Damascene, or Japanese Inlay, is the handcrafted jewellery design made using parts of gold and silver embedded into a base material such as metal. Toledo in Spain is well known for its steel, however, this is not the only city that is currently still making handcrafted damascene jewels. Kyoto in Japan also has a rich and cultural history for it. History says that the Damascene was practised first by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, but it was developed into a high art by the people in Damascus. Before Christ, at least more than 2000 years ago the Moors were close to conquering the entire peninsula of what used to be Spain and brought the Damascene artwork with them so that they could introduce it into Spain and perhaps other Catholic countries. Even before that, the Japanese brought the whole idea of Damascene to Japan from Damascus.
Nowadays it seems like Damascene artwork has disappeared from the Middle East as there is no prominent maker located in that part of the globe. During the Renaissance and Baroque in the years of 1500 to 1750, damascene evolved as an accessory for jewellery and silverware. At this period of time, the large number of cabinets, coffins and jewellery boxes were in high demand, therefore, the Toledo damascene, in particular, became strong during the 19th century. Inlay is one of Japan’s oldest traditional crafts and has a history of over 1000 years. Kyoto’s distinct style of Inlay stands out from the rest as the materials that are used are only the highest quality silver and pure gold. They can be inlayed into boxes creating delicate works of art with beautiful silver and gold detail on jet-black surfaces. The Muromachi period started in the early 14th century until the Edo Period which ended late 19th century, these Kyoto Damascenes were popularly used as ornaments on traditional Japanese swords and armour. More recently, other delicate works such as the damascenes on vase’s became renowned to be produced overseas.
Due to the implementation of the Decree Order in 1876, demands on Damascene for armour had become less. Under the guidance of the new government, it began to deal with new art decorations and intricate accessories. After officially appearing at the Paris World Exhibition in 1878, the damascene was highly appreciated in Europe as many products exported to this part of the world. One of the representative makers, Otojiro Komai, in the Meiji era from 1842 to 1917 became very popular and known to represent a brand called “Komai” in the West of Japan. Inlay originated in Damascus in Syria more than 2,000 years ago and is said to have been transmitted to Japan in the Asuka period, which is the 6th to the 7th centuries. In the Heian period, from the late 8th-12th century, the foundation of technology was established, and during the Edo period, 17th-19th centuries, craftsmen who make swords and armours produced an excellent inlay.
Today in Damascene is still ongoing with the production of these beautiful products hundreds of years later in Kyoto. The two products featured below demonstrate the beauty of this traditional artform still around today, all handmade and available in our online store.
Month: April 2018
Matcha Green Tea – The Perfect Summer Drink
It might not feel like it just yet, but summer is fast approaching. Although Iced Matcha Green Tea might be the obvious choice for the warmer part of the year, even hot drinks can tell your body that it’s time to cool down. You might be surprised that there’s more than one way to enjoy the authentic flavour of Matcha in the summer months. From tasty Matcha Lattes to creamy Matcha Smoothies, there are plenty of ways to make the most of Matcha’s health benefits and unique taste.
Iced Matcha Green Tea
Taking a less traditional approach, a newly popular way to enjoy Matcha is over ice. By adding flavours such as mint and lemon, it’s easy to enhance the distinctive taste of Matcha within this drink and make it all the more refreshing. Whilst an Iced Matcha is a wonderful drink to kick back with, many people choose to drink their Iced Matcha whilst on the go and take it with them whilst out and about. Taking an Iced Matcha to go isn’t just handy for helping out your schedule, it’s also a convenient way to take advantage of the nutritious benefits of Matcha. Amongst other powerful health positives, Matcha is known to help to speed up the metabolism, digesting food much faster than the normal rate.
Matcha Green Tea Latte
The distinctive taste of Matcha is one that people are often reluctant to try only to be pleasantly surprised when taking their first sip of this traditional Japanese beverage. Matcha’s bright and vibrant colour often leads people to assume that it has a bitter taste but it’s rich and creamy flavour quickly converts those that try it and proves that appearances aren’t everything. With cafes today serving perfectly poured and photogenic cups of Matcha Latte, you would presume that it is difficult to make this aesthetically pleasing drink in your own home, however, it couldn’t be easier. After slowly spooning the lime green Matcha powder and sugar into a mug, carefully mix together with warm milk to eventually present the perfect blend of Matcha Latte. It’s even possible to make dairy free Matcha Lattes simply by using alternatives such as oat milk that create a similar texture and taste. As for keeping your Matcha Green Tea Latte vegan, most Matcha powers do not contain ingredients that would be unsuitable, but it can be a good idea to check.
Matcha Green Tea Smoothies
As a diverse ingredient, it’s not just citrus flavours that marry perfectly with the creamy taste of the Matcha, fruits such as strawberries and bananas also compliment its rich flavour. Creating a Matcha smoothie brings out some of the best parts of Matcha’s authentic taste whilst helping to make reach your five a day more achievable. Packing more fruit into a diet isn’t the only upside to having a Matcha Smoothie, this superfood helps to strengthen up an immune system thanks to its abundance of antioxidants and is even handy for using as part of a detox diet.
