JAPANESE POLICHROME WOODCUT

Ukiyo-e (浮世 絵 ukiyo-ye, lit. "images of the floating world") is a kind of Japanese art print on paper, imprinted with wooden matrices, born and developed during the Edo period, between the beginning of the seventeenth and the end of the 19th century.
The artist made a preliminary drawing with ink on the paper which was then taken to the engraver's workshop to be glued on a cherry wood board and, through the use of various tools, reproduced leaving the lines of the drawing the artist and digging out everything else.
The woodcut on wire wood is performed on a board obtained from a longitudinal cut of the trunk (usually pear, walnut, apple, cherry, beech), which is engraved using the knife and the gouge, a tool with a concave end.
Before, the world of art was destined for the nobility and the religious class. Now the woodcut follows the historical change that Japan is experiencing. Merchants and artisans are the new protagonists and can both recognize themselves in this artistic genre and afford it economically.
They are then depicting scenes from everyday life where the protagonists are men, nature, animals, plants, landscapes and more.
They are then depicting scenes from everyday life where the protagonists are men, nature, animals, plants, landscapes and more.
Often it is also the internal and intimate settings that take over, always under a veil of vitality and lightness. We find consequences: the courtesans (geishas) who comb their hair, who take a bath; the actors with their mimic masks and their clothes; scenes of sexual life, often censored. Thus, the spirit and atmosphere that a Japanese man of that time could experience is represented: the war was over and now tranquility and lightheartedness were part of that unstoppable life cycle full of pleasures and enjoyments.
Japanese woodcut is also and above all distinguished by its colors and shades. Before the prints were colored by hand, now the water colors are printed on multiple matrices, which give the print fascinating shades.

However, the procedure requires the presence of several figures in order to create a graphic. There are those who draw, those who copy it on the transparent sheet, those who carve, those who print. In addition, the projects go through censorship control before they are engraved on the matrix. Once the OK is obtained, the team of artists can begin the carving process, usually done on cherry.
Specifically, the expert cuts the most difficult area, the rest is entrusted to the assistants. At this point, having completed the carving work, "the baton" is passed to the printer who makes 15 copies in black and white to be shown to the painter, who indicates how to continue with the colors. The woodcutter carves as many matrices as there are colors.
The carving and inking phase are part of a ritual, an intimate moment to be able to meditate and find peace with yourself. In Japanese culture it is easier to find similar aspects, where the spiritual component plays an important role. I had even read that the Japanese xylographer changes the kimono according to the phase of work he is about to face. Definitely a solemn and absolute attitude.
Japanese woodcut, for many centuries linked to the Buddhist world and Chinese culture, experienced a real rebirth from the seventeenth century thanks to the artists of the Ukiyo-e school founded by Moronobu (1625-1694). The development of this school, in contrast to the traditional Kano and Tosa schools which had long been an expression of the aristocratic and religious culture, drew nourishment from the historical changes that Japan was going through.
The most famous print of the most famous ukiyo woodcuts is Kanagawa's "The Great Wave", first published by Hokusai around 1830.

BENTO BOX

Bento has a tradition that has lasted for centuries in Japan. They allowed Japanese from wealthy backgrounds to eat their tasty cooked dishes when they were on the go. Today, however, bento boxes can be found in all Japanese restaurants.

The different bento boxes contain fish, meat, rice, tamago, small snacks and vegetables. But also algae and edamame should never be missing. For longer breaks there are stackable bento boxes. Japanese mothers use their bento box as a culinary challenge: there are real bento box making contests. Typical are Pandas and Hello Kitty: with rice and nori many stories are told.
During the Second World War the distinction between rich and poor was evident throughout Japan due to the boom in exports and fruitless crops. The poor were hungry, but the rich could afford the more expensive items, including aluminum bento boxes. This prompted schools to ban lunch boxes as they indicated the student's wealth or not. But in the Eighties the interest was reborn thanks to the minimarkets where to find the ready boxes and the arrival on the market of the microwave oven.
They also differ according to the place of sale and use

Ekiben: sold in train stations, it is often prepared with local specialties, just think that there are over six thousand varieties. 

Kyaraben: The dishes featured in this bento represent elaborate characters from Japanese pop culture, such as Hello Kitty and Pokemon. 

Makunouchi: refined box, also as regards the content, in a traditional style and consumed in the theater. 

Noriben: it is the most classic and includes less than four ingredients. 

Hinomaru: White rice with Umeboshi plum in the center, reminiscent of the Japanese flag. 

Koraku: big, meant to be shared. Commonly used during Hanami, the cherry blossom season.

Preparing a bento is not a game, especially if the target is children. It is in fact considered an act of love as well as triggering a real competition between mothers (and wives). The box can also be used to send an angry message; Bento Shikaeshi (literally: box of revenge) is packaged with unattractive foods such as rice and raw eggs or frozen foods. But there is also the Aisai box, that of love.
Every January since 1967 at the Keio Department Store, located in Tokyo near the west exit of Shinjuku station, the Ekiben Festival takes place: it is an opportunity to find, and try, over 300 different types of Bento to eat on the train .

In the prefecture of Tottori there is instead a luxury restaurant that has prepared the most expensive bento in the world (about 2800 dollars, certified by the Guinness Book of Records) based on Wagyu meat.

