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From Value One, Spring 2005 No. 08  

Banshu is the area that occupies the southwestern part of Hyogo Prefecture, an area historically known as a center for producing fishhooks. One of the most famous hooks is the Banshu feather jig, hooks that simulate aquatic insects, a typical kind of lure. Already by the late Edo Period, the manufacturing of fishhooks and Banshu feather jigs was underway in the area known today as Nishiwaki City and the surrounding vicinity, and their production eventually grew into an indigenous major industry. In the northern part of Nishiwaki, the production of feather jigs for pleasure fishing developed, while the district in the south around Tojo-cho became a production center for hooks used in commercial fishing. Today, Nishiwaki City and the surrounding area accounts for about 90% of all hooks for commercial fishing and for feather jigs for leisure angling manufactured in Japan.

Making a single feather jig takes even a skilled artisan more than 10 minutes.
Lacquering an iron hook and coating it with a gold leaf; it is a world of miniature traditional skills.

Banshu feather jigs are, as it were, the essence of traditional craftsmanship and history handed down uninterruptedly since the Edo Period. It is a fantastic masterpiece of artisanship, crafting bird feather fibers and silk threads of diverse colors into a patterned image of an insect, with a Japanese sense of beauty. Kenichi Takenaka, a master of this craft, explains his art: "I make it by elaborately adorning an iron hook with lacquer, gold leaves, air-thin bird feather fibers and silk threads. I concentrate all of the nerves in my fingertips to fashion a delicate and magnificent artifact." The secret of transforming an iron hook into a colorful work of art is suggested in his own words.

The Banshu feather jigs measure about 1 centimeter. Handed down through the generations, there are now more than 500 kinds of such jigs, embodying the originality and ingenuity of their creators.

[Ryuobari Hompo]
Studio of Kenichi Takenaka: Banshu feather jig craftsman, first person to be designated as a master of the traditional art.
345 Komoe, Nishiwaki-shi, Hyogo
Tel: +81-795-22-4433

[Nishiwaki Joho Miraikan 21]
394-2 Nishiwaki, Nishiwaki-shi, Hyogo (located in a Western-styled house within traditional residential buildings)
Tel: +81-795-25-0077
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; closed Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a holiday); no entrance fee


Nishiwaki City, located at the center of Hyogo Prefecture, has a population of approximately 40,000. The fishhook industry, symbolized by Banshu feather jigs, and the textile industry known for its Banshu ori (woven cloth), have been prime movers in the development of the city. Historically supported by traditional craftsmanship, today Nishiwaki is being revitalized by information technologies. In this respect, the center of the city is Nishiwaki Joho Miraikan 21. In addition to being the information center for the city, it is also a retail outlet, where visitors can buy Banshu ori shirts and blouses.

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