Early 20th C. back pad from North Eastern Japan (Tohoku region, most likely Yamagata Prefecture.) In the local dialect, of the Echigo & Shonai Regions (current day Niigata & southern Yamagata Prefectures), these are referred to as "Bandori." Other areas call these back cushions "se-na-ate." This particular example is a "Koro [round[ Bandori" and is made from woven straw and encased in a marvelous webbing of "yamabudo" (mountain grape vine.) Coarse hemp rope also creates a striking design in front of the pad. The shoulder straps are made of torn cotton clothing rags. In the past, Tohoku (NE Japan) farmers made these as presents for their fiancees. After marriage, the new wife might wear it into town to show off the craft skills of her new husband. This is a true example of mingei from the rural region of NE Japan. Excellent anonymous workmanship with now highly valued natural materials (Mountain grape vine has recently become a rare and valuable commodity, with contemporary bags and accessories easily commanding prices over $1,000 in Japanese craft boutiques. Good "sakiori" rag weave pieces also fetch high prices these days.) L.66cm(26") x W.36cm(14"). In the 1958, No. 77 issue of "Mingei", Yanagi Soetsu wrote: "We should not look at Mino [straw capes] or Bandori from our own culture. They are a kind of primitive work, but show beauty far superior to the kind that highly cultured people wear today. Forget ourselves, but observe what they have to offer. Beautiful handworks must have some principle inside to show us. We must look at and appreciate the items from inside. When done so, although not functional to our city life, the Tohoku works suddenly reveal a practical and spiritual function to our hearts. They are great gifts to us and our world is full of treasures." (edited & translated by Teiko Utsumi; "The Mingei" No. 506, Feb. 1995.