Kyoto needs little introduction to those familiar with Japanese history and culture; it is a by-word for elegance and refinement. For 1500 years, it was the country's capital and has remained the epitome of Japanese artistic and architectural achievement. To wander its ancient streets and visit its myriad shrines and temples is to experience living history.
Kyoto is justly renowned for its traditional produce and the city's myriad crafts and ateliers are, in many cases, without parallel. In fact, the incredible religious heritage of the city has provided great impetus over the centuries to the development of these unique art forms; artisans and craftsmen have supplied the temples of Kyoto with everything from statuary to liturgical clothing for hundreds of years. Many of these producers continue to do so, while also finding innovative and modern ways for people to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
An Ancient Buddhist Craft
Based in Kyoto, Nakano Isuke has been making Japanese prayer beads and amulets since the company was founded in 1764. An incredible ten successive generations of the Nakano family have worked diligently to preserve and continue this traditional craft through periods of extraordinary change in Japan. Even now, two and half centuries on and despite the technologies available, Nakano Isuke continues to produce all its pieces by hand.
This is a craft steeped in over a thousand years of history and religious life. The exact form and number of beads used is prescribed in Buddhist scripture, and the ancient examples that can still be seen at Todaiji (one of the oldest temples in Japan) attest to the unchanging nature of these amulets. Over the years, prayer beads have become talismans of protection and good luck and, nowadays, are typically used as such. In keeping with this, Nakano Isuke has made strides to adapt this artform to the 21st century, maintaining the ancient forms but finding new ways to use them.
Exceptional Materials and Spiritual Dedication
For Nakano Keisuke, the 10th and current head of the company, one new way to expand the audience for his amulets has been to create a line especially for cats. Using all the skills and knowledge handed down over centuries, Keisuke hopes to deepen the bond between owner and pet with his talismans. Indeed, each amulet has a prayer connection with Kyoto's Houun-ji temple, which is especially dedicated to the spirit of pets. Many believe that this enhances the spiritual protection provided by the amulets and prayer beads.
In addition, the attention to detail and quality of materials used for the amulets is exceptional; each piece is created from hand-died and hand-woven silks - up to seven meters in some cases. The precious stones are selected especially for their individual properties and each one has a unique, natural patterning. All these elements combine to produce a beautiful talisman of incredible quality and heritage.
Ever-Deeper Bond Between Owner and Pet
Nakano Isuke's 'nekonowa' (amulets for cats) are truly unique pieces of Japanese history and culture. Not only are they stunning examples of an ancient craft, they can also support a deeper connection between you and your cat. In addition to the amulets for the pets themselves, Nakano Isuke has produced a set of matching earrings for the owners, made to the same exacting standards as the other talismans.
While some pet owners worry about potential discomfort to the cat from wearing a collar, there are no such issues with Nakano Isuke's pieces. They have been developed with experts at Doshisha University to ensure maximum comfort and ease for cats. Furthermore, with the blessings of the temple and the properties of the precious stone in each amulet, owners can feel a sense of protection and good fortune following their little friend wherever they go.