I strongly believe that:
- Relationships are key to happiness
- Self-development is in each one's responsibility
- By helping others, you also help yourself
- Diversity makes life more interesting
- We must act as one world
- Every person has a purpose in life.
I try to live according to these values and hope to connect with many people who share them.
Mizutori is a small company owned and operated by the Mizutori family. Currently three generations of the family are active in the company.
MIZUTORI started 1937 as a maker a traditional Japanese Geta clogs. When people stopped wearing Kimono the market for traditional geta sandals disappeared and MIZUTORI was about to run out of business.
At this time plastic sandals were getting popular and Mizutori moved into the manufacturing of fashionable plastic sandals. But a few years later such sandals were made cheaper in China and Mizutori had to reinvent itself again.
Back to the Roots
The family then remembered its heritage of handmade geta and developed a modern wooden sandal inspired by the beauty of traditional geta. In 1995 Mizutori launched its first collection of modern geta under the name of GETA MONOGATARI, which means history of Geta.
Later Mizutori further developed its design capabilities by collaborating with Japanese designers such Hibino Kozue or Drill Design. The number of collections expanded and MIZUTORI won various design and business awards for its innovative approach.
Geta that Look Great with Jeans too
MIZUTORI sandals also look great with Western clothes. They can look very elegant but also can be used with casual wear such as Jeans.
Walking with Geta is Healthy
Did you know that walking with geta sandals is beneficial for your health? Together with the university of Shizuoka Mizutori conducted research about the health benefits of wearing geta.
1) Improved blood circulation
Different from regular shoes walking for just 30 minutes with geta sandals significantly improved the blood circulation of the sales.
2) Improved balance
Body weight moves to the central toes, which results in a better balance.
3) Better posture
The better balance naturally leads to an improved upright posture.
4) Better feeling
As a result probands felt walking was much more relaxed and the sandals felt very well and natural.
Handmade by skilled craftsmen
Each Geta sandal is handmade by skilled craftsmen. Each sandal is a masterpiece of Japanese craftsmanship and each element is a distinct beauty.
Mizutori sandals can be repaired and the rubber sole exchanged like with any other shoe. Mizutori sandals can therefore be used fro a long time.
Some products on NIHON ICHIBAN do not necessarily seem to fall under the “traditional crafts” category. The Mizuho Cosmetic Brushes for example. Yet, these high quality, hand-made products carry a long history and unique manufacturing process that makes each and any one of them a true art work.
History of Japanese Cosmetic Brushes
Kumano, a city in the Hiroshima prefecture, is widely known for its superb manufacturing of a variety of brushes. With a history over 180 years, way back to the Edo period, “Kumano brushes” has become a concept recognized even internationally.
Due to the mountainous area, farmers have always had difficulties making a living out of farming alone. To earn extra money, many men would go find work in other areas, such as Nara. Travelling back and forth, they would buy writing brushes and re-sell them on the way back home to make some profit. Around 1840 a group of enterprising farmers decided to start manufacturing high-quality brushes themselves, and this way the Kumano method was created.
With the compulsory education law, almost 40 years later, the demand for calligraphy brushes rose, making Kumano brushes known and wanted all over the country. Many years later, the decrease in the calligraphy market led to the innovative decision to transfer the knowledge and skills to a new market; cosmetic brushes.
Now-a-days, Kumano produces about 80% of all brushes made in Japan. This equals an astonishing 15 million brushes a year. And even now, they are hand-crafted, using the techniques passed on for centuries. These techniques have been officially recognized as “traditional craft” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Makeup Brush Maker: Mizuho Brush
Successor to a former calligraphy business, Mizuho Brush Co., Ltd. was founded in 1970 and became specialist in the crafting of cosmetic brushes. In 2008 they created the Mizuho Brush brand, also known as the MB-series, whit which they won the Good Design Award in 2011. Continuing traditional craftsmanship and implementing quality control throughout the entire production process, Mizuho Brush ensures that every single brush is of the best quality.
Using different types of animal hair, based on the intended usage of the brush, they create softness and performance unachievable by mass-produced synthetic hair. The hair, being the most essential part of the brush, is carefully selected and combined. Included types of hair are pony, sable, squirrel, weasel, goat and PBT synthetic hair. Each hair type has specific features and is used or combined with other hair types accordingly. Pony and goat hair are often used for powder retaining brushes, firm water badger hair almost exclusively for eyebrow brushes, and squirrel hair is the utmost gentle on the skin.
