Art, Culture & Sports

The Mark of Beauty

16 x 25 min. (1-16), 14 x 29 min. (27,28,30-41) 10 x 24 min. (17-26,29) / EDC1S017-004~013, 017~026 + JAMCO LIBRARY / English (Eps.4-13, 17-19, 21-26) + JAMCO LIBRARY (Eps.1-3, 14-16, 27-41), Spanish (Eps.4-13, 17-26), French (Eps.4-13, 17-26), Arabic (Eps.4-13), ME, HD

This program introduces the curios and beautiful items that are easily spotted in people's everyday lives in Japan. The program not only introduces their beauties, but also explains and demonstrates how we select and appreciate them.

1. Yuzen-dyed Kimono

There are many types of kimono in Japan, and one of the most gorgeous is the yuzen kimono. The yuzen dying technique developed 300 years ago and features exquisite patterns coming to life on colorful silk cloth. Introducing the transcendent yuzen craftsmanship that makes possible a painting-like freedom of design, careful selection of water, and the points of caution women must observe when wearing this kimono, Yuzen-dyed Kimono reveals the splendidly complex process that makes the yuzen kimono so alluring.

1. Yuzen-dyed Kimono

2. Chopsticks

The beginning of today’s common lacquered chopsticks dates back to around 1660, when the Obama clan received them as gifts. Chopsticks are used to carry food to the mouth, but they also perform various functions including cutting, dividing, picking and
scooping. As a tool, chopsticks have a few secrets in their design that don’t compromise their beauty. Even the trees used to produce them carry special meanings and hopes. This program introduces importance of chopsticks for daily life in Japan.

2. Chopsticks

3. Wagashi

Wagashi appear frequently in old Japanese literature. Various seasonal types were created, and each sweet told a variety of stories. Wagashi gained popularity in the 17th century, during the Edo Period. Each wagashi was given a name and elaborately crafted with a name-worthy design. This program introduces viewers to the true way of enjoying wagashi, that is, to enjoy not only its taste, but also the intention of the maker and the hospitality of the person serving it.

3. Wagashi

4. Scissors

Japan is the home of some of the world's best scissors. Unique, traditional techniques and designs with attention to detail have been carried on. Scissors that best represent such characteristics are the “tachi-basami” for which a swordsmith applied the techniques of Japanese swordmaking to the blades more than a century ago. Other examples include exquisitely artful “bonsai-basami” and “hana-basami”. This episode introduces the delicate beauty of scissors such as the “nigiri-basami”, where each, slightly different from another, was made for a specific task.

4. Scissors

5. Interior Partitions

From shoji sliding screens and fusuma, traditional Japanese houses used to divide up spaces using partitions called “tategu”. Shoji are made of wood and paper only. Despite being handled daily, they do not splinter. The secret lies in the techniques of artisans who have mastered the properties of the lumber they use. Sophisticated patterns have been created in the framing elements called “kumiko”. Artisans literally turn partitions into an artistic medium. The decorative Japanese paper called “karakami” used in fusuma reflects the Japanese art of living that incorporates natural light into the room. This episode looks for the beauties hidden in these interior partitions.

5. Interior Partitions

6. Furoshiki

The furoshiki, a simple square-shaped piece of cloth, is gaining increasing popularity as an eco bag. They can be used to wrap a variety of things including watermelons and bottles. Once they’re served their purpose, they can be neatly folded and put away.
This is truly the ultimate Japanese tool representing the “beauty of utility”. For years, furoshiki were an essential accessory in everyday life in Japan. This episode introduces some fine furoshiki and their clever uses, as well as their hidden aesthetics.

6. Furoshiki

7. Lacquerware 

Lacquerware has graced Japanese tables for centuries. People saw mystery in the texture of the deep lacquered black, called “shikkoku”, and thus in the prehistoric Jomon period, they believed spirits dwelled in these pieces, and after the arrival of Buddhism, they believed the spirit of Buddha was contained in them. Because lacquer is in fact strong enough to be used as adhesive and protective layer, even the rice and soup bowls of common people were most often lacquerware in Japan’s medieval period. This episode introduces how to appreciate lacquerware that has been part of life in Japan for more than 5,000 years.

