Modern artisans mastering ancient crafts
The Midwest Buddhist Temple is honored by its long relationship with The Waza from Japan. The Waza is a federation of Japanese artisans dedicated to the continuation of traditional crafts handed down generation by generation dating back to Japan’s Edo period 300 years ago. Using ancient techniques today’s Waza master craftsmen create unique, handmade items that embody simple beauty through meticulous craftsmanship. Each item is carefully made through processes developed and refined over a span of centuries. And yet, every item has a timeless quality that is comforting in today’s world. Ginza visitors will have the unique opportunity to purchase affordable works that are made with the same care and precision as those that are typically available only through private shops or the most exclusive department stores in Japan.
While the Waza travel the world to share their crafts, our Ginza Holiday Festival in Chicago is one of their few appearances in the United States. A primary goal of the Waza is to strengthen the understanding between people of different cultures and they welcome the chance to meet you and answer your questions. Please stop by their outdoor booths where they will be displaying and demonstrating their unique crafts throughout the day.
Waza artisans appearing at Ginza Holiday in 2016
Kokan Fujimura – Ichimatsu Dolls
Mr. Kokan Fujimura specializes in “Ichimatsu Ningyo” or dolls with children’s faces. This particular type of doll evolved about 300 years ago and is recognized by its babylike features and smooth complexion. It takes 74 steps to create each doll.
Bodies of sawdust and rice glue, eyes of glass and multi-layer coatings all contribute to their youthful appearances. Careful sculpturing gives them detail and brings forth their special expressions. A kimono made from antique cloth adds the final touch.
Chihiro Kawakami – Tenugui (decorative Japanese towels)
Chihiro Kawakami followed his father’s footsteps as a maker of tenugui, loosely translated as towel art. However, unlike the typical western use, it could serve as a belt or a head cover. Cotton, an import from China in the 14th–16th centuries and made into towels, became popular throughout Japan in the Edo period as an accessory at rituals. Soon beautiful patterns and designs applied to the fabric became fashionable and in addition provided means of advertising products.
While intended to be used as hankies, towels or wrapping, many are hung as wall art—fastened to simple scrolls or framed under glass.
Eiji Kinoshita – Traditional Japanese Pottery
Eiji Kinoshita creates unique earthenware whose every creation is a new discovery of its own. Moving from the potter’s wheel, he became attracted to the natural beauty of stones and tiles. It is their forms that he transforms into ceramic earthenware.
Applying the method known as carburetting, Mr. Kinoshita’s art forms require high heat and large quantities of smoke. Permeating into the earthenware, the smoke produces the unique blacks and grays that infuse each creation with a distinctive luster. Despite their extreme beauty, his pieces are designed to be used, not just displayed.
Mitsuaki Yokoya – Wood Carvings
Dating back to the late Heian Period (11th Century), fine examples of this tree sculpture art could be found at the Byodo-in, a temple in Kyoto. Unfortunately, the civil wars of the early 1300s destroyed much of it. Common sculptures depicted that of flora and fauna.
Mitsuaki Yokoya brings us memories of this era in three-dimension using select wood from the Zelkova, cherry, Japanese Judas and camphor trees.
Mr. Eiji Kinoshita creates unique earthenware whose every creation is a new discovery of its own. Moving from the potters wheel, he became attracted to the natural beauty of stones and tiles. It is their forms that he transforms into ceramic earthenware. Applying the method known as carburetting, Mr. Kinoshita’s artforms require high heat and large quantities of smoke. Permeating into the earthenware, the smoke produces the unique colors of black and gray that infuses each creation with a distinctive luster.
Mr. Masahiro Kawakami is a third-generation maker of “tenugui,” loosely translated as towel art. However, unlike the typical western use, it could serve as a belt or a head cover. Cotton, an import from China in the 14th-16th century and made into towels, became popular throughout Japan in the Edo period as an accessory at rituals. Soon beautiful patterns and designs applied to the fabric became fashionable and in addition provided means of advertising products.
Ms. Yoko Kamada is a practitioner of shiatsu or Japanese finger pressure massage. Many see it as a way to help relax and cope with stress, muscle pain and stiffness. Applying pressure using her fingers and thumbs in a continuous rhythmic sequence, the pressure feels more localized as the fingers are used to apply pressure instead of the entire palm. No oil is applied, so you remain fully clothed during the treatment. Best if you don’t eat a heavy meal before the shiatsu.
Ms. Meisho Yamasaki specializes in “Ichimatsu Ningyo” or “article shaped like a human being” and makes dolls with young children’s faces. Materials and techniques go back 300 years and 74 steps are necessary for a doll’s completion. From a body of sawdust and rice glue, with eyes of glass followed with multi-layer coating, gives it a youthful appearance. Careful sculpturing gives it detail and brings forth an expression. A kimono made of cloth from antique clothes adds the final touch.
Ms. Yamasaki is the only female Ichimatsu doll maker in Japan. If you’d like to learn more about Ms. Yamasaki’s unique place in the history of this ancient craft you can view a Japanese program by clicking the image on the right. The first segment of this Japanese television show (in english) features “Ichimatsu” dolls and Ms. Yamasaki. (The link to the video is courtesy of Japan International Broadcasting TV.)