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Japanese Traditional Craft Resource Center Category


Japanese Traditional Craft

Craft Category Pottery & Porcelain
Name Koshu Kimen Gawara: Koshu Tile with a Devil’s Face

Main Production Site:Yamanashi

Kagabi in Koshu (present Yamanashi Pref.) has developed the tile industry since old times, thanks to its location with clay of high quality, its abundant spring water and nearby mountains with fuels.

Nihon-gawara, the traditional Japanese tile is suitable for the Japanese climate and features its resistance to earthquakes or typhoons. In particular, clay roofing tiles baked at a temperature of over 1000 ℃ are recognized as nonflammable materials, and has strong heat resistance as well as sound insulation.

Since the 8th century, people stared using the tiles decorated with a devil’s face with a view to longing for the safety of their houses, which led to the name “Oni-gawara”, a tile with a devil. “Oni-gawara” had changed over time, and the original shape of the one we can see today is said to have been formed in the Edo period.

Around this period, Oni-gawara started to be used for the houses of ordinary people. However, people refrained from using Oni-gawara as it fiercely glared at neighboring houses. As a result, Oni-gawara without a devil’s face began to be decorated. Tiles with various designs such as a family crest, a kanji meaning “water” for fire prevention or Buddhist motifs that connote wealth began to be created.
Today, Oni-gawara with a simplified design is more popular considering the exterior. Even so, it is peculiar to Japan to use Oni-gawara on the roof.

[Traditional Crafts in Yamanashi Prefecture]
Offered by Wakakusa Kawara Museum
Translation: Marina Izumi

Materials clay, water
Crafting Processes 1. Work clay
The first step is to work clay.
This is important to make the surface smooth and to prevent any breaking after baking.

2. Pound the clay
Remove the remaining air by pounding the clay to a desk or a board.

3. Draw a rough design
Draw a rough life-size design of a devil’s face on a sheet.
Put this design sheet under the clay, and form the base.
After forming the base to a certain degree, carefully remove the design sheet.
Then put it on the top of the clay to trace the outline.

4. Make the detailed parts
Add horns, eyebrows and tusks to the devil’s face once its shape is properly formed.

5. Put the finishing touches
Give the finishing touches to the clay by smoothing it with a flat wooden spatula or scratching it with hands.
To give brilliance after baking it, powder the clay with mica flour.
Harden the clay for 3 or 4 days in the room and dry it for 3 to 5 days in the sun.
Now, it’s ready to be baked in a furnace.

5. Bake the clay
Put the well-dried clay work in the gas furnace and bake it.
History It is said that the tile making in Minami-Alps City (ex-Wakakusa City) started in the Edo period about 300 years ago. Clay of good quality in the region of Kagabi in Koshu (present Yamanashi Pref.) was a contributory factor to the development of the production of tiles.
In the golden age after the war, there were more than 30 ateliers of tiles and the region was at the top in the prefecture both in terms of quality and quantity.

Koshu Kimen Gawara, authorized as Traditional Crafts in Yamanashi Prefecture, has been developed using the skilled technique cultivated in the 300 years of its tile production, in order to long for the safety of a building and to make “Oni-gawara” on the roof more familiar.
Related URL http://www.minamialps-shokokai.jp/kawara/

◆Exhibition / Showcase
Wakakusa-Kawara Museum
2605-5 Kagabi, Minami-Alps City, Yamanashi 400-0335
Tel: +81-055-283-5870
Fax: +81-055-283-5871
(Japanese only)
Opening Hours: AM9:30-PM4:30
Closed: Mondays (if a Monday is a national holiday, then the next day)

You can experience the making of tiles at Wakakusa-Kawara Museum
(Japanese only)

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