted by the city or ward office about where to meet and what time but it is usually after 11:30am at the city office. Boys and girls mix and compliment each other. 

We wear colorful kimono’s and the men wear kimono’s or suits as well. Grandmas and mothers still help the girls with the Kimono, Obi, and hair decoration. In modern times it is less common for people to live with their Grandparents so you can go to the store where you buy your kimono and then to a hair salon for a special hair-do with ornaments and make-up. 

From there many times we go to a temple with our family and friends and take photos and enjoy the day. 

If you are in Tokyo at this time please enjoy the day!

seijin_ph01.jpg
title.jpg
seijin-shiki.jpg

Gassan Washi Paper

Road with a long history

The Nishikawa area of Yamagata prefecture has long been a center of mountain worship based on the Three Mountains of Dewa (Dewa sanzan): Mt. Gassan, Mt. Yudono, and Mt. Haguro. Many pilgrims came from far-awdistant places, even as far off as the Kantō region, and followed the 24 km long highway that runs through the town from east to west. Remnants of the mountain cult can still be found in temples, shrines, and ruins in the area. 

1545927815915.png

Iwanesawa Sanzan Shrine

During the Edo period (1615–1868) various types of handmade Japanese paper were produced in Nishikawa-cho, resulting in the name Nishiyama washi. Gassan washi was originally an offshoot of Nishiyama washi and is made in the Iwanesawa district of Nishikawa, situated at an entrance to Mt. Gassan, where there is a large shrine called Iwanesawa Sanzan Shrine (formerly Nichigatsu Temple) and a community of guesthouses for visiting pilgrims 

Saving the paper making tradition

When Iino Hiroo became the last paper maker in the Iwanesawa district, he changed the name from Nishiyama washi to Gassan washi and continued to engage in and teach papermaking up until 1995. The photographs taken in the mid 70’s show the family business in action. 

Papermaking at the Nature and Craft Museum, Oisawa

In 1989 in the Ōisawa district of Nishikawa, a papermaking studio was built in the Shizen to Takumi no Denshokan (Nature and Craft Museum). Iino Hiroo declined to work at the studio feeling that the 30 minute drive from Iwanesawa to Oisawa was too much at his advanced age, so Miura Kazuyuki, who was training as a papermaker in Ogawa, Saitama Prefecture, was invited to be the instructor for the papermaking studio. After Miura moved to Nishikawa, he worked with Iino mastering the production of the Gassan washi and eventually became the one and only papermaker in Nishikawa.  

A road along a clear stream

The Ōisawa district is a valley running southward from the headwaters of Sagae River located deep within the far southwest of Nishikawa. Looking north from Ōisawa, Mt. Gassan appears above the clear river. This area is sometimes called “the Japanese Tibet.” Near the old highway along the river where in the winter the heavy snowfall piles up over two meters in height, stands the ruins of a huge temple whose lines of foundation stones mark an area the size of a soccer field or a small village. 

 Characteristics of Gassan paper

Gassan washi is characterized by its effective use of locally produced paper mulberry (kōzo) to bring out texture of the natural fiber. The paper made by Iino was dried on boards that gave his paper a natural soft texture. The traditional size for the Gassan washi is 30.0 cm x 79.0 cm. Even after Miura took over the production, the paper has not changed and still brings out the texture of the paper mulberry. 

Production Processes: Harvesting and cutting

Lets take a look at the process of producing Gassan washi papermaking. The kōzo (paper mulberry) branches are harvested just before the snow sets in at the end of November. The harvested branches are then cut to about 70 cm.

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 01.02.41.png

Production processes: Steaming

The cut kōzo branches are bundled together and set in a covered bucket to steam for two hours. Immediately after steaming, water is poured over them so that the outer skin contracts making it easier to strip.