How Japanese Makeup Brushes are Made
The production can be divided into five steps. The traditional processes are very time-consuming, but are the only way to ensure the best quality possible.
Selecting the best type(s) of hair for the intended use of each brush. The shape and softness is very important. You would need a soft, round shape for a face or cheek brush, whereas a flat pencil-like brush may be desired for the eyes.
A process Mizuho especially takes pride in is the removal of inferior hairs. A task that can only be performed by experienced and skilled workers; as their observation and touch is the only security that decides on the quality of each brush. Any hair that is loose, pointing a slighlt different way, feels different or is any other than perfect, will be combed out with a small hansashi tool . Doing this by hand requires a lot of time, but is the only way to create a perfect condition. The tips of most mass-produced brushes are trimmed into shape, resulting in skin-irritation or an uncomfortable feel due to the cross-section of the (cut) hairs.
Once only the perfect hairs remain, the hairs are inserted tip-first in a koma. This wooden holders allow the hairs to be shaped into the desired brush tip shape. Even these tools are still hand-made, as each brush type requires a particular koma.
Now that the brushes have their shape, they are inserted into a fastener to make sure they keep their form. Glue is used to make it all solid. And finally, the brush is washed thoroughly.
Once dried, the brushes are attached to their handle, which is often made of Japanese wood or brass. The brush is now completed and will again be going through extended check-ups and inspections.
This extensive manufacturing process results in top-quality brushes, that are said to slide over your face like rose petals, removing oil and easily dividing powder. The Mizuho brushes have gradually become more popular internationally and are widely appreciated by celebrities and professional makeup artists.
Where to buy Japanese Cosmetic Brushes
NIHON ICHIBAN offers a wide variety of Mizuho brushes, suitable for beginners and professionals. Take this chance to feel and experience these special crafts yourself, or surprise any make-up savvy friend or family member with one of our beautifully boxed gift sets. For the perfect finishing touch, have your (friend’s) name engraved on the handle at no additional costs!
NOUSAKU is a producer of Takaoka Casting. The region of Takaoka has been famous for casting mainly Buddhist alter fittings made of tin and brass since 400 years. NOUSAKU was established in 1916 and is managed by the fourth generation of the Nousaku family. The family and company by itself are already a subject by itself. 能 (NOU) 作(SAKU) mean intelligent creation. There is no better to describe the products made by NOUSAKU.
The production of NOUSAKU products requires four basic steps: forming, casting, finishing and coating.
Independent craftsmen who work for multiple clients make the wooden forms. These wooden forms are stored for years. The warehouse is full of hundreds of forms that sometimes are used once every few years to renew certain parts of a temple.
During the casting process these forms are used to press the shape into a special sand in a box. Once the box full of sand with a specific pattern is closed these only is a small whole left, which is used to fill in the molten metal. On one day the workers in the casting area will prepare hundreds of forms, the next day they will all be filled with metal and after cooling the newly created objects will be removed from the forms and the sand recycled. Work in the physically demanding casting area requires a lot of teamwork, whereas the next production step is performed by highly specialized craftsmen who work alone at their workstations.
Each workstation in the finishing area stands for a specific task to be performed on each object. Craftsmen that are with NOUSAKU for many years master multiple workstations, whereas young craftsmen first struggle to reach perfection on very few tasks. The work in the finishing area ranges from simple polishing to the engraving of complex patterns into the objects.
The last step of the production is the coating, which is performed by specialized companies. Different companies are used for different kind of coatings. By working together with multiple companies for creating forms and coating NOUSAKU also contributes at keeping the eco-system for the traditional craft of Takaoka Casting alive.
Other than brass, which is used for making many products such as wind chimes, NOUSAKU developed new range of products made of pure tin. Known as the most expensive metal after gold and silver, tin is very malleable and flexible. Though having nearly the whiteness of silver, it does not rust easily nor will air tarnish it readily. It is significantly antibacterial, and also known as a material with low allergic reactivity and high heat conductivity.