Finally, there are some photos of Freddie Mercury who in 1988, while leaving Nagoya during the Hot Space Japan Tour, enjoying an Ekiben by train.
As for the content, it should be colorful (you start eating with your eyes) and well balanced: 30% carbohydrates (rice and other cereals, but also pasta), 20% protein (animals, but also vegetables such as legumes or tofu), 40% of vegetables and 10% of fruit that is practical to eat, such as apples or citrus fruits. If you don't have a microwave available to reheat your lunch, just opt ​​for good preparations, even cold ones: cereal salads, soaked meat, hard-boiled eggs and baked vegetables are just an example.
When preparing the bento, in fact, the goal is not only to feed in the most correct and balanced way possible, but to create a sort of work of art with an extremely scenographic aspect and which - if possible - does not disfigure the its owner. No matter how long Japanese mothers and wives may spend in preparing the bento, the important thing is that the result has two fundamental characteristics: beauty and comfort.

Most often the bentos are customized in the Kyaraben style (which means bento of the characters) - the food is arranged in such a way as to depict the most popular manga and anime characters - or in the Oekakiben variant (bento-portrait), in which the ingredients take appearance of people, animals, landscapes or flowers.

So if you have children or grandchildren you can try making them a bento box for a snack or breakfast.

SAMURAI

The Samurai (侍) was the typical military noble belonging to ancient feudal Japan. The name Samurai comes from the verb "saburau" which means "to serve" precisely to indicate the samurai as "one who serves".
Another term, dating back to the Edo period, to indicate this caste of warriors, perhaps even more so than the samurai, is the word "bushi" which literally means "warrior", a term currently used to indicate the warrior nobility.
The samurai, on the other hand, who did not need any daimyo (ancient feudal lord) because they died in battle or because they had lost the favor of their lord, were called "ronin". The samurai were a cultured caste, because in addition to martial arts, they practiced Zen arts such as cha no yu or shodo (art of calligraphy).
Over time, then, at the arrival of the Tokugawa era, the samurai lost their value and their military function by simply becoming bureaucrats of the Shogun (equivalent of the General) using their sword only for ceremonies. Finally, with the Meiji renewal, the samurai class was completely abolished to adopt a national army following the Western style. Despite this, the bushido (samurai code of honor) has survived time and is today a set of moral, behavioral, ethical and religious principles for Japanese society.
The word Samurai 侍 originates in the Heian period, when it was still pronounced "saburai" which, as already said, meant "one who serves". Then in the Edo period, "saburai" became "samurai".

However, there are some terms that can be synonymous with samurai and are used depending on several factors:

Buke: indicated one belonging to a military family.
Mononofu: is the most archaic term to indicate the "warrior"
Musha: is the abbreviation for Bugeisha and indicates "the man of martial arts"
Shi: it is the ideogram that is then read in Japanese samurai
Tsuwamono: was the archaic term to indicate the word "soldier" or in any case a brave person.
The samurai used a great variety of weapons. In the Tokugawa period it was believed that the soul of a brave samurai resided in his "katana" (sword) which was entrusted to the samurai only after he turned thirteen.
In fact, at that age the boy who belonged to the military class was given a wakizashi (traditional Japanese short sword) and an adult name, thus officially becoming a samurai. This gave them permission to always carry a sword with them; this ritual lasted until the first half of 1500 when it was completely forbidden to carry weapons.
Another weapon wielded by samurai was the bow: the Japanese bow, if wielded by a samurai, was a very powerful weapon: its size made it possible to shoot arrows with maximum precision at a distance of 100 but also 200 meters. In the 15th century, another very powerful weapon was the spear (yari) which in the hands of the infantrymen became even more effective than a katana.
Bushido is the samurai code of honor. It is a code of conduct and a set of precepts on the way and style of life. In Bushido the rules of discipline, military and moral applied by the samurai are collected: they are rules inspired by the principles of Buddhism and Confucianism then adapted to the caste of warriors. Bushido demands values ​​such as honesty, piety, loyalty, duty and honor and were to be pursued for life. Failing to comply with one of these principles, the warrior was dishonored and forced to atone for this with seppuku or better known in the West as Harakiri.

The principles of Bushido were and are seven:

義, Gi: Honesty and Justice
Be scrupulously honest in your relationship with others, believe in justice that never comes from other people except from yourself. The samurai must never be uncertain about honesty and justice.
勇, Yuu: Heroic Courage
Rise above those who are afraid to act and hide in the shell of not living. A samurai must have heroic courage which is risky and dangerous but allows one to live fully and comprehensively.

仁, Jin: Compassion
Training makes a samurai strong. The samurai must also acquire a power that must be used for the common good. Therefore, he must have compassion and never miss the opportunity to be of help to others and if he does not have the opportunity, the samurai does everything to find one.

礼, Rei: Dear Courtesy
Samurai have no reason to be cruel and don't have to prove their strength. The samurai is kind, even with his enemies and if he doesn't know how to show respect he is considered the worst of warriors. A samurai is not respected for his strength in battle but for his kindness to others.

誠, Makoto or Shin: Complete Sincerity
When a samurai wants to perform an action, it is to be considered already completed, however nothing prevents him from completing the intention of that same action. The samurai does not need to "give a word" or "promise". Talking and acting are the same thing for him.

名誉, Meiyo: Honor
There is only one judge of honor for a samurai: himself. Every action or decision is a consequence, a reflection of what one really is. You can hide from everyone but not from yourself.