Production processes: Peeling

The skin of the steamed kōzo can be easily peeled off by hand.  Since this needs to be done before the branches cool, local people and college students come to help out with the work. The peeled skin is dried in bundles. Then, the dried paper mulberry skin is soaked in water again and the surface skin is shaved off using a knife. Paper mulberry that still has the outer skin is called “black bark” (kurokawa) and the stripped paper mulberry inner skin is called "white bark" (shirokawa). The shirokawa is then dried. This process is still done with the help of the Iwanesawa locals. 

Production processes: Boiling, rinsing and removing dusts and debris

The shirakawa skins are then boiled for two hours in a solution of water and soda ash (sodium carbonate aqueous solution). The boiled paper mulberry fibers are washed in water to take the soda ash off. After thorough rinsing, scars and knots left in the fiber are taken out by hand one by one. 

Production processes: Beating

The cleaned paper mulberry fibers are beaten into pulp. In the old days, this used to be done by hand beating the paper mulberry fibers with a wooden stick on to a board, but now naginata beaters and electric beaters are used.

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 01.02.57.png

Production processes: Mixing fibers and neri in the vat

The pulp is put into a vat filed with water and the fibers distributed by moving the harrow back and forth. A bamboo pole is also used to thoroughly mix the fibers, and then a viscous agent (neri) is added and the vat mixed again to create the bath for forming paper. Adding the neri emulsifies the pulp so the paper mulberry fibers are uniformly suspended in the vat. The viscous liquid from Abelmoschus manihot (tororoaoi)roots is used for neri.

Production processes: Forming paper

The paper is made using a sugeta, which is a bamboo screen set in a deckle, or frame mold with handles. It is possible to swish the pulp back and forth on the screen because of the viscocity of the neri. The solution is scooped in at the front and then swished back and forth so that the pulp spreads evenly over the screen. Depending on the type and thickness of the finished product, the movement will differ. Because the amount of pulp in the solution decreases with each sheet of paper made, fine adjustments are needed to maintain the same thickness in each paper.

We have some New Gassan Wallets at our store in various colors.

Clean your home, body, and mind to prepare for the Yew Year

In Japan we have a tradition of cleaning our houses and our bodies before the new year. House cleaning involves throwing away clutter and unnecessary items for a clean new start. A deep clean in the house that we usually prefer to do by ourselves. Cleaning can be a part of meditation. Whether or not you have someone to help you during your busy schedule in the year, it is always good to do this clean yourself to check all of the points that may have been missed, go through belongings, rearrange furniture and lifestyle. It is very meditative … nostalgic, deciding what to keep and what to toss, creative, and deciding how you want to start the next year.

After that process is completed we clean our bodies. Scrubbing off all the dirt and grind of last year. Soaking in a bath. In Japan we go to the hot springs but when they aren’t available we take a long bath with bath salts. This is also the end of the meditation, letting the steam enter your lungs and clean your spirit.

Some of the products that we recommend for the body washing process:

Makanai Scrubbing Towels: Many types to be found at https://www.japan-best.net/bath-salts/

Woven from cotton and strings made from natural washi paper which are naturally soft and durable, while leaving a gentle and pleasant after-wash unique to the Japanese bathing culture.

These body wash towels made from Japanese washi paper pulp, have been awarded Gold in the 2014 Omotenashi Selection. This award is a program dedicated to discovering, screening and awarding exciting products and services that epitomize the concept of omotenashi, a unique spirit of the Japanese culture. 

https://www.japan-best.net/bath-accessories/makanai-washi-paper-body-scrub-towel

makanai-two-sided-washi-japanese-paper-cotton-towel-3.jpg

We also Love the selection of bath salts. Many different types: https://www.japan-best.net/bath-salts/

Web_bath-essence_green-tea.jpg

Binchotan Charcoal Peeling Towel :

The fibers of the peeling towel are enriches with Binchotan charcoal, which cleanses the skin and absorbs dirt and bacteria and lightly prevent from sweating. It is perfectly suitable for both face and body as its composition is lightly scrubbing. https://www.japan-best.net/bath-accessories/kenkawai-binchotan-peeling-towel

Web_scrubtowel.jpg

Uno Hake Brushes (Since 1917) for a nice good back and body scrub!