Its history dates back to around 1500 B.C. when the ancient Egyptian pharaohs were believed to have used tin tools. The Shoso-inTemple in Japan also contains treasures made of tin. It has been believed that water in a tin container does not spoil, and tin removes excessive bitterness from sake and produces better taste. Because it is known to absorb impurities and purify water, tin wares allow you to enjoy liquor, meals, sweets, or flowers. Tin plate cooled in a refrigerator for 2-3 minutes will keep the plate fresh and cold.
NOUSAKU uses pure tin. It is common to add other metallic materials to provide durability and facilitate cutting work, but NOUSAKU uses tin without such additives. Accumulated experience of skilled craftsmen enables us to produce these unique items. Though it depends on the shape and thickness, pure tin is soft and flexible which can be bent by hand (crackling sound called “Tin Cry” will be heard when bending). The Flexible Ware creations of NOUSAKU allow people use use the product in many creative ways.
The story about NOUSAKU is not only about an interesting craft but also about the transformation of a business. Most of its history NOUSAKU was a casting company working for other companies who would make finished products. NOUSAKU therefore almost never knew the end-customer. It is when the 4th generation of the NOUSAKU family took over leadership that an interest into the consumer grew. The company started working with designers to create new and interesting interior products, which received high recognition around the world. 10 years since the beginning of this transformation NOUSAKU is on its way of becoming an interior decoration and tableware luxury brand well known around the world.
NOUSAKU has been hiring many people over the last years to cope with their increasing success. The average age in the company is around 30 and we felt a very inspiring and dynamic atmosphere throughout the whole company. This culture of growth and creativity made us very confident about the future of NOUSAKU and we are looking forward to see many more fantastic new products.
Japan is well known for it’s fake food culture with most restaurants having replicas of popular dishes in their show window. It therefore is no wonder that the VEGETABRELLA was invested in Japan.
The Vegetabrella is an umbrella that looks like the head of a romaine lettuce. It’s name is a combination of the two words “vegetable” and “umbrella”. When closed it has a very realistic resemblance to a romaine salad head. When opened it becomes a normal umbrella in light green. It is equipped with a small bag in the same green fabric as the umbrella. The ribbon to keep it closed reminds those found on salads in Japanese supermarkets. The Vegetabrella is sold in a carton box that also resembles Japanese salad boxes. Overall it is a really well designed and fully functional product.
It was designed by Yurie Mano and the design company h-concept. Each Vegetabrella is hand made by Tokyo Noble – a family owned company that specializes on the production of high quality hand made umbrellas. Their shop is close to Akihabara in Tokyo and they allow customers to choose from hundreds of umbrella parts to then assemble it in front of the client.
The Vegetabrella not only serves as an umbrella but it has UV protection that also makes it popular amongst Japanese women to avoid suntan.
The Vegetabrella sells for 4725 Japanese Yen (~60 USD). It weights exactly 200 grams without box and has a diameter of 80 cm. Recently it was featured on NHK World’s COOL JAPAN program, which gave it major exposure outside of Japan. Since then many blogs picked it up as well as various newspapers and magazines. It is available for sale on the NIHON ICHIBAN online shop at the Japanese retail price plus international shipping.
We are wondering if the Vegetabrella is the only fake food umbrella from Japan or if we will see more variations coming out in future. Who knows, Japan is always good for a surprise.
Hakone Zaiku refers to a type of wood marquetry from Hakone in the Kanagawa Prefecture. The Hakone zaiku, or Hakone marquetry has been produced in the region for hundred of year, it is a very old tradition of woodcraft in Japan.
The Hakone Marquetry combines geometric patterns that can be up to fifty different pattern on one item. There is hundred on combination possible from a few classical pattern of Hakone Zaiku thus many products can be done.
After being meticulously selected the wood is then sawn or split and dried and seasoned over a period of months. After being stick together and backed with papers the veneers are applied on the wood to create the product. The wood isn’t colored after being put together, the colors are the natural colors of each different piece of wood.
Hakone Zaiku is now use to create many products, from the most traditional to the most modern ones. A famous product of Hakone Marquetry are the Magic boxes, these boxes require to move certain hidden places of the box in a specific order to be open, it can requires hundred of moves.