7. Lacquerware 

8. Iron Kettle

The iron kettle may look unsophisticated but in fact ages like fine wine. Along with increased popularity of green tea, the iron kettle became deeply associated with the aesthetic values of wabi and sabi, rustic simplicity, which produced the current shape. This episode showcases the beauty of these kettles, which was made possible through the use of iron.

8. Iron Kettle

9. Bamboo Baskets

Many of the bamboo baskets that are specially made for flower arrangement are exquisite baskets that appeal to the aesthetic sense of the Japanese. Since early times, bamboo craftsmen have produced unique designs of light bamboo baskets. Today, these intricately woven baskets are also used outside Japan as a part of Japanese culture.

9. Bamboo Baskets

10. Printed Papers

Chiyogami is Japanese paper with beautiful and brightly printed patterns. They have traditionally been used to wrap objects and for origami. The multi-colored woodblock printing technique applied for printing each paper demonstrates the craftsmen’s commitment to quality. This episode showcases their skills through various pieces of work made using chiyogami.

10. Printed Papers

11. Japanese Paper

Japanese paper, which is made using a traditional method, is thin but tougher than one might imagine. It has long been used for Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints), shoji paper screens, fusuma sliding doors as well as Japanese folding fans. This episode features the beauty of Japanese paper, a symbol of elegant culture that colors the lives of the Japanese.

11. Japanese Paper

12. Glass Beads

Glass beads come in various colors and patterns. The earliest known glass beads date from Ancient Egypt and have since been made around the world In Japan, they gained extreme popularity between the 17th and 19th century. Their unique and exquisite colors are made possible by the experienced craftsmanship of artisans. This episode delves into the world of these “man-made gems.”

12. Glass Beads

13. Japanese Candle

Traditional Japanese candles are all made with ingredients of plant origin. The wick is hand-rolled, and the candle itself is made by melting, hand scooping and applying several layers of Japan wax around the wick, giving the finished candle a warm handmade feel. The wavering flame, however, is the candle’s most distinctive feature, taking anyone who sees it into a different world.

13. Japanese Candle

14. The Mark of Beauty: Clockwork Dolls

Robots existed since the Edo period (1603-1867), or so to speak. They are clockwork dolls. Displaying sophisticated movements and realistic facial features, they are unique dolls which artisans of the Edo period created using the latest technologies of the time. Some carry tea, while others can skillfully use an ink brush. Based on an elaborate mechanism, these dolls are as real as real can be. This episode introduces clockwork dolls that fully reveal the genius ideas of master artisans.

14. The Mark of Beauty: Clockwork Dolls

15. The Mark of Beauty: Tops

Although tops are one of the toys children played with 50 years ago, they have also been regarded as lucky charms and used in dramatic performances since ancient times. Some can also be considered works of art. They are the result of the finest skills of craftsmen who infuse these toys with local flavor and beauty.

15. The Mark of Beauty: Tops

16. The Mark of Beauty: Folding Fans

Folding fans have long been used to keep cool but also as fine ornaments for ritual ceremonies. First introduced around 1,200 years ago, the first folding fans were made of cypress. Their surface aspects were embellished with elegant paintings. Japanese folding fans were also extremely popular among European aristocrats in the 18th century.

16. The Mark of Beauty: Folding Fans

17. Tenugui — Cotton Hand Towel

In the past, the tenugui — a Japanese cotton hand towel — was always an essential item for Japanese people in the kitchen and the bath. On a surface only about 30 centimeters wide and one meter long, Japanese people strained their ingenuity to decorate the towels to liven up their lives. We show the techniques that were devised to dye the towels with novel designs on the limited surface area and to create stylish and dashing uses for the tenugui. You will see how well-used tenugui develop an attractive texture and what gives this very familiar and practical item its beauty.

17. Tenugui — Cotton Hand Towel

18. Embroidery

Techniques for embroidery in Japan have been developed and refined for over 1,000 years since embroidery was first introduced from China. In the latter half of the 17th century, the popularity of embroidery for gorgeously decorating the kimono spread among the feudal lords and wealthy merchants. This program shows the surprising techniques, among others used in embroidery, that were developed to highlight the embroidery patterns, and also introduces the magical quality of the colored thread, which gives the embroidery a naturalistic painting-like expression. Finally, you will get a sense of the “emotion” that imbues the stitching of the embroidery.

