This Japanese vintage waxed rice paper and bamboo wagasa comes to us from the estate of a couple who was in Japan for WWII, for dating purposes. It is handmade in the traditional fashion of rice paper on bamboo. The dyed paper is a bright red, the hand painted decorations of birds and flowers. It is in very good condition for its age, with age wear as seen in some discoloration to the bamboo and some minor spots on the rice paper. The size is that which would have most likely been used for the sun and not rain, or for dance with the umbrellas. Wagasa are finely crafted, beautifully decorated tools. If taken care of they could last decades. This would make a wonderful decorative piece or collector's item.
Size: Diameter 32 inches or 81.28 cm, Length closed 24 inches or 60.96 cm
excerpts From tofugu website
Oil-paper umbrellas were a variety invented in China which spread to many neighboring countries. No one knows exactly when umbrellas were invented, but it's thought they came to Japan via Korea during the Asuka period (538-710). During the Japanese Edo period of 1603-1868, if you were a samurai short on dough, making umbrellas at home and selling them was an acceptable way to make extra cash. Umbrellas also became a common feature of visual and performing arts. From the Meiji period onward, and particularly after World War II, traditional umbrellas were eclipsed by Western style ones.
The Japanese word for umbrellas is kasa. The word for the traditional paper umbrellas is wagasa
Wagasa are finely crafted, beautifully decorated tools. If taken care of they could last decades. Wagasa differ from Western umbrellas. The most obvious of these is the counterintuitive decision to make wagasa with paper, a less than water-proof material. But the paper is coated with oil, armoring them quite nicely against the rain.
Wagasa open differently than Western umbrellas. They have 30-70 bamboo ribs which spread as the umbrella is opened, unfurling the paper along with it. Western ones open with the tension of the metal ribs forcing the covering open, and the two are usually only attached at key points. These differences mean that the ribs of an open wagasa remain straight, while those of a Western umbrella curve, creating a dome. Finally, closed wagasa stand handle-down, rather than handle-up like Western umbrellas.
When an umbrella survives for a hundred years Japanese stories and fables tell us it might become something…else. Sprouting two arms and a single eye and leg, an umbrella can become a kasa obake or karakasa kozo. These are examples of tsukumogami: objects of daily life that have reached a great age and become animated. Kasa obakeare not particularly harmful, but a little mischievous, and may give you a lick. It also has a lesser known cousin, the hone karakasa or 'bone umbrella.' It is a tattered umbrella that takes to the sky on wet, windy days. It is an omen of bad weather. Today White Rose is the only Japanese company still making plastic umbrellas, while most are made in China. There are now very few artisans making traditional umbrellas, mostly in Kyoto, Yodoe, and Gifu Prefecture.
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