What is Byobu?
The Japanese screens are called “Byobu” 屏風 in Japanese, literarily means "wall wind" - “wind protection”.
It was an indispensable interior item in traditional Japanese architecture at the residence of federal lords, shrine and temples. Byobu served for many purposes. For example, large screens (6-8 panels) were used in the backgrounds of the traditional theatrical performance, enclosure of a ritual at the temples as it served the function of decoration. Small screens (2 panels) were designed and made for the tea ceremony and also "Makura Byobu" - pillow screen - as the original purpose of wind protection and put at the corner of the bedroom of a traditional Japanese room with Tatami.
The materials used for the base of the screens are Japanese paper, such as Kozo paper, made of mulberry (楮紙), and Japanese wood, such as Hinoki for the outer frame and bamboo to create the lattice base.
By using the Japanese paper mounting technique Karibari / Mizubari, the layers of paper were mounted carefully with wheat starch, on top of the wood build in the lattice shape. Hinges are uniquely made with paper with the butterfly method, open on both sides, enabling each panel to be connected seamlessly.
Once the base is made, a golden or silver leaf can be applied on top and then the art work is applied. Typically, Sumi （墨）ink was used for monochrome art, For multicolor, pigments from minerals, precious stones, and shells, such as Gofun (胡粉), were used.
Brief history and development
Byobu history dates back as early as the 8th century in Nara period, introduced from China and was developed into the Japanese form.
In the 14th century, the unique technique of special hinges was developed and each panel was connected seamlessly to unify the art of different panels.
It was used not only for functional purpose but also as a decorative object in a form of exquisite art. During the 15th to 18th century, in the stronghold and castles, samurai’ residences, the screens were displayed as a symbol of the wealth and power.
The gold leaf (Kimpaku) was introduced in crafting in Kano school. schools/styles of art, TOSA, KANO, RIMPA were established and the master preserved its style by passing the technics to the generations in the family or his pupils. The screens were made at the ateliers in Kyoto.
After the Edo period
But since the late 19th century the production declined gradually as the Edo period fell, the Meiji restoration changed the social structure and Japan opened its door to the west which was closed for more than 200 years except to trade with Holland and China.
The modernism flourished with the influence of European art and design as we see the influence of Japan in European art of that time.
Life style and houses are also influenced and the western features were added in some parts of the house while the traditional Japanese interiors and architectural features such as Tokonoma, Syoji, Fusuma, tatami are still indispensable.
Byobu are seen in some traditional households, on display at temples, shrines. Also, it is used occasionally at the ceremonial scene, such as the wedding. Tea ceremony screen and pillow screens are still commonly used.
If you wish to know more or wish to make an appointment of viewing, please contact.