Sunshine at last broke through constant days of rainy season rain today, and bright blue skies blessed the OEdo Antique Market on the first Sunday of July, bringing out palpable enthusiasm and high wire fun.
The crowd was lively and spiffy today after weeks and weeks of cancellations and rain coats and umbrella Sundays. Tokyo International Forum played host to more than 200 plus dealers and probably 10 or 20 times more onlookers: strollers, browsers, enthusiasts.
Today it was the customers and dealers who caught my eye today even more than the treasures spread out for them to buy. People had style. They had panache, and in many cases they were wearing finds from previous flea market forays. Most of all, they had a sense of dressing with flair.
Standing up and being noticed may have been one of the reasons they came. I snapped away on my iphone without even being polite enough to ask permission – the poses were too fleeting, the moment was more a second and needed to be seized. But in every case, they smiled in response to my iphone intrusion, although sometimes I was so surreptitious that they didn’t even notice.
Sometimes it is the dealers who dazzle. This man deals in Asian Textiles and is a walking billboard for his closet. But when he wondered why I was taking photos, claiming he was just the same as everyone else, I disagreed and complimented his comfortable sense of style, his sense of self. He seemed genuinely surprised.
Most of the photos need no comments. They speak for themselves.
Surely I am prejudiced but I think Japanese flea markets excel for their exquisite – mostly – collections of beautifully handmade antiques, the history they explain, the extraordinary rendering of natural materials, and the artistic way in which they have been collected by each dealer and artfully set out for people to muse upon, be enticed by, inspired by.
They are a social diary of Japan’s past. How people lived. What they lived with and worked with. The objects of living and working and playing are all there. There are objects of faith, what people believed in. And what people are attracted by, including huge selections of antiques and art from other countries. The market is a fascinating stew of what catches the eye and the imagination.
It’s about learning from the tastes and fixations of others.
Often it is the dealers who enchant me. This man, recognizable by his signature jaunty hand knit skull cap worn in all seasons, drives 12 hours down from Yamagata twice a month, wondered where Basho was, my black dog who always joins my flea market adventures. Too hot, I told him. He brings tools and artifacts from the heart of Japan’s farmlands, its mountains, its deepest country traditions.
The banter, the exchanges, the reassuring sense of connecting and sharing stories and knowledge and experience is a draw for dealers and customers alike.
HATS for all heads.
Mosquito netting fashion!
KNOTTED IN BACK
Style from behind.
Up front style.
The Tokyo OEdo Antique market scene – everyone is welcome. Old ways kindle new styles and everyone can step outside themselves and have a great time. Held at Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, 1st and 3rd Sundays.
My circular vision started in Kyoto recently at the magnificent house and pottery of Kawai Kanjiro. In his garden is this huge round stone, a house warming present to the potter when he built the house, a perfect expression of Japanese aesthetics in daily life.
Japan is made up of all manner of shapes, textures and colors, of course, but last week in Okinawa, all I could see was circles.
Everywhere I looked I found circles, from the colorful handmade plates, all different, all typically Okinawan at the always delicious izakaya/pub Yomitan Monogatari where we headed, just after arriving, to the fluorescent purple beniimo dumplings for dessert the next day at Yuimaru Cafeteria attached to the Yomitan Pottery Coop. (pardon the unfocussed photo. This cameraman was just too excited by the incredibly good purple dumplings).
Breakfast each morning featured round Genki muffins bursting with nuts and raisins and grated carrots and bran lovingly prepared by our ever Genki hostess, her cheese soufflés if you will, and we did! were heavenly circles of well being.
And the free will creations of TONARIYA Bakery in Yomitan who specialize in baking spheres of all flavors and colors. Their offerings changed every day and made it difficult to decide which round masterpieces to take home..
TONARIYA is open daily except Monday from 10 until they run out which is always early in the afternoon.
ぱん工房おとなりやhttp://asian1026.blog51.fc2.com/ 毎週月曜日を覗く 朝１０時から売り切れまで営業しています。（売り切れは午後早くだそうです）
Circles at the new age antique shop INDIGO sneak up on you. They are circles without bragging about it. I have been coveting this rusted lampshade as long as I have been going there, but they treasure it as a symbol of their wabi sabi taste for living with the beauty of cast away objects of everyday life.
斬新な骨董品屋Indigohttp://indigo-f.com/にある まる が忍びよってきます。 それらはまるで、まる である事を主張していない。
Their brochure proclaims a wonderful philosophy: LOVE YOUR LIFE. Their shop proves that they do. As I love their assortment of workaday things that are loved.