18. Embroidery

19. Ryokan — Japanese-style Inn

Traditional Japanese-style inns are built of wood, and provide a calming space created by wood outside and tatami mats inside. Various means are subtly employed to delight the eye of the guests and soothe them. For example, rooms have pillars of different material and ceilings of different height to suit the preferences of guests. You will see the beauty of these inns in this presentation of the best of Japanese-style inn architecture.

19. Ryokan — Japanese-style Inn

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21. Hana-shobu - Japanese Iris

The progenitors of the modern iris are the wild irises that grow in fields and mountains. Through various improvements of the varieties of irises since the latter half of 17th century, irises have become garden plants that now reach the realm of botanical art. Over 5,000 varieties of iris plants have been developed, resulting in a profusion of colors and shapes of irises. Throughout Japan, characteristic varieties in a particular area are being constantly improved, and these irises now compete with each other in elegance. The program introduces this crystallization of the beauty of the flowering irises, which Japanese people have taken many years to achieve.

21. Hana-shobu - Japanese Iris

22. House Plants

People enjoy house plants not for flowers but for the shape, color, and patterns of the leaves. This appreciation of house plants began in Europe in the 19th century and quickly spread after that. The lustrous green, unique forms, and unusual patterns of the plants’ leaves enrich the lives of modern-day people. We show these plants’ allure by focusing on three key points: enjoying the changes in house plants, appreciating the leaves’ stripes and streaks, and decorating rooms with these “green sculptures.”

22. House Plants

23. Japanese Dogs

Among Japanese dogs, the Shiba inu has become very popular recently. Dog lovers have “rediscovered” the Shiba inu’s charm. Shiba inu are characterized by their unaffected, sturdy and clean-cut appearance and their faithful and intrepid character. These characteristics have endeared the Shiba inu to Japanese people, and the dogs’ beautiful fur and gallant figures have become part of the Japanese landscape.
The Japanese aesthetic sense can be seen in Japanese dogs like the Shiba inu, the Akita inu, and the Japanese Chin, a companion dog native to Japan, which are introduced in the program.

23. Japanese Dogs

24. Seashells

Seashells are the jewels from the sea. Enfolded within the ceaseless rocking of the ocean, shells have developed limitless colors and shapes. There are about 110,000 species of seashells. For ages, people have enjoyed likening seashells to various things. And the geometric beauty of the spirals of conch shells have been utilized for architecture. In addition, the radiant glow of the nacreous layer of shells produced the traditional craftsmanship of mother-of-pearl inlays. This program introduces the marvelous and mysterious facets of seashells.

24. Seashells

25. Flower Vase

Flowers are a must for adding color to our lives. And flower vases show off even more the beauty of flowers. Japanese people have created some unique ways to display flowers, ranging from the use of copper vases to some quite unexpected items. Rather than just relying on traditional inheritances, Japanese craftsmen have constantly sought fresh and novel approaches. We introduce three “marks of beauty”: “the skilled symmetry of copper vases,” “the sense of hills and fields in the collapsed form,” and “turning anything into a flower vase.”

25. Flower Vase

26. Waterfalls

Japan has many mountains and forests, and there are some 2,500 waterfalls with a drop of over five meters throughout the country. Each has its own individual beauty, and some are like works of art. From long ago, Japanese people have believed that “gods dwell everywhere in nature.” Mysteriously full of life force, waterfalls have an overwhelming energy that rouses up in people a desire to search for both spiritual devotion and beauty. You will understand why when you see this program.

26. Waterfalls

27. Yosegi-Zaiku Marquetry

One of Japan’s traditional wood crafts, Yosegi-zaiku marquetry combines wood pieces of a wide range of colors and shapes to produce gorgeous designs to decorate desks and boxes. This art spread throughout Japan in the 18th century. For puzzle boxes, many unique pictures are hidden in the patterns, and the boxes themselves are fitted with fascinating mechanisms.
Japanese marquetry attracted Western people from the latter half of the 19th century, and marquetry craftsmen, combining the wood pieces with sprinkled picture, produced exquisite gems of art.