“Hake” are brushes formed by two separate pieces of wood that bind the hair and the hair fibers are planted by hand inside the wooden holes and strung together. After this the hairs are cut to symmetry.

These brushes have been modernized to have an array of modern uses. For home use, to clean your face, body, clothes, shoes, etc. https://www.japan-best.net/bath-accessories/

WebN_UnoHake-Bodybrush-Horse-Black1.jpg

We hope you enjoy our selection of Bath goods.

Xmas Japan Style

Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan for the last few decades. It's still not seen as a religious holiday or celebration as there are not many Christians in Japan. Now several customs that came to Japan from the USA such as sending and receiving Christmas Cards and Presents are popular.

In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day.

christmas-in-japan.jpg

Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day celebrations in the UK and the USA. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant - booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it's so popular!

christmas-lights-roppongi.jpg

Families often eat fried chicken on Christmas day. Traditionally, homes and apartments in Japan do not have ovens so the traditional oven baked chicken cannot be made. Hence it is the busiest time of year for restaurants such as KFC and people can place orders at their local fast food restaurant in advance! There was an advertising campaign by KFC in the 1974 called 'Kentucky for Christmas!' (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) which was very successful and made KFC popular for Christmas!

The traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake, but it's not a rich fruitcake, but is usually a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream. The 'shortcake' emoji is Japanese Christmas cake!

japanese-christmas-cake.jpg

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. However, often schools are closed on Christmas Day. The Emperor's birthday is a national holiday on the 23rd December and there's also a New Year school break. So the holiday break often starts around the 23rd. But most businesses will treat the 25th as a 'normal' working day.

One piece of music is especially famous around Christmas and the end of the year in Japan - Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and it's final act the "Ode to Joy". The music is so famous it's simply known as 'daiku' (which means 'number nine'). Choirs all over the country sing it in German. One choir in Osaka, has 10,000 people in it and is known as the 'Number Nine Chorus'! It's thought it was first sung in Japan at Christmas by German prisoners of War in World War One and over the years it became more and more popular.

Parties are often held for children, with games and dancing. Japanese Christmas Cake is a sponge cake decorated with trees, flowers and a figure of Santa Claus. 

In Japan Santa is known as サンタさん、サンタクロース santa-san (Mr Santa). Another Japanese gift bringer is Hoteiosho, a Japanese god of good fortune from Buddhism and not really related to Christmas. His belly and red clothing however, resemble those of Santa Clause. 

The Japanese New Year (called 'o shogatsu') is more like a traditional Western Christmas. New year is the period where families get together, have a special meal, pray and send greetings cards. New year is celebrated over five days from December 31st to January 4th and is a very busy time.

Champagne & Wine Glasses for your holiday season

Time and Style started out in 1990 as a merchant of furniture in Tokyo. The company continues to challenge the development of creating a living environment with a commitment to handmade, supporting craftsmen, while remaining contemporary. They produce “tools for life” that have been individually created by craftsmen using high quality materials, while fusing modern lifestyle with culture and tradition, as well as finding a sense of harmony and silence that are an essential part of Japanese culture. This can be felt in the delicate forms and materials that we find in their products.

It’s the union of Time and Style’s expertise in design, and knowing the right craftsmen who can bring everything together and produce a beautiful product. 

We offer a variety of glasses for different types of champagne, wine, beer, sake for you to enjoy their aromas, colors, and flavors. 

The champagne and wine glasses have supple curves, which provides a beautiful appearance, a delicate stem made thin as possible while being strong and durable.  

We also have water glasses called “Moon Glasses” in a series of  4 for the different stages of  the moon: 

Thinly blown glass with a thickness of 0.8mm. Surprisingly light when held, it features an extravagant usability and a delicate texture which accentuates the true flavor of your drinks. A sand-blast which stylishly and beautifully complements the thin glass is applied as an accent. 

We hope you enjoy our selection!