Somehow the young owners of INDIGO with three little children succeed in combining things in exciting ways. I was dying for this plant, but they wouldn’t part with its partner pot. And the grouping of objets in an old box makes the whole composition shine under a basket sun overhead.
And the grouping of random objects in an old box makes the whole composition shine under a basket sun overhead.
米や 松倉http://komeyamatsukura.net/ の美味しい、まる。 宮城県の美味しいお米とお野菜のお料理をアーティスティックに盛りつけてあります。
While searching for a new potter we had been told about, we had a surprise encounter with round white dishes drying on a beautiful old blue Suzuki jeep, younger sister to our own old red one. Blue and white always comes in unexpected places.
The combination of blue and white pots in a rain drenched garden of Yamada Shinman is unsurpassably beautiful and only confirms my theory that blue and white in use is far more beautiful than simply lined up and “looking pretty” on display.
The same holds true for circles. They are far more beautiful at work. Aren’t we all?!
まる にも同じ事が当てはまります。 作品になるとさらに美しくありません？！
Yamada san’s brushwork is free and bold and powerful. He is a master of blue and white.
Blue and White の店先におかれた、沖縄のまると作品たち。道行く人の目を引きます。
Blue and White にある、吉浦和子氏によって完璧な まる の刺し子が施された藍染め布。
Even mundane rubber bands sing the song of blue and white circles.
Why my fixation on circles? I wondered and discovered that the significance of ENSO Zen Circle is Absolute Enlightenment. The wholeness of spirit. The way you paint the Enso is the way your life is now. Mine is clearly wobbly.
なぜこんなにも まる に固執してしまうのでしょう?! 不思議に思いながら気がついたのは, 円相（禅における書画）が持つ意味は究極の悟りだと。精神の完全性です。
円相を描いたとき、そこに現れる まる は今現在のあなたの人生なのです。
Not all Japan is Blue & White as I may often imply.
A recent trip to Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures, conclusively proved it also comes in a soul-singeing spectrum of red.
Kei Kawasaki staged an unbelievably stunning exhibit of Only Red – Benibana dyeing at her Gallery Kei in Teramachi, Kyoto, on May 17 – 21 last month.
Safflowers, the source of all that red in the preceding kimonos at a memorable exhibit of Benibana textiles at Gallery Kei, from 17 – 21 May, in Kyoto. The collection was doubly astonishing because Gallery Kei usually concentrates on indigo country textiles, bast fibers and an irresistible, not to mention incomparable expression of wabi wabi Japan.
There will be a special program on INDIGO/AI, on NHK Bi no Tsubo in Japan on May 30 at 7:30 pm, and on June 3 at 11:05 am.
It will also be broadcast on NHK US on June 2 at 2:05 pm, Tokyo Time.
Blue & White and Amy Katoh’s house in Karuizawa will be included.
がいこくへのほうそうは、6/2 14:05 〜(にほんじかん)です。よろしくおねがいします。
In our accelerating and disposable world, have we lost sight of the preciousness of things, the importance of keeping them safe and honoring them? Once used, things are quickly thrown away and replaced with a new one. Like tissues, coats, sweaters, watches, computers, televisions – big things even – are not repaired. They are simply thrown out and replaced. (Blue jeans are the ironic exception here. Worn, deliberately “distressed”, purposefully patched, their raggedy fade is integral to their value. New jeans have no cachet). There is danger here that the tendency to reject things once they are used, can wash over into human relations.
Have we forgotten that things were made to be used and honored and used and honored again? If they break or wear out, they can be mended and put back to right. With patience and persistence, almost anything can be mended and made usable again. It is counterintuitive to use them, wear them out/ or break them and then simply throw them away and go and buy something else just like it.
Some things are irreplaceable, like this lid of a jug, the most treasured objet in my whole hoard, made by my favorite potter in Okinawa, Omine Jissei san. A bamboo pole fell on it during an earthquake and broke just the lid, shattering it into a heartbreak of pieces and chips. The pot was miraculously unscathed, Heartbroken, but resolute, I will bring it to my “fixer” at Morita Antiques In Aoyama who, in time, will put it right and give it new character. The mends will be part of its new story.
Mending has been a way of life in Japan for centuries. Among the greatest treasures in the Shosoin Collection in Nara, a 8th century treasure house of textiles and other implements of the Imperial Household, open only in November, are the mysterious patched priests’ robes or Kesa that, to my eye, are among the most beautiful textiles on earth. In the spirit of the Buddha who wore rags, tireless stitching transformed old disused and fouled rags into Funzoe, deep veritable brocades of cloth that was too precious to throw away. They became compositions of resplendent beauty and their patching raised them to a level of incomparable meaning and mystery.