27. Yosegi-Zaiku Marquetry

28. Stone Pavement

Stone pavement in Japan began with the paving of approaches to shrines and temples, and it has since added emotional contours to various aspects of daily life in Japan. Stone pavement has received attention in recent years as part of the guise of the city, with rectangle-patterned pavement being particularly popular. We look closely at the allure of Japanese stone pavement, including the rarely known principles of the beauty of stone pavement used in Japanese-style houses and the tasteful expressiveness shown in the stone pavement of old streets.

28. Stone Pavement

29. Oya Stone

Oya stone is known for its uniquely beautiful texture. In the past, Oya stone was used without a second thought for daily life settings like stone walls. But recently it has captured attention for its use in fashionable interiors. The greatest allure of Oya stone is its varicolored and uneven surface. These features create its distinctively “warm” surface. Utilized for this texture, which other rocks do not have, Oya stone has been used in a variety of famous architectural showcases, and we will see how and why in this program.

29. Oya Stone

30. Basket Bags

Basket bags are woven from plants. Many women love them because basket bags are not only charming but they can match any fashion style. In Japan these bags started out as implements for daily use, but they evolved in their own distinctive way. Deftly using the qualities of natural materials like the Akebia vine, grapevines, walnut tree bark, and so on, skilled craftsmen create bags with a rich expressiveness. And the more a basket bag is used, the more lustrous its surface becomes. We uncover the unique allure of these elegant bags of high craftsmanship.

30. Basket Bags

31. Kominka – Old Japanese Houses

Many kominka or old Japanese houses remain in northeastern Japan, imbued with the climate and the history of the region. Their distinctive roofs, which look like samurai helmets, give the houses their compelling presence, and their richly rustic columns, some adorned with the masks of gods, give the rooms an almost mystical air.
The program shows how a carpenter from the Kesen region is helping people to repair the damage to kominka caused by the March 2011 tsunami. And it introduces three key points about these kominka of northeastern Japan: unique roofs shaped by the climate, a striking column is the centerpiece of the Doma, and Kesen daiku Houses are Dynamic and Durable.

31. Kominka – Old Japanese Houses

32. Summer Kimono

A hot summer day in Japan. A female figure in a kimono holding a parasol in her hand, walking along in a cool, refreshing manner displays a dignified beauty. Because it is a country with such contrasting seasons, there are ways to enjoy the kimono through fabrics, patterns, and accessories that are unique to summer. One of Japan’s foremost kimono stylists, Nobuko Ookubo, states of the kimono’s appeal, “I see it as the presence of a slender figure, swimming inside a thin garment. It projects elegance and sensuality.” Along with avid kimono-lover, actress Riho Makise, we will learn the art of wearing the summer kimono in a stylish manner.

32. Summer Kimono

33. Okinawan Houses

Okinawa. A tropical land abounding with colors and nature. The characteristic scenery comprised of red roof tiles and coral walls of the Okinawan houses is a beauty unique to the land, which never ceases to attract travelers. This breathtaking view was born out of Okinawa’s own history which prospered in its location between Japan and China, and its struggle against the harsh climate of heat and typhoons. We will take a detailed look at the red tiled-roofs, eaves, and walls to get a better understanding of the Okinawan aesthetics.

33. Okinawan Houses

34. Nebuta of Aomori

The Nebuta Festival colors the streets of summer in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan. What draws the attention of all is the brilliant and enormous “Nebuta” with its fierce warrior face, giving it a lively, forceful presence. This power is the secret behind the fascination of Nebuta. Its origins trace back over 300 years, when it started out as a custom to exorcise bad luck by setting a small lantern adrift on a river or ocean. Taking in influences from other parts of the country during a time of land development in the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Nebuta grew to be dazzling and gigantic. We will enjoy three marks of beauty the Nebuta Festival has to offer: three dimensional shaping, black sumi ink, and red of passion.

