Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Traditional Japanese paintings: bringing back Kano

Painting on ceiling at Ganshoin Temple (Nagano, Japan) by Hokusai
700 hundred years of tradition
Japan is famous for its distinctive painting styles, which have influenced many of the great Western painters. Nihonga (Japanese traditional-style painting) is one of the most striking and stylistically diverse. It all began 700 years ago with the innovative Kano school of painting, which rebelled against the conventional Chinese practice of painting purely in black ink. Instead, the Kano school opted for bright, vivid colours and a strong focus on the presence or absence of outlines in its paintings.

Gone, but not forgotten
By the end of the 19th century, the Kano school had succumbed to the pressures of westernisation and the soaring cost of traditional natural materials. These days, the prized natural pigments can be sourced from just nine shops in Japan. But that’s not the end of the story. The traditional-style nihonga paintings that typify the Kano school remain one of Japan’s most prized exports.

Hand made “Washi” rice papers 
for Japanese paintings.
Ancient artisan methods and all-natural materials
Using highly traditional artisan methods, nihonga artists paint directly onto washi (Japanese paper) or eginu (silk) with an animal-hair brush. These paintings come in two distinct forms: monochrome (single-colour) or polychrome (multi-coloured). Monochrome nihonga typically feature sumi (Chinese ink) made from soot mixed with fish bone or animal hide glue. Meanwhile, polychrome nihonga traditionally use pigments from natural ingredients like corals, shells and minerals like malachite (green), lapis (blue) and cinnabar (red). The raw ingredients are ground down into powder form and classified into 16 separate gradations based on their texture. With these natural pigments, coarser grains equate to deeper colours.
Allan West
Reviving artistic traditions for the modern world
American-born artist Allan West – one of Japan’s most respected art-world figures - has spearheaded a revival of Kano school painting, bringing this stunning genre back to life with a modern energy. After 30 years in Japan, Allan is creating sought-after authentic Kano school paintings, layered with intricate gold and silver leaf.

Allan West created "Usa no matsu” for 
Noh performance in London & Paris November 2009

Allan is one of very few artists to insist on keeping his methods 100% traditional, from the artisan-made natural pigments and materials right down to the traditional animal-hair paint brush. Best of all, these colours are much more durable than those produced by artificial pigments. That means that your painting won’t fade over time, so you don’t need to protect it under glass when it’s on display. 
Authentic, bespoke Japanese paintings that last a lifetime
Allan was even commissioned to produce work for Princess Aiko’s presentation ceremony and was selected by the Japanese Foreign Ministry to exhibit his paintings abroad as exemplars of Japanese art.
Don’t worry, though – not all his work comes with a royal price tag attached. Take a look our selection of Allan West’s unique Japanese paintings. Each one is personally certified by Allan, so what you see really is what you get.

Japanese painting Exhibition in Tokyo

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tenugui is a unique towel : quick guide to Japanese textiles

Todaya, Japan

For lovers of Japanese products, few things are as iconic as the country’s unique and elaboratetextiles. At the top of the list are tenugui  - hand-dyed Japanese cottontowels, and furoshiki  – wrapping cloths. Created using painstakingtraditional hand-dyeing techniques that have been refined over centuries, these items havealways represented an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

Classic Ume Yashiki Print
Traditional Japanese textiles have kept pace with modern life
Changing times have not spelled the end for traditional Japanese textiles. They’re now morepopular and relevant than ever. Today’s growing focus on environmental sustainability is fuellinga resurgence of interest in these ancient traditions, with innovative and creative new uses fortenugui and furoshiki emerging all the time.
Let’s start with a closer look at tenugui. While the word itself comes from te (hands) and nugui(wipe), wiping your hands is just one of many things you can do with this traditional Japanese towel.

