Daijisho: Japan’s Best Kept Secret


Updated on:

Ever wonder what it’s like to stumble upon an unheard-of destination and experience something completely unexpected? Well, you’re in for a treat. Nestled in the mountains of central Japan is a tiny village called Daijisho that remains blissfully untouched by mass tourism. As you navigate the winding road leading into town, lush forest scenery and rice paddies emerge around every turn. The pace of life slows down in Daijisho. Locals greet you with warm smiles and a hearty “irasshaimase!” as you explore the shops and cafes lining the main street. An overnight stay at a family-run inn gives you a glimpse into traditional Japanese village life. By the time you leave Daijisho behind, you’ll be wondering why more people haven’t discovered this secret gem. But for now, it can remain our little secret. Are you ready for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Japan’s countryside? Pack your bags – Daijisho awaits!

What Is Daijisho? An Introduction to This Unique Japanese Art Form

Have you heard of Daijisho? If not, you’re not alone. Daijisho is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets. This unique art form has been passed down through generations, known only to a select few.

###What exactly is Daijisho?

Daijisho, which translates to “great technique” or “supreme skill”, refers to a collection of traditional Japanese crafts that emphasize simplicity, naturalness, and artistic skill. These crafts include:

  • Origami is the art of paper folding. Origami artists can transform a simple square of paper into a delicate flower, animal, or other creation.
  • Bonsai is the art of growing and pruning miniature trees in small containers. Bonsai takes an extraordinary amount of patience and care to master.
  • Ikebana, the art of flower arranging. Ikebana focuses on harmony, color, and form using minimal flowers and leaves.
  • Sumi-e, ink wash painting. Sumi-e artists use simple brushstrokes and washes of black ink to capture the essence of subjects like landscapes, flowers, and animals.

The purpose of Daijisho is to explore and uncover the natural beauty in simple materials and subjects. For those lucky enough to discover them, these secret arts offer a sublime creative experience. Daijisho is one of Japan’s hidden cultural gems, waiting to be uncovered and appreciated for its delicate artistry.

The History and Origin of Daijisho

Daijisho is a traditional form of Japanese puppet theater that emerged during the Edo period in the 17th century. Daijisho means “large puppet play” and features life-size puppets operated by multiple puppeteers to reenact historical plays and folktales.

A Unique Art Form

Daijisho incorporates distinctive Japanese art forms, including bunraku puppetry, shamisen music, and joruri storytelling. During a performance, puppeteers precisely manipulate the puppets to match the rhythm of the music and storytelling. The puppeteers are dressed in black to remain inconspicuous while operating the puppets on stage.

  • Bunraku puppetry uses large puppets that require three puppeteers to control movement and gestures.
  • Shamisen music, played on a three-stringed instrument, provides the soundtrack.
  • Joruri storytelling involves a narrator who recites the play’s dialog and provides character voices.

Cultural Significance

Daijisho reflects themes important in Japanese culture, including honor, loyalty, and morality. The puppet plays often dramatize epic legends, samurai tales, and folk stories familiar to Japanese audiences. While daijisho was once a popular entertainment, only a few theater troupes still perform today. Some notable plays in the repertoire include Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura and Sanbaso.

Experiencing an authentic daijisho performance offers insight into traditional Japanese culture. The intricate puppetry, musical accompaniment, and expressive storytelling provide a multi-sensory experience of this historical Japanese art form seldom seen outside of Japan. If you find yourself in Tokyo or Osaka, witnessing a live daijisho show is a cultural experience not to miss.

Daijisho Techniques, Styles, and Traditions

Japan’s traditional crafts, known as daijisho, represent centuries of artistry, skill, and culture. These crafts include techniques like lacquerware, indigo dyeing, and swordsmithing.

Lacquerware uses the sap from lacquer trees to create a hard, durable coating on wood. After applying many coats, the lacquer can be decoratively engraved and painted. This craft dates back to the Jomon period (14,000 BCE-300 BCE) and produces beautiful bowls, trays, and other furnishings.