忠義, Chugi: Duty and Loyalty
For the samurai, performing an action or expressing something means becoming the owner of that something or that action. He takes full responsibility for it by accepting every possible consequence. The samurai is loyal to those he protects and defends and always remains faithful to them.
The sakura (or cherry tree), today taken as a symbol of all martial arts, was in ancient times adopted by the samurai as an emblem of their belonging warrior class.

The cherry tree for the samurai represents the beauty and transience of life: in the flowering it shows a splendid show in which the samurai reflects the grandeur of his figure as a great warrior but a storm is also enough for all the flowers to fall to the ground exactly like the samurai in battle.

An ancient verse says:

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi which means among the flowers, the cherry tree, among men, the warrior!
Incredibly, the structure of the original samurai armor hasn't changed much over the centuries. Traditional construction required hundreds of small iron or leather plates (kozane) to be tied with silk or leather ribbons. This construction was later simplified with the use of larger plates riveted to each other or still tied in silk as in the most ancient armors. The iron was often coated with lacquer to prevent rust and this use remained unchanged for six hundred years. Bamboo, contrary to what is often read, was never used for the original samurai armor, being reserved for training armor.
Feudal Japan was structured in regions controlled by a daimyō. Depending on the importance and wealth of this daimyō, there may or might not be a school of gunsmiths specific to the fief. Some types of samurai armor are therefore immediately recognizable as specific to certain areas, but most of those made in the Edo period were produced by independent shops that sold their products in the capital and were bought there by samurai from all over Japan.
Most of the samurai armor we see around date from the Edo period (1615-1867) and were never used for a fight since the last battle that was fought in samurai Japan was that of Sekigahara, in 1600.

However, among the impositions of the shogunate during the Edo period, the most important was certainly the forced residence in Edo, the sankin kotai, an ingenious invention aimed at impoverishing and at the same time controlling their own feudal lords (daimyō). This imposition in fact provided that periodically all the daimyō went to Edo - and did so with expensive and sumptuous processions (daimyō gyoretsu) - to supply the shogunate with soldiers and to leave their families there as hostages. The double residence between the capital and its own fiefdom and the social need to lead a luxurious life during the stay in Edo, therefore led to the emptying of the coffers of the various daimyō, to the benefit - among other things - of a production of samurai armor very elegant, sumptuous and extravagant. This relaxed climate of political stability in fact leads the armor to be an important symbol of social status and no longer a means of defense; for this reason, during the Edo period (1603-1867) the skill of blacksmiths moved more towards aesthetic characteristics than towards functional ones. Starting from the mid-18th century, the splendor of lacquers and colored bindings, the use of chiseled and gilded borders and ornaments on the entire armor and the continuous search for unusual decorations are the true characteristics of the armor of this period. Some gunsmiths then specialized in embossing techniques (uchidashi) producing dô, menpo and kabuto of extraordinary quality. In this period the ô-yoroi and dô-maru of the rich medieval style came back into vogue, with large sodas and complex binding that emphasized the skill of the gunsmith, and some of the most beautiful armor ever made was produced.
In the 19th century, wars are now a very distant memory and although the tendency to imitate ancient models in a luxurious key does not seem to diminish, however, the truly talented gunsmiths begin to disappear, those who were first of all masters in iron working and who knew how to build helmets and masks that were works of art.

KIRA

Kira is the name by which the killer who kills criminals is recognized all over the world in the famous anime: DEATH NOTE . It corresponds to the Japanese transliteration of the English word "killer" (murderer). Behind this identity hides Light Yagami, a Japanese model student, who dreams of creating a world without wars, inhabited only by good people. Recognized as a criminal at first, and wanted by police around the world, Kira will later gain the support of many people and many states will recognize Kira's work and support him. Besides Light Yagami, other people also kill criminals, always by order of Light: Misa Amane, who after being mistaken for the original, is recognized as according to Kira, and Teru Mikami, who acts on behalf of Light, and whose operated is recognized as that of the original Kira.
The story of Light Yagami in Death Note began with obtaining the notebook of death, a lethal weapon given to the human world by the shinigami Ryuk. The dark creature was only meant to have fun, and luckily for him, the human who got the notebook managed to live up to the expectations. Unfortunately for him, Light Yagami's life ended in a tragic way. What was your biggest mistake that could have completely changed your path in Death Note? Probably, the moment that established his path was inserted at the very beginning of the manga. After collecting the Death Note, he decided to face the mysterious detective L by taking his bait on live television. If Light Yagami had decided to ignore the detective's provocations by continuing on his way, ignoring FBI and cops or Interpol, he would never have been traceable and could have continued his work without too many worries.
His desire to face L and to get involved against this invisible opponent, however, made him derailed from the original plan, even if all this was the fulcrum of the story of Death Note, based precisely on the psychological and strategic clashes between Kira and the detective.
Watching a documentary on Nazi Germany I could not help but notice, if you will, a certain analogy with Death Note's "kingdom of Kira". I therefore arrived, following a series of considerations and the conclusion that this soul subtly wants to admonish dictatorships, idealisms and excessive utopias. And, above all, about how a sudden and unlimited power can divert the human mind, irreversibly, to the point of losing sight of all morals, or creating one's own, completely distorted by madness.
Kira becomes more and more ruthless and self-confident as her power increases, at first she is little more than a little boy having fun with something like a diabolical toy. At the end of the anime, he is just a deviant madman and ends up in the same way as his "corresponding" real dictators. But Kira also loved power, concentrated in her hands. Only in his. He acts alone, aiming to realize the dream he had been unconsciously harboring for a long time, trusting in his own intelligence and abilities as a strategist, something that, as far as possible, Hitler and Mussolini also did, seizing on the fly an opportunity provided to them. to come to power and carry out their plans and forging purely strategic alliances to harness the capabilities of their new allies. Which Light did for example with Misa for the power of the Shinigami's eyes, heedless of her sincere love for him.