From traditional towel to versatile modern accessory
Measuring around 33cm by 90cm, these super-soft, versatile rectangles are always reversibleand are made from 100% pure cotton. There’s really no limit to what you can do with a tenugui.You can use it as:

- A simple wrapping cloth
- A scarf, bandanna or belt to accessorise your outfit
- A wall hanging for your home

Big Wave from Hokusai

Handmade Japanese textiles in a huge variety of designs
Here at Japan Originals, our huge textile range features colourful tenugui and furoshiki that havebeen carefully hand-made using centuries-old dyeing processes.
Need some advice on how to use your tenugui? Thought up an original use for your furoshiki? Get in touch and tell us about it!

Traditional Dye

Saffran Dye

Amazingly beautiful, Eco, maultiused textile cloth Furoshiki

Riversible Furoshiki, fold into windmill pattern
And then there’s furoshiki. Furoshiki, from furo (bath) and shiki (spread), is a traditionalJapanese wrapping cloth. Historically made from Japanese silk crepe and 100% cotton, furoshikiare now made from a wide variety of fabrics and - just like tenugui, reversible, with a contrastingcolour and print pattern on each side.
With ten sizes ranging from 45cm to 230cm, furoshiki can be used for many different purposes,including:

Futa-haba (68-70cm) and Nishaku-haba (74cm)
                          – wrapping gifts or accessorizing outfitsas a scarf
Nishi-haba (90cm) – wrapping wine bottles or doubling up as a handbag
Mi-haba (100-105cm) – for table or home decoration
Yo-haba (128cm) – for a cushion cover or an attractive basket

Using your furoshiki is easy when you know how. Take a look at these clips for a quickdemonstration of how you can create some beautiful and  useful objects: 

A reusable wrapping cloth 
Furoshiki shop in Japan
To make a bag 

Hundreds of uses from a single product
Japanese culture has always striven to make
its best products as multi-functional as possible.
If you think about it, when tenugui and
furoshiki were invented, materials were
harder to come by, so it was logical to use them for many different purposes. These days, cotton is no longer such a hard-to-find commodity, but the same spirit persists: why not turn a beautiful object into a highlyfunctional product that can be used over and over again till its torn off.
Furoshiki for modern girls
Handmade Japanese textiles in a huge variety of designs
Here at Japan Originals, our huge textile range features colourful tenugui and furoshiki that havebeen carefully hand-made using centuries-old dyeing processes.
Need some advice on how to use your tenugui?
Thought up an original use for your furoshiki?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Top tea tips from the experts

You can’t get away from green tea in Japan. Deeply engrained in the nation’s cultural heritage since the 15th century, its popularity shows no sign of dwindling in modern-day Japan. Even today, Japanese green tea has its own unique rituals which are celebrated through the tea ceremony, based on the four guiding principles of wa (harmony), kei (respect), sei (purity) and jaku (serenity). And it even competes with soft drinks in vending machines on street corners throughout the country.
Japan produces several different types of high-quality green tea, from ryokucha (traditional green tea), hojicha (roasted green tea) and even super-pure maternity green tea. But no matter which type you choose, you’ll be interested to know that green tea is now increasingly recognised in the West for its wide-ranging health benefits.
Boost your health and balance your body
Let’s take a look at the specific areas where green tea can have a positive impact on your health. Numerous studies suggest that drinking Japanese green tea regularly could:
·         Reduce the risk of developing certain
·         Help prevent cardiovascular disorders
·         Strengthen teeth, prevent cavities and
           kill bacteria that cause bad breath
·         Prevent age-related brain degeneration
·         Help control high blood pressure
·         Regulate high blood sugar
·         Lower cholesterol levels
·         Support weight loss by accelerating the metabolism
·         Boost immune system
That’s just what drinking green tea can do for you. Once you’ve finished your refreshing cup of tea, you can still use the brewed leaves in many surprising ways.
Use your tea bags to fight your eye bags
·         Place brewed and cooled tea bags on
           tired eyes and let the tannins reduce
           puffiness and dark circles.
Get rid of nasty smells
·         Let your green tea bags or leaves dry out.
·         Place them in a fridge to absorb strong
           odours from foods like onion and garlic.
·         Scatter dried leaves on your carpet, crush them and leave for 10
           minutes before vacuuming.
·         The leaves will absorb musty odours and refresh your carpet.
Make your furniture sparkle
·         Place two used green tea bags in a litre of boiled water. Let it cool.
·         Dip a cloth into the green tea water and use it to restore shine and lustre to dull wooden furniture and floors.
Those are just a few ways to enjoy and use green tea to improve your health and your home. It’s not always easy to find authentic green tea outside of Japan.
Luckily, we specialise in sourcing the best-quality teas directly from Japan.
Click here to see our range of Japanese green teas and exquisite artisan products to serve them. If you need more advice, just ask – we’re here to help.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Japanese New Year