While no kesa, this simple farmer’s kimono of homespun striped indigo, (generosity of Stephen Szczepanek of SRI Threads) has been torn and worn and patched and mended time and again, with no attempt at artfulness or design of placement, just simple obdurate bits of cloth sewn onto the tear or the wear. Honesty is its own reward and the mending is a song of “take me as I am”. Nothing fancy, nothing twee. Just the mends.
With a little patience anything can be mended in Japan. I remember one Christmas, the two presents from my husband were a pair of my own sheepskin gloves the dog had chewed and I had thrown away. My resourceful young husband had retrieved them from the trash and lovingly stitched them back to life. The second was a beloved jam pot from Finland that I had knocked over in a battle with a bee and inadvertently smashed into bits. He mended it and each crack was filled with his love and care for what could still give good service and pleasure to behold. He wrapped them beautifully and put them under our second Christmas tree. Other presents he gave me over the years I may have forgotten, but these two I never will. The preciousness of things repaired!
袈裟が無かった時代、農民の衣類は手織りの縦縞の藍染めで出来ており（Stephen Szczepanek氏によると、スリランカの糸）それは繰り返し繰り返し手直しーデザインの試みなどはなく、布の端切れをただ単純にまた端切れや衣類に施し、それを着、裂かれ、当て布をしてまた着る、を繰り返していました。布が持つ誠実さのお礼と手直しを施す様はアメリカのアーティストの曲にある”Take me as I am “のように、何の飾りも可愛さもない、実にシンプルに、お直し、なのです。
Blue and white plate by Ai Kobo Special Abilities workshop in Tokyo, on rag weave place mat by Tamagawa Fukushi Senta, another Special Abilites Center. Blue & White spotlights the creations of many special abilities workplaces throughout Japan.
The operative word is MOTTAINAI – too good to waste. Making the best of what you have. Washi and cloth were the most commonly available materials to use as reinforcements, but other fillers were also used. Paper mends on glass. Gold lacquer mends on plates. Washi mends on baskets. Today at the flea market, I even found a lovely old 19th century fluted blue and white plate that had been patiently mended with a surprising patch of dark wood lovingly carved to the same thinness and flute. Another first for me – I have them all the time in Japan.
多摩川にある特別用語施設で織られたランチョンマットと、藍工房特別養護施設による藍と白のお皿です。私共Blue & White は日本全国にある障害を持つ人々が働く施設から生み出される素晴らしい創造力と作品にも注目しています。
Washi circles of old ledger book paper were used to restore shoji in an old minka in the mountains by Seiichi and Reiko Hagiya – master menders and restorers of all things paper including this old Daruma painting on washi I once found scrunched up and forgotten in a tansu drawer in an antique shop in Oiwake, Nagano. The Hagiyas have mended and reinforced and pasted it onto the sliding kura door in the entrance to this old minka to keep out wind and cold.
The never‐give‐up Hagiyas knotted nets of cotton twine to enmesh white pebbles of similar size to replace the matching nobs long since disappeared in the generations of use this medicine chest of drawers has seen.
The playful repairs in the plates and dishes of Pasta Coh, a delicious Italian restaurant across the street from Blue & White make the food fun and make you hope your meal will be served on a mended plate. The chef repairs them himself.
何とも遊び心があるお直しが施されたお皿でしょう。麻布十番Blue &White の斜向いにある、とっても美味しいイタリアンレストラン、パスタコーのお皿です。シェフご自身でお直しをされています。お食事もそれを頂くあなたも楽しくなる事でしょう！
Under indigo kasuri covered cushions a cozy corner in an old minka was once a horse stall.
Cushions covered with a riot of antique kasuri/ ikat patterns need mending each year. Spare bits of cloth are zealously saved to replace torn corners and cover various holes. Finding just the right match of size and tone of blue and pattern is the challenge.
Bad Bad Dog! Mend over matter. Mending with cachet is part of the fun. This graceful chaise longue, covered in kame nozoki indigo, quick dip in the indigo pot, was ravaged by our unruly young Labrador, Basho. A shaggy blue embroidery by Shobu Gakuen appliqued to hide the damage creates a new sofa and helps to take away our pain at the wanton destruction.
Make the mend matter. Make it part of the presentation like this stole of spotted silk indigo the artist burned by mistake, and so she finished the holes off with gold beaded bling and stitched around it to make sure they would be noticed. Mends are nothing to be ashamed of. They show care and persistence and a steadfast appreciation for something in your life. Kansha is the word in Japanese – appreciation and gratitude for things/ goodness, service, usage received.