Buube Children's Apparel

The founder of the brand, Naoyuki was born in Tokyo in 1977. She graduated from Fashion Institute Technology New York.

She continued to do packaging and graphic design for the client such as Isetan, Converse, Nike and various fashion stores as a freelance designer since graduating from university.

““I was at a turning point 7 years ago. Almost my works were not independent but depending on the partner of brand. It was that that I decided start over and study design again.””

— NAOYUKI

While being a huge fan of Japanese craftsmanship she started noticing that many prominent factories have moved to China. The quality of, “Made in China” products are improving every year, however she started to think about what Japanese identity is.

She collected any historical graphic design and typography books all over the world. With her collection she started up the online library and book store for graphic designer and students. Most visitors of her website are based in Europe. Among other activities, she regularly teaches graphic design in Tokyo.

After becoming a mother 3 years ago, she studied and learned about childcare including baby and kids fashion, child education. Her impression was that children need to be surrounded by and have an education in art and design, along with her older students.

She came up with product idea with Japanese standard baby products, adding modern design concept for baby and kids item. Each product contains a wish for a good design education.

This is how bib brand began. As her son grew she added additional products including baby and children’s apparel.

The name of a brand is “buube", this doesn’t mean anything and can be pronounced in different ways, because all of new-born babies can’t speak a specific language. It’s just the word which you could imagine coming from a baby in any country. 

Uno Hake Brush for Cashmere Clothing

Clothing Brush (for cashmere)

Materials: Horse hair / Katsura wood

Place of Origin: Japan

Uno Hake brushes started their business in 1917. Currently Ms. Chieko Uno wiorks with her daughter Michiyo to continue their family craft.

“Hake” are brushes formed by two separate pieces of wood that bind the hair and the hair fibers are planted by hand inside the wooden holes and strung together. After this the hairs are cut to symmetry.

These brushes have been modernized to have an array of modern uses. For home use, to clean your face, body, clothes, shoes, etc.

To achieve this the animal hairs need to be chosen and prepared for each product. If pig, horse, goat, boar hair has a different texture. Each hair needs to be treated with oil.  The mother and daughter of the Uno family have a history with these materials and create products suitable for each occasion.

22_sub1-2.jpg

Miso Guide

Now that it’s getting cold it’s a good time for warm nourishing miso soup and other warm dishes with miso. Here is a small guide to choosing what type of miso to get and some recipes. 

We have many types of miso in Japan but all made from fermented soybeans. We use each type for various dishes depending on how strong or light you want the taste. Miso is very good for your health as it is rich in Vitimins B, E, K, and folic acid. Fermented food in general is really good for your stomach as it brings in good bacteria, much the same as yogurt does. If you are making miso soup, after you have boiled all of your vegetables or seafood, turn off the fire and add the miso. Once you have added the miso enjoy the soup. Please don’t boil the miso soup after you have added the miso as that will kill all the good bacteria and vitamins in the miso. 

The three types of Miso: 

red-miso.jpg

Shiro Miso (White Miso): A very light yellowish miso.  It is fermented for less time (2-8 weeks) making it more mild and sweet. If you are new to using miso in your cooking, we recommend that you start with the light one and then use the darker ones later.

It is good for a light soup where you want to accentuate the taste of the vegetables or mushrooms or seafood. This is also a good miso to use for dressings, light marinades, and glazes.

Shinshu Miso (Yellow Miso):

This is the most typical “all purpose” type of miso that is kept in the fridge. It is bit stronger than shiro miso and is good for the same types of food. Marinade, dressings, soups, etc. If the miso is really good we also like to dip raw vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, radish, etc directly.  

Aka Miso (Red Miso):

A very dark miso with a color that goes from dark red to brown. This is the strongest and saltiest type of miso. It is made with more soybeans and is fermented for up to 3 years. You only need to add a little to add taste to your dish. This is good for marinating and roasting fish, meats, eggplant (nasu dengaku). It is very delicious when used correctly but be careful not to use too much as it is quite salty. 

