For those who know the 5th of July is Edo-kiriko Day.
Otherwise known as ‘cut-glass’ Edo-kiriko is very unique as its appearance can change depending not just on the material, workmanship and multitude of colours but also on the weather, time of day and viewing angle.
Placed on a window ledge or tilted under a light, Edo-kiriko’s differing appearances and mysterious charm never ceases to amaze. Let’s take a further look at what makes Edo-kiriko so enticing.
Stylish Japanese essence passed down from the Edo period
Kiriko is the art of cutting glass to make beautiful patterns in glass-ware. Edo-kiriko is the Japanese traditional glass cutting art that has been handed down from the Edo period and continues to this day.
Intricate patterns are finely ground into the colourless, transparent glass (lead glass) by a top craftsman using delicate hand files. The combination of regular connecting patterns captures the four seasons and expresses a stylish essence. Central to Edo-kiriko’s charm is the way the deep cuts and facets in the glass cause the light to refract in beautiful mysterious ways. However, you can kind of get lost just gazing at the delicate cut patterning and what’s surprising is the artwork is cut directly into the glass without sketching the pattern on first.
Edo-kiriko is a traditional glass cutting art that was founded in Japan in 1834 by Kyubei Kagaya who started carving patterns on glass with Emery in a Vidoro shop in Edo Oodenma town. It is said that Commodore Perry who arrived in his black ships in 1853 was deeply impressed by Kyubei Kagaya’s work.
In 1882 an English craftsman Emanuel Hauptman visited Japan and introduced some new techniques to the Edo-kiriko artisans. This was the foundation of Edo-kiriko’s traditional art with the techniques still evolving to this day. Back in Japan’s Edo period only transparent non-coloured glass was used for Kiriko but nowadays the use of coloured glass is common.
Since the Meiji period Edo-kiriko continued its spread with the majority of production back then done in Edo town, now called Tokyo.
Even today, the traditional art continues with Edo-kiriko glass-ware being produced mainly around Tokyo’s Koto ward but also in Sumida and Katsushika wards and Saitama prefecture.
Patterns, types and how to use
Edo-kiriko has many different patterns inspired from everyday life. The designs are influenced by Kimono crests, plants and things that are with us every day. The combination of left and right symmetrical patterns give a simple elegant finish. Let’s look at some of the typical patterns that are said to capture the beauty of the essence of Edo.
A typical pattern of Edo Kiriko. A delicate pattern of fine dots like caviar that causes the light to sparkle brilliantly.
This pattern is influenced by the woven structure of a bamboo basket with hexagonal and octagonal patterns and chrysanthemums included. The pattern also has the role of warning away danger similar to an amulet.
Sasanohamon (bamboo grass patterning)
Often combined with other patterns Sasanohamon is a pattern of straight lines extending out radially. Another (hidden) meaning in Sasa (bamboo grass) is the sharpness of a sword and the ease at which it cuts an opponent.
Asanohamon (Hemp leaf patterning)
Asanoha is a pattern based on regular hexagon shapes comprised of joining Hemp leaves. Because of its fast growth it is often used as a symbol to represent the hope of raising children quickly.
A pattern where circles overlap each other by a quarter. Often combined with other patterns at the center.
Edo-kiriko is loved and appreciated by many as a living glass-ware. From everyday household items such as plates, sake cups and flower vases to medals, trophies, kaleidoscopes and many others. The glass work also ranges from the traditional designs right up to the latest modern designs. The price varies according to the type of glass used, the depth of the cuts in the patterning and if the item is handmade or not. Apart from being popular as a collector’s item Edo-kiriko is without a doubt perfect at accentuating delicious food and wine. Stylishly presented in a “Kiri” wooden box Edo-kiriko is absolutely stunning when given to someone special as a gift. Why not take a look at the wide range of beautiful Edo-kiriko glass-ware, it’s hard not to be impressed.
You can purchase Edo Kiriko here in Australia.
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About Tokyo Shitamachi/Old town
Tokyo’s Shitamachi was central to the common culture of the Edo period. It is said that Shitamachi was so called because it was situated lower than the other areas.
Even today, places like Nihonbashi, Kanda, Mukojima, Asakusa and Fukagawa in the old town (Shitamachi) still retain a heavy presence of the Edo culture which adds to Tokyo’s amazing charm.
<Tokyo at a glance>
The Tokyo area is located in the southern part of the Kanto region facing Tokyo bay and is one of the world’s leading cities. If you include the neighboring suburbs in Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, Tokyo and its suburbs have a population of over 40 million people making it the world’s largest metropolitan area. Tokyo city became Japan’s capital in 1603 and continues to this day to be the center of Japan’s politics, economy and culture. In 2020, Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics and Paralympics for the first time in 56 years.
- Population: 13 million
- Area: 2,187km²
- Australia sister cities: NSW, Brisbane/QLD(- Nerima-ward), Gosford/NSW (- Edogawa-ward), Manly/NSW (- Taito-ward), Sutherland/NSW (- Chuo-ward), Willoughby/NSW (- Suginami-ward), Marion/SA (- Kokubunji-city), Beimont/WA (- Adachi-ward), Bunbury/WA (- Setagaya-ward)
Sightseeing in Downtown (Shitamachi) Tokyo
Just 5 minutes’ walk from Asakusa station. The Kaminarimon entrance is recognized as one of Tokyo’s trademarks being its oldest temple. Souvenir shops line Nakamise street. This area was the epi-center of the Edo culture.
English Website: http://www.senso-ji.jp/about/index_e.html
Tokyo Sky Tree
In May 2012 a new Tokyo landmark was opened, a 634m high skyscraper called Tokyo Sky Tree. With the fastest elevator in the country (600m/min, 40 people) it only takes 50 seconds to reach the observation platform 350m high. There is a second observation platform at 450m and the view of Tokyo is fantastic. There is also a café and shop. English Website: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/
Edo Tokyo Museum
When you get off the train at Ryogoku station the museum is straight ahead. You can see the history and culture of Edo and the changes that Tokyo has experienced through the years. There is also an English guide.
English website: http://www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp/en/
Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo stadium)
Only 1 minute walk from Ryogoku station. Known as the sacred place of Sumo Wrestling there is also a free Sumo Wrestling museum. There is also an English brochure called THE SUMO for 100 yen. Be sure to check which days the it is open before you go.
Kabuki Theater. There is a gallery on the 5th floor of the Kabuki Tower and you can really experience the charm of Kabuki.
English Website: http://www.kabuki-bito.jp/eng/top.html
Getting off the train at Tsukishima station you can see over 60 shops along Monja Street. Using a flour base other ingredients are mixed in and spread like a pancake on a hot plate. Various other ingredients are added to give different flavours. Monjayaki tastes great and is also fun to make if you want to give it a go yourself.
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