Minakuchi Zaiku
Minakuchi zaiku (Munakuchi handicraft is the generic name for handicrafts produced around Munakuchi-juku on the Tōkaidō (Edo-period Edo-Kyoto highway) until the 40s of the Showa period (1965-1974). Vines like arrowroots that grow in the wild are processed, refined and woven. According to folklore, the surviving families of samurai warriors who died in the battle of 1546 in Kyoto relocated to Munakuchi, where they gathered wild arrowroot vines to make handicrafts. This became a side job for the retainers and warriors of the Munakuchi domain during the Edo period. 
Tsuzura clothes basket
A tsuzura basket is a basket for putting clothes in that is woven from a type of vine called aotsuzura (Cissus disolor). Like in the Japanese fairytale. The Tongueless Sparrow where the protagonist had to choose between a light and a heavy tsuzura basket, this type of basket was once a daily necessity. The name tsuzura first appeared in Munakuchijuku in the land ledger Tsuzuramachi devised in 1602.  It is likely that tsuzura baskets were already being produced around that time. 
Munakuchi zaiku that traversed the oceans
The Dutch people became captivated by the exquisite products of Munakuchi handiwork. Jan Cock Blomhoff, the director of the Dutch trading house in Nagasaki purchased Munakuchi handicrafts when he passed through Munakuchi in 1822 and which are on display at the National Ethnology Museum in Leiden today.   
Tsuzura hat
Munakuchi zaiku is commonly presented in encyclopedias and other references on the culture, customs and events from the late Edo period. According to these sources, it appears that tsuzura hats were particularly popularly used by women during the middle of the 17th century. In addition, men’s tsuzura hats were a great hit during the middle of the 19th century. There is also the anecdote about how tsutsura soldier’s hats (with a family crest and black lacquer on the outside and vermillion-lacquered on the inside) were valued for the lightweight when walking up a castle, and that for a time an overwhelming amount of orders were made for these hats to be produced and delivered from Munakuchi to Edo. 
 Submission to the World Exposition in Vienna
Munakuchi zaiku was included in the Busan Chōsa Hōkoku (product investigation report) of the prefecture in accordance to the Meiji government’s order in preparation for Japan’s participation at the World Exposition in Vienna in 1873. At the exposition Japan showcased its most exquisite art and crafts from around the country. The Japanese committee for submitting works to the export regarded Munakuchi handiwork as craft of excellence, and dispatched committee members to collect works. Prior to submitting works to the exposition, craftsmen were summoned to Tokyo to produce works for the exposition. These works were well received and were awarded medals of excellence at the exposition.
Presentation to shrines and the imperial family
Munakuchi items were contributed to Ise Shrine as sacred treasures for the shrine’s 60th regular shrine removal in 1973. During the removal, not only the shrine itself is newly built, but all the garments and treasures are completely renewed. For this removal, Munakuchi wares such as different types of arrow quivers, as well as cases were contributed to the shrine. Munakuchi arrowroot-woven furniture items have also been presented to the imperial family from time to time since the end of the shogunate era. A surviving photograph shows the weaving of the handicraft during religious purification under Shinto straw festoons in preparation for the festival to celebrate the succession of emperor Shōwa.
Revival efforts by the Munakuchi zaiku Fukkō Kenkyūkai
Production of Minakuchi zaiku came to a halt and became something of the past. However, in year 2000 attention was given to the craft as part of the Renshin Kyōyō Daigaku course given at the Munakuchichō Chūō Community Centre. This provided opportunity to people with a determination to revive the craft and establish the Munakuchi Saiku Fukkō Kenkyūkai (society for the research and revival of Munakuchi handicraft). Having no clue as to what kind of materials were required at the start, it took members of the society some ten years before they were able to determine the materials and methods for processing them. Through many trials and errors, they studied similar handicrafts to obtain techniques necessary for reproducing it.
Processing the arrowroot vines
Natural arrowroot vines grown in the wild are gathered in the middle of June to be used as the weft. The leaves are removed and the vines boiled for one hour. After boiling, the outer layer is removed and the inner layer is cut open to extract the core. The retrieved fibres are soaked in rice bran water for three days and three nights, before being bleached and set to dry in the shade. Once dry, the fibers are moistened by soaking them in water and any nodes or stains are removed using a cutter to achieve an even thickness.
Processing aotsuzura (Cissus disolor)
Aotsuzura (Cissus disolor) is picked during winter to make the warp. After drying, the vine is cut to about 50 cm long and soaked in hot water.
 Once the outer layer becomes soft, it is then peeled off using a cutter.
Weaving a box
The aotsuzura vine (warp) is placed between the reeds of the loom to weave in the arrowroot vine (weft). The making of a box begins with the weaving of the bottom part, before weaving upward to make the sides. The corners where the upright sides meet are joined together using hemp palm strips. Finally, madake (Japanese timber bamboo, Phyllostachys bambusoides) is attached to the top edges and finishing by wrapping hemp palm strips around them. 
Weaving a hat
Hats are typical Munakuchi handicraft products. A hat is woven by starting from the top centre part, moving downward by adding strips of aotsuzura vine (warp). Sophisticated techniques gave rise to the great popularity of tsuzura woven hats during the Edo period.  
What lies ahead for the restoration effort
Munakuchi handicraft was once lost, but is currently being revived.  By processing vines naturally grown in the mountains, procuring a wide range of raw materials, as well as paying meticulous attention during weaving, the quality of works created today are a reminder of those made by our ancestors.

Further experience and efforts are necessary to improve on the gathering and processing of raw materials.

The passing of such techniques to future generations is a pressing matter.

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Leboratory
Credits: Story

Images provided by:
Minakuchizaikuhukkoukenkyukai, Kouka Shi Minakuchi rekishi minzoku shiryoukan
National Diet Library

Directed and text provided by:
Nagai Akiko, Kouka Shi Minakuchi rekishi minzoku shiryoukan

Photo by:
Demizu Noriaki

English Translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang

This exhibition is created by:
Masuda Maho, Kyoto Women's University
Ueyama Emiko, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directed by:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University
Dr Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.