GEISHA

Geisha means "art" and "person" and therefore "person skilled in fine arts, in fine manners". The beauty of this culture is nothing more than a further manifestation of femininity through the fluid movement of fans and umbrellas.
We often hear about geisha and maiko together, but not everyone is clear about the difference. The maiko is the apprentice geisha: she is aged between 15-16 and 20 and her appearance is very different from that of the professional geisha.
She wears a kimono with much more gaudy colors, painted with particularly elaborate patterns and a long belt, the “hikizuri”, which hangs at the back like a dovetail.
The makeup of the maiko is also more elaborate: in addition to sprinkling their face with white powder, the apprentices paint the corner of the eyelid red in a design that is somewhat reminiscent of plum petals. In addition, they dye their lips in different ways depending on their "seniority".

Being apprentices, they do not enjoy the privilege of using a wig: their hair is actually styled in the "Shimada mage" once a week, and they are forced to sleep by resting their necks on wooden pillows so as not to ruin their hair.
The maiko wear clogs called “okobo”: they have a very high sole and give them an elegant appearance. The performances of a maiko consist of singing, dancing and playing the shamisen, a traditional Japanese instrument for the participants in banquets and parties. They are to all intents and purposes the helpers of real geishas, ​​who observe to learn their art.
In ancient times, girls devoted themselves to this path from a very young age and in the vast majority of cases it was not their decision. The girls entered an Okiya (置 屋), literally the house of the geisha, and began the long path of studies. The financial agreement with the okiya was often that of not having to spend anything on education, room and board and repaying the large debt that one was going to incur with one's work as a Geisha.
There were also other forms of agreement that allowed an aspiring Geisha to remain independent, buying the kimono herself and living away from the okiya. These girls, called Jimae, only paid a membership fee to work at the okiya.
The matron of the okiya, called okasan, was generally a "retired" geisha who moved on to the administrative side of the profession. Often she decided to adopt daughters (musume) among her maiko to pass on the management of the house. A geisha could also emancipate herself from okiya after paying off all debts and in case she found a patron (danna) wealthy enough to support her financially. In this case the girl could leave the Okiya and go to live elsewhere.
Around the seventh century the saburuko, courtesans whose job was to entertain the noble class, appeared; they were then replaced by the jūyo, upper-town prostitutes most appreciated by the aristocrats. But it is in the Edo period (1603 - 1868) that the birth of the geisha in Japan is traced back: in the beginning it was the men who entertained the guests with dances and songs, but it didn't take long before the women took possession of this profession, exploiting their natural grace in the movements.
The word geisha is formed from the kanji 芸 者, where 芸 indicates art and 者 person; just as her name indicates, the geisha was an expert in the art of entertainment and not a luxury prostitute as she is often depicted in the West. Becoming more and more successful, these female figures definitively replaced the jūyo and, thanks to their growing popularity, neighborhoods were created specifically for them called hanamachi (花街, city of flowers); the customers were mostly businessmen and politicians who gathered in the neighborhood tea rooms to enjoy their company.
The would-be geisha in Japan arrived at the okiya at an early age, often sold by their families to repay their debts, and they also remained there as adults for the entire period in which they practiced the profession, living with other apprentices and geisha. From the very beginning they studied the art of dance, singing and musical instruments such as the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument with a melancholy sound, and the shakuhachi, the bamboo flute; once deemed suitable, the apprentices became maiko (舞 妓, dancing girl) under the guidance of a geisha who acted as their mentor, and obtained a stage name.
The training lasted from three to five years and if passed allowed them to be promoted to geisha in a ceremony called mizuage; however, since it was also a term used for the initiation of prostitutes (causing even more confusion on the figure of the geisha), nowadays the term erikae (襟 替 え, change of collar) is used.
The figure of the geisha was born a man, in fact around the beginning of the sixteenth century, in the entertainment districts: they were also called "hokan" (the equivalent of the court jester) or "taiko mochi" (literally bearer of drums). They, thanks to their light conversation and their comic and musical talent, enlivened the evenings in the clubs of the pleasure districts, where men went mainly to have fun and, if it happened, to end the evening in the bed of a yujo, that is a prostitute.
