Kagawa lacquer ware started at the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), by Tamakaji Zokoku, a famous lacquerer with the development of new techniques that came into being by combining traditional Japanese techniques with skills such as kinma and zonsei which had been brought to Japan from Thailand and China. These locally developed techniques have been handed down over the years and many of these characteristic pieces, which are referred to collectively as Kagawa lacquer ware, are being produced around Takamatsu. It is undoubtedly the country's top lacquer ware producer in terms of variety, producing everything from tables to display shelves to trays, coasters and candy bowls.
During the Muromachi period (1392-1573), Ouchi, who was a prominent figure in the area corresponding to present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty China. He encouraged the making of this particular lacquer ware for export and, although this trade finally died out, the skills which had been learned were carried over into the Edo period (1600-1868), and are still with us today.
Kyoto embroidery probably dates back to 794 when the new capital of Heian Kyo (Kyoto) was established and a department of weaving were many embroiders worked was set up at the imperial court. Until Miyazaki Yuzensai perfected the yuzen dyeing technique in the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868), embroidery was an important method of decorating fabric along with "fawn spot" tie-dyeing and the application of gold and silver leaf. Embroidery had a particularly important part to play within the new, richly embellished kanbun style of kimono cloth favored by merchants who had grown wealthy. The Kakefusa, a cloth at Kofukuin temple in Nara Prefecture is a very good example of the kind of very high quality embroidery that was done in the middle of the 18th century.
A tradition of the Saru River basin region since ancient times. It was used in trade with other regions as a product of the Saru River basin during the Edo period.
The origins of Satsuma ware date back to the 16th century. The local feudal lord, Shimazu, returned from the Korean peninsular with some potters who helped to get things started. The wonderful surroundings of Kagoashima have contributed greatly to the development of this ware during its long history spanning some 400 years. During this time, the tireless enthusiasm of the local potters has resulted in a number of original developments, which have given rise to a number of individual styles that are still in production today. In 1867, the Shimazu clan independently entered some pieces of Satsuma ware in the Great Exhibition in Paris. People in Europe were enchanted and soon the name of Satsuma became known throughout the world.
Towards the end of the 19th century a sample roll of summer-weight kimono cloth was brought back to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. Work then began on adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya with a view to producing something new. A great deal of effort was then put into developing and improving the ways of tightly twisting up weft threads, resulting in improvements to another existing cloth, yorisukiya. Subsequently, attempts at using a tightly twisted weft thread were successful in creating sukiya chirimen, and then the cloth called Akashi-chijimi or Akashi crepe was put on the market during the early 1890s.
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.
A 9th-century document confirms that the history of Awa paper goes back some 1,300 years to times when a family known as Inbe serving the Imperial court, was growing flax and paper mulberry and producing cloth and paper. Ever since then, the paper-making techniques of Awa paper have been handed down from one generation to the next in an act of reverent deification of Ame no Hiwashi no Mikoto, the originator of paper-making traditions within the Inbe family.
Trade flourished between the kingdom of Ryukyu and China and South East Asia during the 14th and 15th centuries and weaving techniques were learned through these exchanges. Nurtured by the Okinawan climate and developed over the centuries, a number of textiles, each with their own characteristic traits, came into being. One of these was a cloth produced in Shuri. The court nobility and warrior families of this castle town found the color, patterns and quality of this cloth very appealing. And, as a stylistically poised cloth of boundless beauty, it is still being woven today.
Coming first from China, the abacus was brought to Otsu from Nagasaki toward the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It was during the following Momoyama period (1573-1600), when Toyotomi Hideyoshi sieged Miki castle, that the people of this small castle town fled to nearby Otsu, where some learned how to make the abacus. When they finally returned to their homeland, they began making what became the Banshu abacus. The peak of production here was in 1960, when 3.6 million abacuses were made. Demand has gradually fallen since then due to the appearance of the electronic calculator. The abacus, however, still has value as it provides a much more graphic way of visualizing calculations, and as such still has a place in the curriculum of many schools, where in the past principals of education were "reading, writing and abacus". Some also believe that using an abacus can stimulate the brain and prevent senile dementia.
Closely linked with the spread of Buddhism in the area, embroidery was introduced to the province of Kaga from Kyoto in the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and was used for the decoration of such religious trappings as altar cloths and surplice worn by monks. During the Edo period (1600-1868), embroidery came to be used to decorate many personal items and such things as an over garment called a jinbaori, which was worn by military leaders when they went into battle. The kimono worn by noble ladies, too, were also sometimes embroidered, the dignified elegance of such garments pleasing them greatly. With the attentive patronage of successive generations of Kaga clan leaders who prized and gave their encouragement to culture and learning, Kaga embroidery developed individual characteristics and a degree of perfection to match Kaga gold leaf and Kaga yuzen dyeing.
The area known as Sanjo has always been strongly associated with Buddhism, sometimes known as the "capital" of the faith. This is partly evidenced by the building during the 18th century of the Hokuriku region's finest piece of temple architecture. Directly associated with the head temple in Kyoto, it is little wonder that many fine carpenters, cabinet makers, and decorative craftsmen came from the old capital for the erection of this monastic edifice and instructed the many local craftsmen who were also involved. As the numbers of believers in Jodo Shinshu centered on this temple increased, the making of household altars in the area also rose and it was developments at this time which still stand as the foundations of today's production center.