The History of glass craft in Japan dates back to 2000years ago. Wind chimes originated in China where they were use by fortune-tellers to predict one’s future according to the direction of the wind and the sound of the bell. They arrived in Japan along with Buddhism. Indeed, Furin used to be placed in each of the four corners of temples to protect them from evil. Wind chimes were also used during exorcism rituals as people believed that the sound of the bell would chase evil spirits away. Wind chimes also were regarded as a protection against natural disasters and when the inhabitants in the proximity of a temple felt protected when hearing the sound of the bells. During the Kamakura period [1185 – 1333] the nobility of Japan used to hand glass furin on their doors to avoid the “Yakubyougami“, an evil go said to be responsible of deceases and disasters, to enter their rooms.
Production of turin wind chimes started with different materials, shapes and colors. Glass craftwork spread to Japan from Nagasaki – one of the few places opened to foreign influence during Japans self imposed isolation from the rest of the world. Glass craftwork techniques were transmitted by foreigners in Nagasaki and quickly became popular in Japan thanks to expositions by Nagasaki artisans in Osaka and Edo (old Tokyo). At the time prices for glass wind chimes were very expensive as glass was precious due to expensive raw material and the lack of highly skilled craftsmen outside of Nagasaki.
It is during the Edo period that the glass craftsman Kazusaya Tomesaburo returned to Tokyo after training in Nagasaki for years. He became famous for making beautiful glass wind chimes of the best quality in Tokyo. From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period Kazusaya and Kagaya were the main two producers of glassware in Tokyo.
When prices for glass started to decrease around 1887, furin wind chimes became more accessible for a larger part of the population becoming popular all around Japan. Peddlers would sell them on their way from town to town along with other wares.
Furin Wind Chimes today
Nowadays, it is still very popular to hand furin wind chimes from the eaves of a house or in front of a window. With the Japanese summer being really hot and humid the sound of the wind chimes allows to hear when a fresh breeze is coming. The sound of a wind chime also is a symbol of mental relaxation. The sound of wind chimes is a symbol for summer that often is featured in many commercials related to summer products.
Hand made Japanese Glass Wind Chimes
Nowadays most glass wind chimes are cheap mass products made in large glass factories. But there are still a few artisans who make hand blown and hand painted glass wind chimes passing over the mastery of glass from generation to generation.
We visited the Shinohara family that runs the Shinohara Edofurin company since 4 generations. When Mr. Shinohara blows a wind chime it looks very easy. When trying one quickly realizes that even the first step to make a round glass ball is very difficult. Mr. Shinohara explains that it takes an apprentice 3 years alone to master this first step and that it will require about 10 years to become a real master.
A jar called “tsurubo” is filled with glass and put in a very hot furnace. The glass liquefies and then with a glass stick a little portion of glass is taken twined and inflates by blowing in the stick. That is how the shape is formed.
Two bubbles are made; a bigger one for the main body of the furin and a smaller one in the bottom that is removed to create the wind chime’s opening on the bottom.
After about 20 minutes, the glass has cooled down so the edge of the opening can be smoothened.
The bottom of hand blown glass wind chimes remains uneven by purpose. The glass stick inside the chime then not only makes a sound when hitting glass outside but it makes a much more natural and beautiful sound when rubbing along the ripples of the glass. Although the borders are uneven they get smoothened so that they would not be sharp and cut.
The paintings are make on the inside of the wind chimes, so that the outside of glass remains shiny and the paintings do not fade easily when the wind chimes is placed outside and exposed to winds and rain.
Shinohara Edo Furin employs a total of 8 craftsmen and women to make a wide selection of glass wind chimes of different shapes and motifs. Outside the busy season in summer you even might have to chance to visit them and make your own wind chime.
Sakura cherry blossoms are a classic Japanese ingredient, which not only has a very unique flavor but also adds beauty to dishes. This list of recipes with pickled sakura includes Japanese traditional recipes as well as contemporary westernized recipes as well.
This sakura tea is slightly salty and a very typical drink for celebrations such as weddings in Japan. The flower unfolds in the hot water and adds beauty to the elegant flavor of sakura.
Sakura Anko Mushipan is a kind of Japanese style muffin. Mushipan means steamed bread. It is fluffy and soft and the flavors of anko bean paste and sakura are a nice combination of typical Japanese sweet ingredients.