It was in 1751 that the first taiko-mochi woman appeared in Shimabara, a district of Kyoto; in a few years an increasing number of women entered this profession. At the beginning they were called "onna geisha", that is, a woman geisha; around 1780 women became more numerous than men and after 1800 men were so few that there was no longer any need to specify the sex of the geisha and the term took on the meaning it still has today. In all the main cities of Japan (Kyoto and Tokyo in particular) there were neighborhoods, called hanamachi ("city of flowers") where the ochaya (tea houses) and the okiya (the houses of the geisha) were concentrated in which to enjoy the their talent.
In Kyoto, the various levels of study are also distinguished: during the first year the girls (aged between 15 and 20 years) begin to study the various artistic disciplines, the etiquette, they help the older ones and are called "shikomi". After passing an exam, they become "minarai", they begin to dress and make up according to traditional costumes and accompany the senpai to the evenings to familiarize themselves with work. Finally, there is the real debut that determines the transition to the status of maiko.
In Tokyo, on the other hand, the term "hangyoku" is used which means "half a jewel": the apprentices in fact receive a salary that is about half that of the geisha
Being a geisha is not a job but a lifestyle with many personal sacrifices, including the greatest not being able to marry and not being able to have any romantic relationship. Being a decision to be made at a young age, even their adolescence during the formative years (when one is maiko) is different from that of other girls, all the time is devoted to studying the arts and performing.
Generally speaking, a geisha gets up very early in the morning, spends about an hour putting on make-up and wearing a kimono, and then goes to dance and music lessons. In the afternoon she works in an ochaya (tea room) where she meets customers giving them the TEA CEREMONY, then in the evening she is called to traditional clubs to participate in the ozashiki (geisha party) where she dances, dances and makes conversation.
The appearance of the geisha is very important, she must be perfect. The trick is part of that. The face is made completely white and the lips and eyes red. White makeup is a relic from the days when there were no lamps in the emperor's palace. The artists made all their faces white, with chalk, lime or cyanide, but also with dried droppings of the nightingale, so that the emperor could see them clearly by candlelight. Also, white leather is a status symbol. You could see that you shouldn't have to work outside. So: whiter, richer. As early as 1,500 BC, the peoples of China and Japan made their faces white. They then did so by means of the rice powder.
Once a week, the geisha and maiko hairstyles are made beautiful. A maiko undergoes five different hairstyles during her probationary period. This is to symbolize the steps in his development towards the geisha. A maiko starts with the wareshinobu haircut. Various decorations are placed in the hair, such as: a red silk headband, silver wings, flower that blooms during that month, turtle comb, canoe, canoe hairpin and hairpin in opal, turtle and jade. The transition to a new haircut occurs when the girl has been maiko for about two years. During the mizuage, a ceremony to celebrate the growth of the maiko, the upper curl is symbolically cut. The new hairstyle is called ofuku. On special occasions, the yakko hairstyle is worn in combination with a traditional kimono. And the katsuyama haircut for the month before and after the Gion festival in July. The change of hairstyle marks the final phase of the maiko's career. Clients can see this as a sign that maiko has reached the end of her maiko career.
In the last month as a maiko she has been wearing the sakko hairstyle. By cutting the top curl, the maiko days are over. This can be an exciting time for girls. After the sakko, the geisha maintains the same hairstyle throughout her life as an artist. Wear a wig during performances and performances, because every geisha often has to look the same. The maiko hairstyle, where the hair is tied together at the crown, creates bald spots on the crown. The hairs are held in place by a bamboo pin, which means that the hair roots are constantly under pressure. Due to the itchy scalp, geishas scratch the tip of a hair ornament and this causes the hair to break at the root. After a few years, bald spots appear.
Geishas always wear kimonos. The novice geisha has to work, just to expand her wardrobe. During their career they have therefore lost a considerable amount of money on the purchase of their clothes.
The geisha wears the ribbon in the center, obi, on the back of her back. Due to the difficulty of bonding girls and women often need help getting dressed. The common Japanese has two different kimonos: one for the winter months and one for the summer months. A geisha should wear a different kimono every season and different for every occasion. Each kimono is a work of art and will not be worn unless it is perfect. They are also all unique and are often worn no more than five or six times. Also, wearing a kimono requires a special haircut, footwear, socks and bags.
The neighborhoods where you can meet geishas are called hanamachi, literally translated as the flower district. The district par excellence is Gion in Kyoto, it is an area of ​​the city that still retains characteristic architecture with many ochaya (tea rooms) where geisha work.
To meet one you need to be lucky, they are numerically few and the only way to see them is on the street in the afternoon as they go to the ochayas.

