Byobu are Japanese folding screens with elaborate paintings and calligraphy, traditionally used to partition and decorate rooms. Their sizes vary depending on their intended use; for example, smaller two-fold screens may be used for tea ceremonies, while larger, gold leaf eight-fold screens are used as backgrounds for performances. As they are made to be extremely mobile and flexible, they can also easily be linked or folded up. Its lightweight, strong core is produced using a sturdy, cedar wood frame with a latticed interior. Layers of Japanese washi paper are then applied to act as the base for the decorative paintings. Strong paper hinges ensure that the entire structure of the folding screen is stable; no nails or metal fixtures are used during the entire process (only glue).
During the Edo period, people in power, such as daimyos and samurais, would commission giant, elaborate folding screens covered intricately in gold leaf, as a way of flaunting their wealth and power. Westerners became acquainted with the elegance of Asian folding screens during the mid to late 1500s. By the 19th century, Japanese folding screens became a highly prized export.
The art of Japanese screen making is a time- honored traditional craft, preserved by only a select number of master artisans. One of those master craftsmen is Yasuhiro Mikoshiba, a first class mounting technician. He is the current head of Mikoshiba Byobuten, a top class manufacturer of Japanese folding screens. Founded by his grandfather, originally under the name, ‘Unseido’, Mikoshiba Byobuten has a nearly 100 year long history attached to its name since its opening during the Taisho era in Ina City of the Nagano Prefecture. As the third generation representative of Mikoshiba Byobuten, Mr. Mikoshiba wishes to pass down the art form to the next, younger generation to ensure that this traditional Japanese craft is properly preserved and can be enjoyed for many years to come.
For more information about Mikoshiba Byobuten, as well as a full product list, click here:
Address: 4371-2 Kitsunejima Ina-shi Nagano 396-0011
Nagano is located in the heart of Japan (almost exactly in the center) and is Japan’s fourth largest prefecture. Due to the fact that it is surrounded on all four sides by 3,000 meter tall mountains, Nagano is often referred to as the “Roof of Japan”. Although this Japanese prefecture is perhaps most globally known for being the host of the 1998 Winter Olympic and Paralympics Games, its world class snow resorts attract thousands of winter sports enthusiasts each year. Karuizawa, a popular resort town, attracting people from all across the country with its nice golf courses, outlet malls, skiing areas, and pleasant weather, is also located in the Nagano Prefecture. Within Japan, one of Nagano’s biggest attractions is the delicious food that one can enjoy while visiting the prefecture. With a deep culinary heritage and fresh, clean air and water, its no wonder as to why Nagano is renowned for its traditional cuisine. These include soba noodles, sake, oyaki dumplings, gohei mochi snacks, bamboo leaf- wrapped sasa-zushi, and even fruits, specifically apples. In addition, the prefecture is famously known for having some of Japan’s finest onsens (natural hot springs).