From cosmopolitans to daiquiris, there are a handful of familiar faces on any cocktail menu. Taking a twist on a traditional favourite, the Matcha mojito is set to become a summer staple. The ingredients that go together to create a refreshing Matcha mojito don’t stray too far from the more well-known, original recipe. Alongside the usual partners of sugar and water, the syrup for a Matcha mojito adds just one teaspoon of Matcha powder to really enhance its flavour. Once mixed with tonic water, the Matcha mojito is ready to serve.
Matcha can be enjoyed in more ways than one; its authentic flavour works equally as well for a delicious bite to eat as it does when creating refreshing drinks. During the summer months, a scoop of Matcha ice cream will provide the ultimate cooling comfort. Matcha powder can also be used when cooking as a healthier alternative to seasonings to create new and different flavours.
Create the perfect Matcha drink with authentic blends from Atelier Japan
All of the Matcha products that feature on the Atelier Japan website have been expertly blended to ensure that only the most authentic and delicious flavours come through when preparing one of the many ways to enjoy Matcha. Matcha isn’t the only traditional blend that is available to sample, either. From Brown Rice Tea to Hoji Cha, there is a whole range of beautifully flavoured, traditional Japanese blends to choose from.
Golden Week – Japan's National Holidays
Japan’s culture is known to be one of the most traditional and rich in the world. The people of Japan host an abundance of celebrations each year that have become embedded in their culture throughout their very long cultural history. Golden Week brings together four different national events as one huge celebration of Japan’s rich culture. Golden Week is an important and special time for much of Japan’s population with most choosing to take part in the celebrations. Whether it’s adorning their homes and neighbourhoods with bright and colourful decorations such as vibrant lanterns and Koinobori or heading to local celebrations for each event with close friends and family, this traditional goings-on is a way for each and every person to recognise and honour both Japan’s culture and its community.
Constitution Day is just one of the important celebrations within Golden Week. The meaning of democracy has become an important aspect of Japanese culture; Constitution Day was chosen as the day to reflect on democracy and its role within the Japanese government. In the early noughties, newspapers reported on a part of the Japanese constitution that focuses on settling international disputes. Although article nine came into effect after the second world war in the late 1940’s, the reports in the newspapers demonstrate how Constitution Day brings reflecting on the importance of democracy back into relevance today.
The environment and nature are highly respected in Japanese culture. Emperor Hirohito had an incredibly strong interest in plants and the beauty of nature, so much so that he established a day to celebrate all of its wonders. Greenery Day traditionally encourages the people of Japan to nurture and reflect on nature. The main event during Greenery Day is a festival held in Tokyo which is attended by the reigning Emperor and Empress. After addressing and greeting the attendees of the festival, the guests of honour carry out the historic tradition of planting a tree and sowing seeds. After the opening ceremony, the celebrations of Greenery Day continue with processions of Japanese floats along Japan’s beautiful, flowing rivers. As this significant day comes to an end, the dark night skies of Japan are illuminated with bright paper lanterns and mesmerising fireworks to mark the close of Greenery Day in the most stunning way possible. Not everyone in Japan is able to attend the main event, instead, many choose to celebrate this day by either planting trees or reflecting upon nature in other thoughtful activities.
As a highly important figure, the birthday of Emperor Hirohito is a day to be celebrated nationally. After the Emperor’s death in 1989, Showa Day was established to commemorate his life. The day’s importance is revealed even further when considering that it even moved the traditional Greenery Day from its original date from the 29th of April to the 4th of May. Showa Day encourages the public to reflect on the turbulent six decades of Hirohito’s reign and how he acted as a role model for many.
The 5th day of the 5th month in the year marks the final celebration of Golden Week; Children’s Day has been a national holiday since 1948, however, it has been a day of celebration in Japan since ancient times. This last event honours the individual strengths of children along with their happiness and the joy that they bring. Many of the traditions of Children’s Day use food to symbolise the meaning of the day. One of the most popular traditions is for those celebrating the festival to eat rice cakes that have been filled with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves to symbolise strength.
Koinobori are perhaps the most recognised symbol of Golden Week. These traditional decorations are beautifully designed to feature bright and vibrant colours to ensure that they can be seen from afar. The Koinobori are often hung so that they can float in the wind just how they would appear when swimming in the rivers or the sea. The Koinobori are traditionally displayed to represent a family; the Black carp represents the father figure, this carp holds the Japanese name of Magoi and is usually the largest fish. The Red carp, which is known as the Higoi, represents the mother. The last carp is usually green or blue in colour and, as the smallest fish, represents the child of the family, traditionally the son. Above the family of koi sits a colourful flying dragon streamer.
Celebrate Golden Week With Gifts From Atelier Japan
The luxury handcrafted collections on Atelier Japan link perfectly to Japan’s rich culture and the traditions of the national holidays of Golden Week. From perfectly blended Matcha and fine hand-painted pottery to beautifully crafted ornaments, the creations from our expert makers are a wonderful way to celebrate Golden Week at any time of the year.