SHINTO

In the Far East, the moral duty of simplicity of life has been taught since ancient times, perhaps because of the ancestor worship characteristic of Shinto thought.
The fact is that when I find myself among large trees, with an age of many tens of years, I am always moved ... because I think of what they will have experienced, perceived among the chirps on the branches, fought in the seasons of time, for reach those heights and those dimensions. They are like living cathedrals. In short, a sense of reverence from the depths captures me, where the sense of Beauty and the Sacred are still preserved.

This feeling in Japan extends mainly to the elderly, as well as to handicrafts (which are repaired with the famous art of Kintsugi); in fact, despite the position of supreme importance and the wealth possessed, the shōgun Ieyasu Tokugawa (born in 1543) bent the hakama personally and said: "If, when we use things, we do not think about the time and effort necessary to create them, then the lack of consideration lowers us to the same level as the beasts ».








The origin of this symbol is virtually unknown and is lost in the mists of time: a legend tells of when Amaterasu (the goddess of the Sun) locked herself in a cave to escape her terrible brother Susanoo, causing an eclipse; to induce her to come out of her shelter (and restore the sunlight) all the roosters in the city were placed on a large wooden perch for the birds: their continuous singing intrigued Amaterasu, who peeked out of the cave. Taking advantage of the gap that had opened, one of the gods completely opened the entrance, pushing the rock away and allowing the sunlight to illuminate the earth again. That perch became the first torii, which in Japanese means "bird", an animal considered according to Shinto as a messenger of the gods (another hypothesis derives it from the Japanese term tori-iru, "to enter").
The name "Shintoism" instead derives from the Chinese term Shintô, composed of the two ideograms 神 "Shin" (divinity, spirit) and 道 "to / tao" (way, path) and was introduced in the 6th century, when it became necessary to distinguish native religion of Japan from the recently imported Buddhist one, and corresponds to the original Japanese term "Kami no michi", or "the path of the gods" or "the way of the kami (or beings of light)", intended as associated spiritual deities to the forces of nature (the sun, the moon, ...) or present in a specific territory as "guardian" spirits.
Shinto is an ancestral religion of Japan. It could be defined as a "national" cult, as it is closely connected to this people and has never spread abroad, as Buddhism did, except in the period of State Shinto - between the end of the nineteenth century and 1945 -, where it was imposed in Korea and Hokkaido as a means of cultural assimilation.
It is a polytheistic religion with shamanic traits, with an animistic origin (type of cult in which divine or supernatural qualities are attributed to objects, places or material beings) which probably derives from the period in which the ancestors of the first colonizers of islands of the Rising Sun resided in the steppes of Mongolia.
The primitive and original cult of Japan therefore refers to the kami, a term literally formed by the union of two characters, 示 "altar" and 申 "speak, report", which can be translated into "what speaks, manifests itself from the altar", "Beings of Light" cultured by a population originally from the Sino-Mongolian continent and landed along the coasts of the southern islands of the Japanese archipelago. Their religious traditions, characterized by animistic and divinatory practices, are supported by solemn rituals that give great honor to the ancestors belonging to the different tribes, in some cases divinized or transformed into kami.
In the cosmogony of this religion the kami of the origins did not create the world and everything that populates it, including human beings, but generated it, with the consequent implication that all beings, men and mountains, stones, trees, animals, flowers, storms, seas, volcanoes, are "children" of the same emanation, basically brothers and sisters, united by horizontal bonds of secret kinship. Note that the Japanese language does not distinguish singular from plural, nor masculine from feminine, so kami can often mean god or goddess, gods or goddesses; how can it mean gods, deities, high spirits, demons.
Until the year 1000 AD in Japan everything that belongs to a cosmic, sacred, superior and luminous reality, of which everything and everyone is a part, is considered kami, including all those elements considered mysterious by men for their extraordinary nature (volcanoes, celestial bodies, mountains , the stars,…). Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "divinity," Shinto theologians specify that this type of translation can cause a serious misunderstanding of the term. In some circumstances, they are identified as real deities, similar to the gods of ancient Greece or ancient Rome. In other cases, however, such as the phenomenon of growth, natural objects, spirits that dwell in trees, or forces of nature, translating kami as "god" or "divinity" would be a misinterpretation.
In many respects Shinto is a "sister" religion of Taoism, as in the latter there is no hierarchy to respect, there is no kami superior to the others, but while Taoism is based on the balance between yin and yang, Shinto is based on three elements: in, yo and yuan. The first two are the Chinese counterparts of yin and yang, the third is the force that is unleashed by the meeting of these two elements, that is, the manifestation of cosmic energy. The set of these three elements is depicted with a symbol called Tomoe, connected to Hachiman, god of war and patron of Samurai warriors and associated with the characteristics of strength, healing and war. The three comet-shaped tails that chase each other in perfect harmony represent, according to another interpretation, the three virtues of strength, benevolence and courage.
Although Shinto has no absolute commandments other than to live a simple life in harmony with nature and people, there are four precepts that express its ethical spirit:

    -harmony in the family
    -harmony with nature
    -purification
    -matsuri (festivals dedicated to the kami).

According to Shintoism, maintaining contact with nature involves achieving completeness and happiness and allows you to be close to the kami: nature must be respected, venerated and above all protected because from it derives the balance of life. During the Matsuri (祭), the festivities dedicated to the kami, newborns are presented to the family shrine, marriages are celebrated in the vast majority, in the countryside rice is sown and transplanted, while in the cities the foundations of houses and condominiums are blessed . The priest Shintō (kannushi 神主) with his white, light blue, purple robes according to the circumstances, honors and blesses the crafts and housewives operations of every day and is present wherever productive activities are started.

SENSU-GATA

The folding fan is widely used in Japan by both men and women.
The Japanese name is Sensu, (扇子 Nihon kenchiku)
There were also fighting fans, used for various purposes, the most significant being the use linked to communication through the sensu, the fan.
The martial art of the fan is tessenjutsu.
Today we find their use also in sumo competitions, used by referees.
Invented in Japan, starting from the idea of ​​uchiwa, but improving it making it more comfortable and manageable. The sensu was born in the Heian era, the same material is kept for the skeleton of the fan, bamboo, paper (washi) is applied directly on the sticks, so that it can be folded.
It has the same use as uchiwa, but is also used in rakugo, a comic monologue from the traditional theater of the Rising Sun, and in nihon buyou, a Japanese dance. The geishas used it for dances that mark the passing of natural events, such as the passing of the seasons or during the tea ceremony. Not only that, even the feudal lords used the large sensu as a sign of their family.
The sensu, on the other hand, is nothing more than the foldable (and therefore more easily transportable) version of the uchiwa. It appeared during the Heian period (794-1185) and is also composed of bamboo sticks and washi paper glued directly to the sticks.
In addition to its more common summer use, it is used both in Rakugo (the traditional Japanese comic monologue) and in Nihon Buyou (traditional Japanese dance), but also in group dances of the summer matsuri. This too can obviously be richly decorated, both on paper and on bamboo.
How can you imagine that an object that looks so simple could have so many purposes? In the feudal age, in Japan the fan was also used in war, built with different materials and sizes, based on the purpose for which it was to serve. For example, high-ranking officers carried with them the dansen uchiwa, large iron fans with a wooden structure, which were used to give orders to the troops, to defend against arrows or as a parasol.
The tanto, on the other hand, was a case in the shape of a closed fan, which hid a steel dagger inside, used for personal defense by both men and women.
A very important folding fan in the history of Japan is the tessen, it takes its name from the martial art tessenjutsu, practiced by the samurai and named after the use of the fan. Also called gunsen, they were made of wood with external rods of iron or steel, in order to resist and parry the blows inflicted by the enemies.
The fan was not only a weapon but also a means of communication, as already described above they could be made of iron or made of ribbons or paper and wood, the commander thus gave orders to his soldiers, raising, lowering or pointing in different directions the item.