A multimended bag of indigo mosquito netting, kaya just keeps on going. With time and patience, nearly all things can be mended. Cups, plates, photos, glasses, trousers, books, vases, sweaters, bones, feelings, relationships. Bags. Hearts are harder.
JAPAN’S A BIG BLUE PEBBLE thank you Kathryn
A flying saucer. A nearly perfect blue saucer by Omine Jissei of Yomitan in Okinawa.
Old Ema prayer plaque, wooden shrine votive, 19th century perhaps.
Before the year of the snake has slithered away and the Blue Horse trotted in let’s put on our blue goggles and see just how much blue there is in our world.
Tokyo’s very language is blue. Crisp winter skies are a brilliant crystalline blue. Under them, shiny blue garbage trucks ply the city streets. Blue traffic signs tell us where to go in a city that largely does without street names! People wear blue. Ubiquitous jeans – Muji is starring them this year. Uniforms, of course, are blue. Mums wear blue suits to their children’s school meetings, first days of school. Wherever there is a message to be communicated, the communicating language is blue. And often the most heart filled blue is indigo. Blue as the language of communication mostly likely sprung out of a traditional indigo society – Japan Blue as early 19th century visitors called it – whose favored and most available and permissible color was indigo. It could be grown and dyed at home and most houses produced it. The color of clothing of the common man was indigo as labor intensive as it was.
Indigo laundry line at Kosoen, Indigo Dye Workshop in Ome, in the western blue hills of Tokyo.
Indigo stripes, produced by itazome, clamping cloth between two boards with grooves carved in them produce stripes, are a speciality of Kosoen.
Which blues to choose wonders Eiji Kobayashi, 16th generation (his son Kenji is behind him) now retired head of Todaya Shoten, a Yukata and Tenugui dyer that uses controllable chemical dyes to approximate the rich depth of indigo and its shades of indigo without the mystery and the alchemy.
Blue bowl by Ai Kobo, Indigo workshop for special abilities members.
Blue bridges: Kiyosumi Bashi over the Sumida River between Chuo ku and Koto ku.
Blues in the night. Eitai Bashi, two bridges down from Kiyosubashi.
Blue skies and clouds over Issey Miyake’s A-line headquarters on the Sumida River.
Imagine our surprise when this blue fever started appearing on streets and sidewalks in our Sumida River neighborhood where the great poet Matsuo Basho once lived and wrote his haiku. His spirit remains in the Basho shrine on our street, the river park and statue of him which rotates on its pins in the evening to look out to the river, and swivels back in the morning to welcome visitors who climb the stone steps to do him honor. Basho’s museum is a few blocks away. But who wrote the blue arrows and messages in English chalked on the sidewalks and pavements promising sake and haiku if we followed their directions? We never could quite find either the sake or the poetry, but the blue messages were intriguing. Sadly they washed away in the rain.
Who knew where the blue chalked messages came from or where they were leading in the New Year. They invited us to follow them and their arrows, but we never found the promised haiku and sake, though we had an intriguing time following the blue messages unti rain washed them away.
Our black dog Basho is curious too.
Blue on the way to the flea market at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, 1st , 2nd and 4th, 5th Sundays of the month.
Blue on the way home. The back gate of the dynamic Fukagawa Narita Fudou Myou Temple where you can have your car blessed, or attend one of the dramatic fire ceremonies held there 5 times daily.
Blues at the market. Heavenly blue boro (sleeping futon cover patched and patched and patched again) the whole range of indigo in wondrous compositions. Hard for me to leave behind, just as the maker couldn’t give them up. She simply kept mending.
Piles of blue: indigo rolls of stenciled futon material and ikats waiting to be taken home and given new roles in life.
Stacks of vintage indigo ikats – a riot of design in two basic colors.
Engaging dealer in blue who remembered the long line of big black dogs I have led to the Sunday markets over the years. Behind him a stone horse statue is hung with sacred straw and washi decorations for the New Year. It is the year of the horse, after all. He and his mate at the next stall come to the markets regularly and banter with the classically dressed traditional Japanese singer – nagauta – who lives in an similarly impeccable house just across the road. They joke with each other, and the elegant gentleman in silk Oshima kimono winds up walking home with a small wooden shelf hung over his arm laughing as he explains to me that if he didn’t buy something from them, there would be trouble. When I compliment him on the beauty of his kimono says he has nothing else. He doesn’t own a pair of shoes!