This Sakura Layer Cake combines two of Japan’s famous ingredients: Sakura and Matcha tea powder. The result is a wonderful sponge cake with typical Japanese aromas and beautiful green and pink colored layers.
The Sakura Cake is a very nice recipe for a Sakura Chiffon Cake. The sakura flowers on it’s top are a beautiful decoration and the subtle flavor of sakura blends nicely with the soft chiffon cake’s texture.
Interview with Nicolas Soergel – Founder of NIHON ICHIBAN
Interviewed by Sophie Coureau – staff writer at Chinriu Honten Limited
What is NIHON ICHIBAN about and why did you start it?
Japan is a country with a very rich heritage and abundance of great food, craft and design products. But knowledge about these original products is very low and it also is very hard to purchase authentic products for most foreigners.
The mission of NIHON ICHIBAN is to promote Japanese authentic craft, food and design to foreigners inside and outside of Japan. Our family manages a traditional Japanese food company with more than 140 years of history. From this experience I have access to many traditional Japanese companies and also understand their challenges to market their products abroad.
This is when the idea was born to create an online shop that brings together a large number of such traditional companies to create a broad selection of products suitable for non-Japanese.
But NIHON ICHIBAN is not only about selling products. We also want to create a community of people who are interested in Japanese culture. With blogs, Twitter and Facebook we already have an active community of more than 82,000 Japan fans and more than 320 Japan bloggers. We give Japan bloggers a free platform to promote their blogs and the NIHONGO ICHIBAN site provides about 1000 pages with free material for those who prepare for the Japan Language Proficiency Test.
First a product needs to be genuinely Japanese and we welcome contemporary products as much as traditional products.
Then products need to be of high quality. I personally visit every partner to understand the products as well as the production process. We only want to offer the best products available on the market.
Last but not least products or suppliers need to have a story to tell. A story can be the history, the manufacturing process or a thought behind a product.
By adding products that fulfill these three conditions I believe that we will create a unique and interesting line-up for our customers.
What is your outlook for NIHON ICHIBAN?
NIHON ICHIBAN shall become the leading shop for authentic Japanese craft, design and food products. This means that we will keep adding products until we have the most comprehensive line-up covering all traditional food and craft categories. But this will take some time as we will only expand the line-up step by step to keep the high product quality.
In cooperation with selected craftsmen and designers we now also started developing new contemporary products that also suit Western lifestyle. This will become an increasingly important part of our business.
One last word to the readers of the newsletter:
We just launched NIHON ICHIBAN and although we took outmost care to make shopping with us a pleasant experience I am sure that there are still many things to improve. Please let us know what you like and what you did not like as well as the kind of products you would like us to add to NIHON ICHIBAN.
If you’ve visited Japan, one of the first things that captures your attention when going out to eat is the plethora of fake food and drink menu models such as the ones seen in the picture above that are displayed outside of dining establishments in showroom display cases.
The presence of these PVC and silicon-based models make dining in Japan a stress-free experience, which is a true blessing especially for those visiting with minimal Japanese language skills. But not only are the models helpful for tourists, they are appreciated by Japanese alike when deciding where to go for a meal and/or drink.
As for when and where the current US$100 million fake food industry began, one need not look any further than the food capital of Japan – Osaka. Born just over 80 years ago, the food and drink model making industry has had a tremendous influence over the entire restaurant market in Japan. The quality and appealing factor of one’s fake food models can make or even break a restaurant. It goes to show just how much of an affect on a restaurant’s revenue stream these models have.
If you are planning to visit or currently reside in Japan, you may not know this but some of the fake food manufacturers even offer fake food-making workshops on the weekends where you can create your own personalized models. Every fake food factory has its own schedule but at the fake food facility of Morino Sample in Osaka reservations can be made under this link in Japanese only.
Guest Author: Justin from Fake Food Japan
This post has been written by Justin who is the CEO of Fake Food Japan. With his Japanese partner he runs a factory and shop for Fake Food in Osaka and also ships worldwide from his online shop, which is in English.
Video about foreigners voices about living in Japan
If you actually live and would like to live in Japan you must watch this video. About 1 hours of interviews on likes and dislikes of Japan from long-term foreign residents. I live here for about 12 years now and video reminded me a lot of things a now take for granted. What is it you like or dislike about Japan? Please share it with us in the comment section.