UCHIWA

This particular type of fan is rigid, has a flat and elongated structure, both round and square, initially built with a large leaf or animal hair. Later improvements were made by the Japanese, using bamboo and paper. The bamboo handle and sunburst support the washi sheet, a type of paper created with natural fibers, which has a good consistency, resistant and translucent, is then glued to the frame.
It was born in China and in the sixth century it spread to Japan, immediately becoming a much loved accessory by Japanese ladies and nobles, combining them with the colors and refinement of their dresses. Used not only to shelter from the summer heat, but also from the icy wind or from prying eyes. In addition, the paper top is used as a canvas, poets and painters delight in showing off their skills.
Often floral backgrounds were drawn that represented nature in bright colors, and over these paintings a poem with elegant strokes was written. The handle could also be decorated, with simple and subtle motifs, painted or engraved. Then replaced by sensu (folding fan), because it is much more comfortable to carry with you, since the uchiwa cannot be folded.
Even today, however, they can be found for sale in Japan, with traditional prints of landscapes or famous people. Through the art of origami there are those who delight in creating uchiwa, customizing them as they wish.
In the beginning it was made with a large leaf and animal hair; later instead of bamboo strips tied together in a radial pattern to form the frame (both round and square), then covered with a sheet of washi paper. Both this and the handle were therefore painted and engraved: in fact, the pastimes of the scholars and artists of the time poured onto it. The uchiwa were in fact meticulously painted taking inspiration mainly from nature: peonies, cherry branches, bamboo canes, cranes, butterflies, crickets, dragonflies, nightingales. Often then they became backgrounds for refined poems. Therefore, the useful (defending oneself from the heat in summer and from the lashes of the wind in winter as well as from prying eyes) was combined with pleasure.
Nowadays, all kinds of them are on sale and reproduce traditional decorative motifs, famous ukiyo-e, portraits of well-known personalities and hanami (fireworks).
A fan still used today is the gunbai, made of wood and sometimes covered with metal plates, the samurai used it to communicate with their troops, today during the sumo fights the Gyoji (referee) uses it to proclaim the winner. A fan still used today is the gunbai, made of wood and sometimes covered with metal plates, the samurai used it to communicate with their troops, today during the sumo fights the Gyoji (referee) uses it to proclaim the winner. A Gunbai or Gunbai Uchiwa (軍 配 団 扇) is a non-folding fan, usually made of wood. It was used in ancient Japan by samurai officers to communicate with their troops. Nowadays, it is used by professional Sumo referees. 
Madara Uchiha was famous during his lifetime for using this fan in battle. Obito Uchiha later used this fan as the legendary Uchiha, before returning it to his ancestor reincarnated during the Fourth Ninja War. It is a large fan with tomoe drawn on it and has a long handle with bandages twisted around the base, like a long chain attached to the base. When Obito started using it, it appeared with a purple tint and a black border, with graves drawn on it, with the chain going into his sleeve. During the Third World War Ninja is seen hanging on a wall inside the cave of the Mountain Cemetery.
Obito predominantly uses it to attack using the chain to guide the fan which he can also use as a shield due to its durability, he was able to block the Super Mini Teriosphere too without receiving any significant damage. Madara uses him both as a shield and as a mace in combination with his Kamatari, and also allows him to use various techniques.

TERU TERU BOZU

The teru teru bozu is a self-made white doll made of paper or fabric, which is hung with a thread outside the window to ward off rain and recall good weather.
The word "teru" in Japanese means "to shine" and "bozu" is the name by which the Buddhist monks are called to which it aesthetically recalls the figure of the doll. The day before the children go on school trips or picnics with the family, they build and hang the Teru Teru Bozu which they entrust with the task of not letting the rain come.
It is a tradition of Japanese folklore and although it is practiced by children today, in past times there was no farmer who no longer hung Teru Teru Bozu out of windows, on trees or in fields, believing that he influenced the weather by safeguarding crops.
It was believed that the doll was able to frighten Amefushi, the spirit of the rain ... in the past an enemy of the peasants, today an enemy of children who prevents them from going outside to play. Legend has it that this spirit is not bad and approaches where there are children to play with them, but attracting rain is not welcome and is hunted with the Teru Teru Bozu.
"Teru Teru Bōzu, Teru Bōzu,
bring me the sun tomorrow
If the sky is as clear as I dream of it
I'll give you a golden bell.
Teru Teru Bōzu, Teru Bōzu,
bring me the sun tomorrow
If you will listen to my prayers
I'll give you some sweet sake
Teru Teru Bōzu, Teru Bōzu,
bring me the sun tomorrow
If it's cloudy, I'll take your head off "
This is the nursery rhyme that children say to the teru teru bozu.
So if you too want the sun to shine every day, put your teru bōzu outside the window to scare the Amefushi spirit, thus avoiding being prey to its jokes.
If the next day it will be sunny, you can thank the ghost by embellishing it with a small golden bell or taking it with us in any activity (such as a trip) planned for that day.
According to other customs, to thank him one would have to wet his head with sake and then throw him into a river.