Some miso recipes that are easy, many recipes can be found online so find one that you seem comfortable making and enjoy experimenting:

- Miso soup (when we can’t find Japanese vegetables we use onions, eggplant, rocket, and a variety of vegetables, fish, seafood) 

- Cod fish with Miso Marinade

c7127e0d-f8c4-43c2-86ef-e730c69a857d--2014-0610_WC_miso-black-cod-015.jpg

- Miso Dengaku – Various ingredients grilled with Miso glaze. Eggplant (aubergine), Tofu, Daikon, etc can be used. For this recipe we recommend a darker Miso for a stronger Miso Flavor. 

nasucover.jpg

- Steamed or boiled seafood with a light Miso dip or vinaigrette. For this we recommend a light Miso.   

Boiled-Squid-with-Miso-Vinaigrette-II.jpg

- Chicken with scallions and Miso pan grilled. 

Negi-Miso-Chicken-III-e1318397001736.jpg

 Enjoy using miso in many ways!

Kinto

KINTO

top.jpg

Kinto design studio since 1972. A brand specializing in professional and home use coffee and tea accessories.

Let your day be filled with what inspires you.

It's about slowing down and seeing the beauty of nature in the change of seasons. It's about savoring a delightful dish with close family and friends to unwind and feel wholesome. It's about coming to understand the joys of finding things that feel just right in your hands. We imagine the scenes that enrich your life to develop and bring you products with genuine creativity and thoughtfulness.

Usability and aesthetics. We as makers, value the balance between these two elements. Products with an ease of use is comforting to all the senses and lead to a growing fondness over time. A tableware with elegant presence blends naturally with the living space and adds color to daily life. 

We aspire to create products that stand by you in your everyday life. This is why we continue to seek inspiration from moments and stories held precious by the users. We work to create products which will inspire and give fulfillment with every touch and use.

Inspirations may come from dining experiences, interior spaces, or fields such as fashion. Our passion is ignited by diverse cultures and lifestyles. Often our designs are rooted in Japanese traditions and interpreted in a way that fits with the modern lifestyles all around the world.

To make the daily life richer and more comfortable.

Kosho-Kosho Charm  by  Peloqoon  

A Googly  eyed  character, DzKosho-Koshodz  charm  from a  handmade  plush doll.  Produced by “Beams Japan”

"Peloqoon" by  Madoka  Morikawa. Put  on  a key  chain  or on  a  bag  to  snuggle up  the  fluffy cuddle  buddy  in your  daily  life.   Peloqoon:  Peloqoon  is a  handmade  plush doll  by  Madoka Morikawa  and  the name  of  the brand  is  a coined  word  combining Japanese  onomatopoeia  of dog  slurp,DzPelo-Pelodz  and sniff  sound,  DzKun-Kundz. The  brand  offers creepy  yet  cute characters.  

We have several Sizes and colors at our store and online.

Makanai Bath Salts

Now that winter has come, it’s time to enjoy hot baths and different types of bath salts.

From the famous Makanai cosmetic company we have a selection of various flavors that all have colorful and cute packaging.

Each pack comes with 2 bath salts. We have: Sakura, Green Tea, Yuzu (Japanese Lemon), Mikan (Japanese tangerine), Hinoki Wood, Peach, Mint, Rose, Rice, Jasmine.

There are testers at the store as well so that you can smell each.

Ama Divers

Ama-san are Japanese women. The culture of these women is over 5000 years old. Deep sea divers that would traditionally dive naked with a loin cloth and a knife in their back to pry off and collect abalone and oysters and other shellfish, and seaweed. Sometimes weights are used to go down faster. They are connected with a rope that helps them to climb up faster to a wooden tub so they can leave their catch and rest before going back down. 

Women are said to be able to free dive deeper than men from up to 8 meters down holding their breath for two minutes without any aid of oxygen.  Even in very cold water they start early in the morning. Usually with their husbands in the boat.  This is generations of women, including grandmothers who dove together. The tradtion was passed from mothers to daughters. After their catch they would sit on the beach with their family and kids and all eat breakfast. A very matriarchal society in a time when women were supposed to be at home. They were part of the work force and very much respected. 

