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Tora-san and Shibamata

Wife and I headed out to Shibamata, Katsushika, a ward on the northeastern corner of Tokyo. Shibamata is a charming town on the banks of the Edogawa River, and still retains some of the character of the Edo Period, before Japan was dragged into the modern era in the late 1800s.

The town is perhaps best known as the home of Tora-san, the main character of the
Otoko wa Tsurai yo series, which continued for 48 movies from 1969 to 1995, and one special that was a tribute to the actor who played Tora-san—Kiyoshi Atsumi, who died in 1996. Tora-san is a kind-hearted peddler who every so often returns to his hometown of Shibamata, and his elderly and long-suffering uncle and aunt, who run a dango (Japanese dumpling) shop, and half-sister and her husband. After an initial introduction setting the scene, his return tends to mark the beginning of the movie and his adventure (and his troubles).

Statue of Tora-san

Tora-san has his own statue at the front of the Shibamata Station. There is also a Tora-san museum with every detail about the character’s life story you could ever want to know.

The town is well known for its
dango, and there was no shortage of shops selling them. This one (Toraya) was actually used for the first four Tora-san movies. We tried the dango there, and 10/10.


From here we had a walk through the Yamamoto-tei (Yamamoto Residence), a single-story house built in the late 1920s in the
sukiya-zukuri (teahouse) style, although it does incorporate aspects of a Western architectural style as well. It was the home of a businessman from the area, and was opened to the public in the 1990s. The house interior opens out on to a beautiful garden that forms a natural extension to the tatami rooms and passageways.

Yamamoto Residence garden

There are also some interesting shoji and tategu. This is one of the several small alcoves in the house.

Shoji with shokkō pattern

ranma is a beautiful carving of pine trees, and the shoji is a tate-shige kumiko arrangement with one of the many different shokkō patterns as a base. Most of the shokkō patterns require the jaguchi joint for the locking pieces, and I’ll be covering the jaguchi (and the special jig you need to cut it) and many of the shokkō patterns in Volume 3 of my ebook on kumiko patterns.

From there we had a relaxing walk along the banks of the Edogawa River, which is a scene that also appears regularly in the
Otoko wa Tsurai yo movies. As a Tora-san fan, I had a great time.

Interesting sign

Wife and I are currently in Tokyo visiting Daughter, and near her apartment is this wonderful sign. It’s obviously been done by a translation machine without too much human intervention.

I’m sure many of the things I’ve written to friends in Japanese have been the source of great mirth to them, so I can hardly be pointing the finger too much, but I thought this sign was special.


In case you were wondering, it’s a sign indicating a bicycle parking area for people using this particular facility (a public library), but the English version would require a fair bit of guesswork if the bicycle line drawing on the right wasn’t there.

In it, the last three characters (
駐輪場 chū-rin-jō) in that compound mean a bicycle parking area, but individually they mean “stop”, “wheel” and “place” — hence the English in the sign.


Another pattern - Kaku-tsunagi

This is another pattern for the second book. It’s the kaku-tsunagi, and is a less complex sibling of the futae kaku-tsunagi I showed in this blog entry. This pattern requires concentration to make sure all the cuts are in their proper position in both the vertical and horizontal kumiko, and care when trimming the miter joints to ensure a firm fit without gaps.

Kaku tsunagi pattern


New pattern - Mie masu-tsunagi

I completed the latest pattern for inclusion in the next volume of the shoji and patterns. This one is called mie masu-tsunagi. I showed the masu-tsunagi pattern in blog entry about a year ago. The word masu (or ) means a measuring cup used in Japan in the past to measure liquids, or rice and other grains. It was cube-shaped, so the top formed a square, and by extension, masu in this case means a square. Tsunagi means connecting or joining. So the masu-tsunagi is a series of interconnecting squares or a connection of squares; mie means triple, so this pattern is a series of three interconnecting squares, and if you look hard enough you can see the squares grouped in threes.

Mie masu-tsunagi

This type of pattern is used for feature bands in a shoji, or as a top and bottom border pattern. It would also look quite stunning in a ranma arrangement.