IKEBANA

Ikebana is an ancient practice born as an offering to the gods and over the centuries it has become a real artistic expression.
The Japanese term Ikebana - "Ike" means living and "hana" means flower - refers to the art of floral compositions.
It is an ancient practice that originated in the East around the sixth century AD, but which more precisely found its maximum expression in Japan where in a short time, from an initial offering to the gods, it was transformed into a real mode of expression.
As this is a custom with a profound philosophical and spiritual significance, in the beginning it was practiced only by Buddhist nobles and monks, often on the occasion of the tea ceremony. The first style to develop was the Rikka, where seven elements alternated to create a harmonic composition useful for man to recover an intimate relationship with himself and with the whole world. Later, the Nageire developed, a simpler style, followed by the Seika, similar to both but much less austere.
The goal of the Ikebana is to give space to one's emotionality, bringing one's soul, instinct and aesthetic taste into the composition.
In order to create true works of art, it is important to form and train the discipline through dedication: In fact, the study of colors, shapes, harmony and practice, necessary to obtain an arrangement capable of giving a sense of balance.
These harmonious floral compositions can be made up of different types of flowers, from orchids to hydrangeas, from chrysanthemums to gerberas, from roses to bamboo branches. The main rule for creating an Ikebana composition is to use all elements of an organic nature, whether they are flowers, herbs, branches or leaves. Branches and flowers are thus arranged as to create a triangle: the longer branch called Shin, the most important one, is considered as the element that reaches towards the sky, the shorter branch, the Hikae, symbolizes the earth while the intermediate one, the Soe, represents the man. The floral composition therefore aims to balance Shin, Hikae and Soe in a harmonious way and without too complex elaborations.
IKENOBO SCHOOL - If you intend to approach Ikebana, this is the oldest school in Japan, founded by the monk Senkei Ikenobo in 1462. Objective, not only the aesthetics of the composition but also refinement, simplicity and the representation of one's own sensitivity and spirituality.
There is always a "protagonist" element and a series of "helpers", but never in competition with each other. And a point of view from which to observe (the little flowers at the bottom are often points of entry into the vision). As in other schools, the choice of the vase is an integral part of the work.
Among the oldest of the Ikenobo is the Rikka style, which generally focuses on verticality starting from a stem and brings together all the elements of nature. On closer inspection there are also us, the men. At the base, kenzan is often used, a support to better insert flowers and stems and then let the water flow. Traditionally, these compositions have a small dedicated alcove inside the house: the Tokonoma. The Shoka style is more essential, while a great source of inspiration is the painting of the Rimpa school born in the seventeenth century of which Ikebana today continues to "paint" themes and models in pots.
OHARA SCHOOL - At the heart of Ikebana Ohara is the very strong relationship with nature, the study of its forms, its seasonal rhythms, the growth of its elements. Because the new never completely supplants the old. The infinite variety of compositional forms allows you to express your creativity and sensitivity through different and personal choices, in a combination of traditional styles and the search for more innovative forms.
SOGETSU SCHOOL - In 1927, when it was believed that the practice of Ikebana was now canonized and stable, Sofu Teshigahara founded this school with the motto "everyone can do Ikebana Sogetsu, anytime, anywhere, with any material".
Thus was born freestyle. The compositions are linked to modern art, design, architecture, while maintaining all the classic rules of full-empty or asymmetries. They become three-dimensional and also accommodate elements that do not come from nature (for example, moldable wooden strips, small objects, toys), as long as everything is intimately connected. On the fundamental principle Linea, Massa, Colore, innovation is pursued, in order not to leave Ikebana closed in its world, but to link it to the other arts.
EMPTY and FULL - Alternation is essential. Never be afraid of emptiness: it exists in nature as in Ikebana and is as constructive as a musical pause or a 'but' when we speak.
As far as flowers are concerned, it is never a competition for the "most beautiful". Everyone participates in the result according to their role. But how and how many to choose? For the Ikenobo School, "little is better". The Ohara varies according to the compositional form, but, for example, if in a Rimpa creation you can only use flowers and plants portrayed in the works of the pictorial school.
For Sogetsu, the important thing is the contaminations, so you choose what you need and what you need, together with the right materials.
Harmony with the seasons is one of the fundamental principles of Ikebana: it is always better to prefer what nature is already offering us. Even in winter, a less bursting season than spring, but with a "whispered" beauty. Here then the hellebore and ferns are perfect, but also the evergreen pine with its elegance, the bamboo symbol of tenacity and resilience or the prunusmume, which blooms precisely in these months when everything is asleep, close cousin of the cherry tree and bearer of hope. Among the flowers, the narcissus, the camellia, the rose. The mist gives lightness and refers to the idea of ​​small children. At the base, you can insert the lycopodium moss, so similar to the green of Japanese gardens.

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