34. Nebuta of Aomori

35. The Bento

The gentle autumn season is perfect for picnics and excursions, and what better way to compliment the splendor of the season than a nice boxed bento meal? The wide array of colorful side dishes carefully arranged in the small box is a beauty unique to Japan. We will get a close look at the presentation techniques of Kyoto’s made-to-order “Shidashi Bento”, the origins of the “Shokado Bento” which are rooted in the Japanese tea ceremony, and a behind the scenes look at the preparation of the “Makunouchi Bento” which have been enjoyed at Japanese Kabuki plays for decades. Loaded with bento fun-facts and imagery that are sure to whet your appetite, we will try to get a better understanding of the Japanese aesthetics that are packed into the bento box.

35. The Bento

36. Sashimi

One of the dishes that the Japanese are most acquainted with is the sashimi. To say that sashimi is “just cutting raw fish” would be ignorant. Since its birth in the Heian Period roughly 1,000 years ago, it has been passed down through generations of chefs, with the technique being refined to an art form. We will take a look at the superb knife skills of a master and the secret to plate selection in creating awe-inspiring presentation. We will also take a look at sashimi specific to different regions in order to fully understand and appreciate its simplistic beauty.

36. Sashimi

37. Hasami Ware

The Hasami ware, baked over a period of 400 years, in Hasami Town, Nagasaki, has a deep, hidden history. We examine a piece acclaimed by connoisseurs as the ultimate example of wabi-sabi, or “simple elegance”; an exotic bottle loved by the great writer Leo Tolstoy; and many more. Join us as we delve into the deep world of beauty that lies in the Hasami, which has travelled back and forth between practicality and beauty over its long history.

37. Hasami Ware

38. Confectionary of Kanazawa

Kanazawa is one of Japan’s top three confectionary cities. This former castle town with more than 400 years of history is bustling with beautiful Japanese confectionaries that owe their origin to the snowy Kanazawa scenery. The city offers a myriad of Japanese sweets: from candy adorned with vivid colors that stand out in the snow; rakugan, the confectionary of supreme elegance that was loved by samurais; to cakes that add color to a tea ceremony. As Kanazawa is a city with a tradition of handicraft production, the episode also introduces local wares to serve confectionary on. In addition, we follow a confectioner as he goes through trial and error to produce confectionary to best match a Kanazawa-made ware. We take a close look at the former castle town’s sweets during winter, when Kanazawa is at the prime of its beauty.

38. Confectionary of Kanazawa

39. Donabe Pot

Winter in Japan exists together with hot pot dishes, and the main character of such delicious dishes is the donabe earthenware pot. While it is a cooking utensil, the donabe is at the same time a serving dish ensconced at the center of the dining table, and adored by everyone. That is why the donabe has needed to have the beauty to adorn the dining table, besides the practical features to tolerate heat, retain heat, and not break. This episode features the soft-shelled turtle hot pot that is served at an established Japanese restaurant; the beauty in donabe pots of Iga City, loved by many prominent individuals; and other unique earthenware pots from around the world. We dive into the unknown world of beauty that lies in the simple and warm donabe earthenware pot.

39. Donabe Pot

40. Sakura

In Japan, the sakura cherry blossom is synonymous with spring. The people of Japan have long adored the sight of how the sakura blossoms bloom proudly at once, before soon dropping their petals ever so elegantly. Such beauty of the sakura has given birth to countless beautiful handicraft pieces. The sakura kanzashi hairpin, which features realistic, faint-colored sakura petals, is popular among young women. The delicate hue of the dyed fabric called sakurazome is produced using the color that dwells inside the trunk of sakura trees. We also introduce the mystical beauty the sakura reveals when it is viewed at night; it almost looks like the flowers are emitting light. Furthermore, we look at how the famous writer Chiyo Uno was so intrigued by the sight of falling sakura petals that she produced countless elegant kimonos of that theme. We thoroughly savor the beauty of the sakura, which never ceases to enthrall the people of Japan.

40. Sakura

41. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountain has long been engrained in the Japanese soul as an object of worship and as the source of countless pieces of art. This episode takes a look into the deep relationship Fuji shares with water, which is indispensable to the view of the mountain. It also explores the reason why many Japanese people share the image of the mountain as having a summit with three peaks. From the Middle Ages to the present day, Mount Fuji has been the theme for many pieces of art produced by countless painters and creators, and as such, has been admired by the people in everyday life. We delve into the deep beauty of the mountain through the keywords of “water”, “worship”, and “design”.

41. Mount Fuji
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