After WW2 when there was western judgment about nudity, the woman started to wear clothes and now with wetsuits. 

There are less Ama san now as the old culture has changed but you can still find them throughout Japan. 

Of course when diving for shellfish, sometimes an oyster is found with a pearl in it. Pearls are famous in Japan, mostly worn for family occasions but more and more they are used by fashion designers and trendy for younger girls. The design is different because with younger women, most prefer to wear small pearls with delicate patterns. 

For us pearls will always make us think of the Ama-san and a strong beautiful femininity that we respect.

We have some small pearls at our store. If you come by please have a look.  


Sugai World Clips

“Sugai World” clips are very  and come in different styles … animals, monster characters, etc.

An interview with Sugai World is as follows:

 

Q.1 What is the SUGAI WORLD ?

We are tokyo based happy design gift maker.

We plan and design all of our products, and ask Japanese factories to make them.

We are committed to creating unique and playful products, mainly stationery. And we are trying to make them from eco-friendly material as much as possible.

Q.2 How did it start the SUGAI WORLD, Inc.?

When our founder, Yu SUGAI, was working for another company, he started writing down his ideas about things that can change the life more comfortable and happier. (There are more than 20 idea-notebooks now. That was a way to reduce his stress in the packed train of everyday.

At first, He was just enjoying sharing his ideas with his friends. But someday, one of them said to him, “Your ideas are so fun! Why don’t you make them?” and he said “Why not !? Let’s do that!! “.

In 2011, we made the first product “Mustache-it”, a mustache shaped sticky note.

For the first 2 years, we were selling only the one. “Mustache-it” became a quite big hit riding the mustache-boom which came in those days. (That was a beginner’s luck!)

Q.3 What is the purpose of the SUGAI WORLD products?

People in Japan works very hard in a small space. So we want to make them to be able to work happier with our products. And also, we hope the same thing about people all of the world. Our mission is “give imagination and dream to the world ”.

Q.4 What is the dream of the SUGAI WORLD?

To communicate with people all over the world through our products. And we believe that will be a part of the world peace.

Vintage Kokeshi

Kokeshi are Japanese wooden 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 pattern of the trunk of the doll usually has a floral print although sometime there are variations. The bottom of the doll usually has the signature of the artist.

Kokeshi were first produced by kijishi artisans proficient with a potter's wheel near the Tōgatta Hotsprings 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 (early 1800’s) They might have been originally made by farmers who started carving these dolls during the long winters and sold as good luck dolls designed for fertility or a good harvest. These dolls were also for children. Eventually they were sold at hot springs for the many travelers who were visiting the hot springs in the north-east of the country. In the 1920’s these dolls started becoming collectors items. From then kokeshi artists started experimenting, making very large kokeshi, very small kokeshi, different shapes, styles, etc.

It wasn’t until after WW2 when Japan was occupied by US military forces, that these dolls became a curiosity overseas. Servicemen would bring back the dolls for their wives or family in America because they were particularly cute. Since then, there have been new types of Kokeshi with many artists experimenting with new styles that we follow, as well as some of the more traditional styles.

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.

"Traditional" kokeshi dolls' shapes and patterns are particular to a certain area and are classified under 11 different types named for the hot spring area that they originate from: Yajiro, Togatta, Narukyo, Sakunami, Tsuchiyu, Yamagata, Zao, Nanbu, Hijiori, Kijiyama, Tsugaru.

image.jpg

"Creative" kokeshi (新型こけし shingata-kokeshi) are the new style of kokeshi developed after WW2 that allow the artist complete freedom in terms of shape, design and. They are not particular to a specific region of Japan and generally creative kokeshi artists are found in cities.

When looking for a vintage kokeshi there are 2 ways to choose. Some collectors look for a particular style to add to a collection, and some just look at a face and fall in love with it or the cut or style. This is part of the joy of being a kokeshi collector.