Makabe Stone Lanterns
Good quality granite found in the Makabe area of Ibaraki Prefecture has been used to make a variety of useful articles since ancient times. The actual working of stone in the area began around the end of the Muromachi period (1333-1568) with the making of Buddhist stone articles around Nagaoka in Makabe-cho. The earliest confirmed Makabe stone lantern stands in the temple compound in Makabe-cho. It was made by Kubota Kichibei in 1824, and he was responsible for establishing the skills and techniques of the craft.Special features of these lightly colored lanterns are their superb craftsmanship, the light touch of the beautiful carving and their sense of weightiness. They provide traditional Japanese gardens with an added quality and elegance, their special features being accentuated further by the moss which tends to grow on the stone. Apart from garden items, lanterns and other items are also made for use at shrines and temples. There are now 42 firms employing 86 people, among whom there are 23 government recognized Master Craftsmen sustaining this essential craft.
Okazaki Stone Carving
The origins of this craft date back to the latter part of the Muromachi period (1391-1573). It was during the following Momoyama period (1573-1600), however, that the lord of Okazaki castle brought in skilled stone masons from Kawachi and Izumi to carry out some improvements to the surrounding town and had stone walls and moats built. As a way of perfecting their skills and techniques these masons carved Kasuga style lanterns and hexagonal flat-topped Yukimi or "snow viewing" lanterns and it was these that became the prototypes for Okazaki's own stone-carving craft. By the beginning of the 19th century there were 29 stone carving workshops and by the end of the same century there were 50. Before World War II at its peak the town boasted 350 workshops, a number which of late has declined somewhat.The principal item made is the stone lantern. They are an intricate composition of both line and surface embodying a simplicity of both linear and curvilinear beauty. To this is added highly skilled decorative carving providing a delicate elegance to this carved stone craft. Pagodas in miniature are also made as are receptacles for water or plants. There are now 22 firms employing 161 people sustaining this worthy stone craft.
Kyoto Stone Carving
Although man's relationship with stone began long ago in the Stone Age, it was not until the end of the Nara period (710-794) when Buddhism was introduced into Japan that stone became more than just a utilitarian material. Gradually, as the art of stone work developed, pieces of stone craft of real cultural value appeared. Being blessed with fine raw materials such as the good quality granite available from the village of Shirakawa at the foot of Mount Hiei, Kyoto stone carving has been sustained by the very nature of the cultural of Kyoto, which has been at the center of Japanese culture for over a thousand years. Stone carving techniques, which cannot be found in any other part of the country, have been acquired here over the years and are still in use to this day.Almost everything that is made is for use in the traditional Japanese garden. A mason is responsible for carrying out all of the work on a piece, making each and everyone according to its function and form. Inevitably though, it is the stone lantern that has been an indispensable component of any traditional garden since the Momoyama period (1568-1600) in step with the fashion for tea. Besides lanterns and various kinds of tubs and pots, some pieces of sculpture are also made. The traditions of this ancient craft are being maintained by 84 firms employing 374 staff, 11 of whom are government recognized Master Craftsmen.