Indigo dyeing, or rhizome, is the art of dyeing fabrics using indigo plants. Dyers skillfully manipulates the dyeing process to create deep, vibrant blue hues. The dyeing technique has been practiced in Japan for over 2,000 years and was originally used for kimonos and other traditional clothing. Today, artisans create contemporary indigo-dyed goods like denim, t-shirts, and home decor.

Swordsmithing, or kaji, is the forging of swords, knives, and other blades. Swordsmiths use special techniques like differential hardening to create blades renowned for their strength, sharpness, and durability. Swords have played an important role in Japanese military history, and many consider swordsmithing an integral part of traditional Japanese culture.

Daijisho also includes performing arts like Noh theater, Bunraku puppetry, and Yosakoi dance. Noh integrates drama, music, and dance to convey emotions and tell stories. Bunraku puppetry uses large puppets operated by multiple puppeteers. Yosakoi dance originated in Kochi prefecture, combining traditional Japanese dance with modern music.

These time-honored crafts and art forms represent the heart of traditional Japanese culture. By preserving daijisho, Japan protects its cultural heritage and history. Although some daijisho face challenges in today’s modern world, efforts are underway to raise awareness and pass these traditions on to future generations.

Spiritual Practices

Japan has some lesser-known spiritual practices that provide insight into the country’s diverse religious heritage. Known as Daijisho, these rituals and meditations blend Shintoism, Buddhism, and folk beliefs.


Practiced by Yamabushi monks, Shugendo combines Shinto and Buddhist practices with physical challenges meant to gain spiritual power. Followers embark on pilgrimages to sacred mountains, like Mt. Haguro, where they chant, meditate, and perform austerities like standing under freezing waterfalls. The Yamabushi believe these practices give them magical powers and allow them to communicate with mountain deities.

Shrine Rituals

Local Shinto shrines each have unique rituals and festivals to honor the kami or spirits. For example, at Matsue’s five-storied pagoda, priests climb to the top while blindfolded to change the shimenawa, a sacred rope. At the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine in Kamakura, the yabusame, or horseback archery ritual is performed. Archers gallop down a track and shoot arrows at three targets to purify the area of evil spirits.

Where to Find Authentic Daijisho in Japan

Japan has no shortage of museums and cultural institutions dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional arts. However, if you want to experience daijisho in its most authentic form, you need to venture into the countryside. There you’ll find secluded temples and shrines where these decorative sculptures are still actively used in spiritual rituals and ceremonies.

Adachi Museum of Art

In the mountains of Shimane prefecture, the Adachi Museum of Art is home to a renowned Japanese garden and collection of modern Nihonga paintings. It also houses many important daijisho, especially Buddhist sculptures from the 8th to 12th centuries. Seeing these revered works in their natural setting, surrounded by the beauty of the landscape garden, offers insight into how they were originally meant to be appreciated.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

This art deco building in Tokyo was once the princely estate of Prince Asaka. The museum’s collection includes many priceless daijisho, as well as art, antiques, and cultural artifacts spanning over 1,000 years of Japanese history. The traditional Japanese garden on the grounds provides the perfect backdrop for the sculptures, allowing you to see them as the prince would have.

Miho Museum

The Miho Museum in Shigaraki is a work of art in itself, with most of the building tucked into a mountainside. It houses Mihoko Koyama’s private collection of Japanese and other Asian art, including many ancient daijisho. The natural setting amplifies the spiritual essence of these works. Seeing them here, you can feel the deep connection between nature, faith, and creativity in Japanese culture.

These museums offer a glimpse into the religious and cultural significance of daijisho in their natural habitat. By experiencing them in this context, you’ll gain a much deeper understanding of these sculptures and their role in traditional Japanese beliefs.


So there you have it, an insider’s guide to one of Japan’s most underrated destinations. Daijisho may not be as renowned as Tokyo or Kyoto but what it lacks in fame it more than makes up for in charm and natural beauty. Next time you’re planning a trip to Japan, do yourself a favor and venture off the beaten path to discover this hidden gem for yourself. Get lost wandering cobblestone streets, soak in scenic vistas that will take your breath away, and indulge in the freshest seafood and most authentic cuisine. You’ll return home wondering why more people don’t know about this secret paradise and plotting your return. But for now, our little secret is safe. Enjoy your next adventure!

Leave a Comment