Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hiyoshiya: The Tale of the Lone Wagasa in Kyoto 日吉屋:京都の和傘ものがたり

More inline with how Kyoto is portrayed in the media and relating to its historical past, today's blog entry focuses on the only traditional Japanese umbrella (wagasa) company left in Kyoto - Hiyoshiya.

Founded in the later part of the Edo period (1603-1868), Hiyoshiya has been in operation for five generations.  For the story of how the current president of 36 years of age, Kotaro Nishibori, came into power, please click here.  

The history of the Japanese umbrella can be traced back to Heian period (794-1185) well before the time of Hiyoshiya.  Different from today's Japanese umbrella and Western umbrella for that matter, the umbrellas back then were used to protect the aristocrats from the sun and evil spirits.  However by the late 14th century, the functionality of the umbrella changed into how we use it to this day.     

Now some of you may be thinking what is the difference (if there is one) between a Japanese umbrella and one in the West.  To answer your question, please refer below.  

Western Umbrellas: 
- made from plastic, polyester, and steel
- consisted of 8 ribs
- when expanded form a dome shape
- the handle is placed up when storing

Japanese Umbrellas:
- made from washi paper (Japanese paper) and bamboo
- consisted of 30-70 ribs
- when expanded form a straight line
- the handle is placed down when storing

Now because of the complexity in producing a Japanese umbrella, it normally takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the design and size.  For more details, click here.

For those of you interested in learning more about Japanese umbrellas and even having the chance to make your own, be sure to contact Hiyoshiya in advance from the following request form to schedule a tour of the facility.  

With the company also having umbrellas available to rent, Hiyoshiya can assist anyone wanting to accessorize his/her wardrobe, office, etc. with the essence of Kyoto.










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