A historical production site of Japanese umbrellas

History of Yodoe umbrellas — The Beginning
The story of Yodoe umbrellas began in 1821 when Kurayoshiya Shuzo arrived in Yodoe from Kurayoshi and first opened an umbrella shop. The specialized production was further refined in 1881 when the celebrated umbrella craftsman, Nishi Kinzo of Tsuyama was summoned to Yodoe to provide instruction. 
History of Yodoe umbrellas -- Growth 
By the Taisho period (1912-1926), there were some 71 local umbrella manufacturers, producing approximately 170,000 units annually. The umbrellas were not only sold locally in Tottori prefecture, but shipped to another 32 prefectures in Western Japan as far as the Kanto and Tohoku regions.
History of Yodoe umbrellas -- The Golden Age
A wide stretch of sandy embankment along the Hinogawa river in Yodoe provided an optimal area that allowed some 100,000 umbrellas to be dried at any one time. This fact along with the ample local supply of quality bamboo, provided a location primed for a burgeoning umbrella industry. Among the different types of Yodoe umbrellas are the popular tonyakasa and bangasa types. These umbrellas were prized for their ease of use and durable construction, which resulted in their high demand during the period just following the end of World War II. A time when the demand for umbrellas exceeded some 500,000 units annually.
History of Yodoe umbrellas — Decline
The Yodoe umbrellas demand eventually declined with the importation of mass produced umbrellas from America and Europe, which peaked in the years 1951-52. Many Yodoe umbrella makers went out of business due to the competition. Despite the Yodoe umbrella craft being designated an intangible cultural property by the Japanese government in 1976, the last manufacturer of Yodoe umbrellas ended its production in 1984. Today, Yodoe umbrellas are hand-crafted by members of the Yodoegasa Densho no Kai (Traditional Yodoe Umbrella Perservation Society). 
The making of Yodoe umbrellas
The process of crafting a traditional Yodoe umbrella from one single stalk of bamboo requires over 70 painstaking steps.
Bamboo harvesting
Yodoe is surrounded by forests of bamboo, the main material for Yodoe umbrellas. Their existence aided Yodoe in becoming a major production site for umbrellas. After the bamboo is harvested, it is kept in storage to dry before it is ready to be processed.
Umbrella ribs — soaking in water
The bamboo is cut in various lengths designated for the specific parts required for the umbrellas production. These lengths are then soaked in a tub of water to allow the bamboo to absorb moisture to remove impurities and make the bamboo more malleable.
Umbrella ribs -- removing the outer layer
A cutting knife is used to thinly shave the outer layer of bamboo.
Umbrella ribs — marking lines and rough splitting
Lines are then diagonally marked on the bamboo to guide the craftsman in the creation of  the required pieces. Tiny cuts are also made on the end to provide precise starting points for where the bamboo is to be roughly split using a large knife.
Umbrella ribs -- refining
The roughly split bamboo strips are then further worked to remove the nodes in the bamboo, as well as shape the pieces according the the precise width and thickness required for each particular part of the umbrella frame. Specifically made tools are used in this process. 
Assembling the frame
The umbrella's frame includes a long main rib and a smaller short rib for support, which are called the runner and handle. These parts are assembled using a needle and thread.
Creating the canopy
Next, strips of washi paper are meticulously placed over the frame of the umbrella, taking care to stretch and smooth the paper using the artisan's hand. 
Applying Oil
To make the paper umbrella waterproof, linseed or other plant oils are applied to the outer surface of the canopy using a soft cloth. The treated paper is then painted and left to dry in the sun. This process can be repeated to enhance the durability of the umbrella.
Adding string ornamentation
Vibrantly colored thread is woven on the umbrella's frame beneath the canopy to add extravagant decorative designs called janomegasa and nodategasa.
A standard type of Yodoe umbrellas: bangasa (course oilpaper umbrella)
Also known as karakasa, the bangasa were once the most widely-produced and popular umbrellas used in daily life. In addition to this most common type, there were also other specialized types including the iro-bangasa that used colored washi paper, and the susokuro-bangasa that included a band of black washi paper running around the rim of the canopy.
A standard type of Yodoe umbrellas: janomegasa (umbrella with bull's-eye design)
In Yodoe it was customary for parents to give their daughters a janomegasa on their wedding as a wish for health and happiness. Another auspicious feature of the janomegasa was the inclusion of the colorful kikkyo kazari (bellflower docoration) thread design on the underside frame of the canopy.
Yodoe umbrella: Odorikasa (festival umbrella)
Odorigasa is used at the Shanshan Matsuri held in Tottori city every year in August. This type of umbrella is also used at other events, such as sports events, culture festivals, as well as in dance performances.
Yodoegasa Denshōkan (Yodoe Umbrella Museum)
The Yodoegasa Denshokan was established to celebrate the history and artistry of the Yodoe umbrella, and provide support to nurture the continuation of the craft for future generations. Currently, there are five artisans led by Emiko Yamamoto (a citizen of Tottori prefecture) working in the creation of Yodoe umbrellas. The museum also allows visitors the opportunity to see traditional craftsmen handcraft the umbrellas.
New ideas at Wagasa Kobo Hatsune Workshop
Young artisans who studied the craft at Yodoegasa Denshokan have gone on to independently create dynamic new umbrellas. Hasegawa Arisa from Wagasa Kobo Hatsune is one such artisan, building on traditional umbrella making and creating original designs that are practical while possessing colorful design and modern sensibility.
New ideas at Wagasa Kobo Hatsune Workshop
Japanese umbrellas are manufactured using mostly natural materials that have a long life after continual use if they are well-maintained and repaired. The more one uses one of these umbrellas, the more enjoyment one gets out of it. In addition to the creation of conventional umbrellas, new innovative uses have been developed here that include umbrella lanterns, mini umbrellas, and origami umbrellas. 
Contemporary Designs: Art installations using umbrellas
During the Summer Obon Festival in recent years, Yodoe umbrellas have been used in dramatic fashion as art installation at the reknowned Ogamiyama Shrine and Oyama Temple at the foot of Mt. Daisan in Tottori prefecture. During the annual ritual, lanterns are lighted to commemorate one's ancestors. In Tottori prefecture, Yodoe umbrellas served as the colorful lanterns to light up the sacred grounds to fantastical affect.
Tottori Prefectural Government
Credits: Story

Information & images provided by:
Tottori Prefecture

Supported by:
Yodoegasa Denshō no Kai,
Wagasa Kōbō Hatsune,
Karaki Takasi,
Oyama tourist office institute

Directed and text provided by:
Tottori Prefecture

Photograph by:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University

English Translation by:
Eddy Y. L. Chang
English edited by:
Laura J Mueller

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

Project Directed by:
Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University

Thid exhibition is provided by:
Tottori Prefecture

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.
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