Since ancient times, the Japanese people have practiced Shinto, in which a myriad of deities are believed to reside in natural objects. Shinto is based on the concept of living together with sacred nature.
On festive occasions in the Heian period (794–1185 AD), hosts did their utmost best to welcome and bring satisfaction to each of their guests by choosing from a variety of interior decorations that incorporate the qualities of the natural world. This old Japanese form of hospitality is the basis of shitsurai culture.
Sudare are a rare example among all shitsurai furnishings, in that they reflect the Japanese spirit.
Misu, a type of sudare created in the Heian period, have been used in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to indicate the boundary between the spiritual realm and the secular world for over a thousand years, and can still be seen today. Handcrafted from natural bamboo, sudare are sacred objects that symbolizes Japan’s polytheistic approach of respecting everything in nature as individual deities. The meaning of shitsurai changed from indoor decorations that involve the use of kabeshiro, kicho, and misu, as can be seen in the shinden-zukuri architectural style in the Heian period, to the practice of decorating rooms with seasonal offerings in each of the 24 divisions of the solar year. The spirit of hospitality for welcoming guests in these events is derived from shitsurai culture and is rooted in daily life within Japan. Sudare blinds have noble beginnings as works of art, and they are still crafted using the same processes in the present day. They are high-quality furnishings that symbolize Japanese shitsurai culture.
Scenes from the Tale of the Heike by Naganobu Kano, housed at the Itabashi Art Museum
There are two major types of sudare. One includes indoor furnishings, such as misu and ozashiki sudare, and the other includes practical furnishings, such as sunshades placed under eaves.
Today, the majority of sunshade sudare are imported, with very few being made in Japan. On the other hand, indoor sudare as a Japanese traditional craft are made almost exclusively in Japan; misu, or sudare used as boundaries for religious practices, maintain their time-honored original shapes in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Similarly, shitsurai sudare are used for hospitality, and are also called ozashiki sudare.
The Yame region of Fukuoka is a producer of bamboo, the main material of sudare. Many low-rank samurai in the Arima Domain worked in the bamboo handcraft industry and made bamboo tools as a trade to supplement their work in agriculture. Apparently, there were about a dozen locations producing sudare from the Meiji period onward.
The modern “ozashiki sudare” were created by adapting misu to achieve better indoor ventilation. This modification was focused on Kyoto, where there are many machiya-style houses. After the beginning of the Taisho period (1912–1926 AD), demand for ozashiki sudare grew in the Fukushima area of Yame, featuring many machiya-style houses. This resulted in an increase in Yame sudare production. Today, there are three companies that manufacture Yame sudare in the Yame region. These three companies are members of a single organization called Yame Sudare Shinkokai.
Yame sudare uses bamboo cultivated in the Yame region and is crafted in the Yame region. It has been recognized as a specialty craft of cultural significance by the governor of Fukuoka Prefecture.
Shikada Sangyo will continue to bring traditional Japanese shitsurai culture to the world through sudare.
With their roots in agriculture, people in Japan have practiced Shinto, where followers strive to live in harmony with nature and respect every natural object as a deity.
This philosophy is still alive in Japanese technology today, which takes a leading role in preserving the global environment.
With our culture of incorporating natural things into living spaces and welcoming guests on celebrative occasions in the spirit of shitsurai, we as Japanese people believe that we can spread the traditional craft of sudare throughout the world.