Japanese New Year Celebration is coming !We celebrate New Year's Day on January 1st each year instead of Christmas day and its coming very soon!
Japanese New Year called Oshōgatsu was originally based on the Chinese lunar calendar and 2011 will be a year of the rabbit.
It is considered the most important annual festival and has been celebrated since the Heian period (794-1185 ) with its own unique Japanese customs.
The uniqueness of this festival is that all cards or presents must be delivered on 1st January.You can imagine this day is the busiest day of the year for the Japanese postman.

New Years Eve is the time for everyone to be eating Japanese Soba noodles!
Traditionally 80-90% of the hundred million plus population eat the same noodles, called Soba “ Japanese noodles, just before the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve , everyone wishes everyone else a long , healthy and prosperous life.

New Years’s Day January 1st
Its like Christmas day here for famiies in Japan.
Every one goes back and stays with their family, and they celebrate New Year together and eat traditional Japanese New Year foods called OSECHI-Ryori and Sake Called OTOSO.
Typically, the foods are presented beautifully in lacquer boxes called JUBAKO (which resemble bento lunch boxes and later) they also present the food beautifully in small individual Japanese plates. Traditionally many of the delicacies inside are named in hope of the families' health and prosperity and the main dishes are colorful vegetables, fish, black beans and so on.

What is so unique about Japanese New Years food ?
If you go to a Japanese restaurant , you can see Japanese food is presented beautifully on selected plates and bowls....
This Japanese food presentation strongly influenced the French nouvelle cuisine and modern British food from Gordon Ramsay and so many celebrity chefs in the world ...

Traditionally Japanese food and plate and presentation have meanings.
Therefore our Osechi food has such meanings and each dish is cooked in a different way ( boiled, steamed, marinated, grilled etc..)
It is according to the nature of the food and seasons that we use plates and bowls in different colours, shapes, textures and patterns. That's why the arrangement and presentation of tableware is really important for Japanese food.
We also say that we enjoy our food three times, first by looking at the beautiful presentation and second by the flavour and texture of the food, and finally its delicious taste!

It is an art to select the tableware which will make the food look its best.

Please see our wide selection of authentic Japanese pottery and porcelain in the Japan Originals online store and we would be very happy if you could get some new idea or new inspiration from our Japanese tableware.

Why don't you cook just a little bit more authentically and enjoy your food in different way .
By just adding one or two exquisite Japanese bowls or plates for olives or for desserts or choose one of our traditional soy sauce holders.

You can use it for table vinegar and it would be quite fun for drinking Sake on 1 January with our Mino or Imari Sake holder.

Then celebrate your family’s healthy , happy life in 2011.

Here are some examples of OSECHI menu and meanings of the food.
Daidai, Japanese bitter orange. "from generation to generation” it symbolizes a wish for children in the New Year.
Datemaki, sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish soup and sugar. Symbolize a wish for many auspicious days.
Kamaboko, Fish cake. Traditionally slices of red and white kamaboko are arranged in a pattern. The color and shape means celebratory, festive.
Kazunoko, herring roe. Kazu means "number" and ko means "child". It symbolizes a wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year.
Konbu, a kind of seaweed. It is associated with the "joy".
Kuro-mame, black soybeans. soybeans means "health," symbolizing a wish for health in the New Year.
Tai, red sea-bream. Tai is symbolizing an auspicious event and cerebration
Tazukuri, dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The symbol of an abundant harvest.
Zōni, a soup of mochi white rice cakes. Wishing long life.
Ebi, skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce.

*See our website http://www.japanoriginals.com/
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