Blue Prayers at a roadside shrine in Chuo-ku, near Kiyosumi Bridge.
10,000 folded washi cranes.
Bits of indigo scraps tied to willow branches in hopes for good health, good humor and good times, good friends good family, good Blue & White dreams.
Add just a pinch of white from the Hari Kuyo ceremony for broken needles at Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple on a snowy Saturday February 8.
A long line of priests under bangasa, paper umbrellas, clop to the small temple where Hari Kuyo, the ceremony for broken needles is held every year.
The large cake of tofu in which the used needles are given a soft burial and thanked for faithful years of service by seamstresses and designers and people who sew.
WA can mean so many things in Japanese: first of course is peace, harmony.
It can also be a circle, as in a circle of reconsecrated calendar pages.
Or a circle of friends like you who read these words, and our Blue & White circle of friends.
And it can go so far as to mean Wow! Joy!
All in all a good word to begin December’s blog (albeit in January)
December has a way of celebrating important landmarks in life.
Blue & White’s Birthday, the 38th – imagine!
Reiko Hagiya in birthday suit she made of reused Blue & White calendar pages with her resourceful husband Seiichi.
The end of the year. The culmination of many things accomplished over the months past.
On the 7th of the month we had our Blue & White birthday party and loyal fans came out in full force to make the day not simply a birthday, but a landmark, commemorating all that Blue & White believes in – The Beauty of Japan !
Dried persimmons from a farmer in Nara, artfully arranged in washi pockets – a gift of grace from Sumiko Enbutsu.
The energy and purity of things made by hand.
The perfection of indigo.
The heavenly origins of blue.
The cosmic inspiration of blue and white.
The importance, the energy of neighborhood – Azabu Juban is one of Tokyo’s coziest and most variegated.
The fun of putting opposites together and seeing the combustion that results: blue and white, old and new, serious and playful, surprise and expected.
Birthday feast by Reiko Okunushi and other great cooks.
The food culture of Japan
The pure joy of sharing with people the best of Japan
The community of friends we have throughout Japan, throughout the world
The pleasure of welcoming them all into our tiny and chaotic shop
The enjoyment of laughter and chatting and telling our stories
The importance of the spirit of Mottainai – treasuring things, making them last …and last
The celebration of Christmas, though foreign to Buddhist philosophy, is still very popular amongst shopkeepers and their customers.
Mottainai Christmas decoration of cut off ends of tenugui tied to a network garden trellis.
Bamboo transported to our local bamboo craftsman for making Kadomatsu New Year’s Decorations and other auspicious New Year’s installations.
Shime Kazari, New Year’s decorations by Takako Nishikawa of Ishikawa Prefecture.
There are many ways of expressing the joy of the New Year. The rice straw shimenawa of Takako Nishikawa are fresh and original creations that filled our window with their spirit of pure and fresh new beginnings.
She takes the tradition of using sacred straw rope and washi and paper mizuhiki made in Ishikawa, and gives them a new twist with garlic bulbs and red peppers and other surprises.
Nishikawa san used nandina red berries and sharp black sumi calligraphy to give old traditions new freshness and punch.
Totally new, totally original, Nishikawa san’s New Year’s decorations are a heartfelt message of renewal and purification.
The last hurrah on an early morning Sumida River dog walk.
7 serious office workers practice for an upcoming birthday party and invite our black dog Basho to join the dance.
Joy and Peace and WOW! to all from Blue and White and friends.
A lovely tribute by Susan Detjens’ FLower Flinging blog.
celebrating flowers, floral design, flower shows, fun and sometimes food
While the dense snows piled up yesterday, I took a most magical walk down memory lane with the discovery of the “Blue & White” blog posting, forwarded to me by Mrs. Olana. Blue & White is the iconic Tokyo shop of Amy Sylvester Katoh and is currently celebrating its 38th birthday! At a time when Japan was rushing to modernism and western goods, Amy embraced the vanishing folk art skills that were the heart of Japanese culture. She founded Blue & White to showcase the hand-made, to celebrate the dearly original ideas of hidden crafts men and women and to find new audiences for their work.
When our young family moved to Tokyo, Amy and I met through mutual friends while our children were in school together. She introduced me to the fascinating world of antique sales held in temples and shrines and, on Sundays, together we roamed Tokyo. Amy is the author of 4, soon to be 5, wonderful books. Each one is imbued with her warmth and her ever-generous enthusiasm as she shares what fascinates her about Japan and Japanese style, the essential and honest truth of objects crafted with love. Her blog achieves the same resonance of spirit.
c Susan Detjens
We had great fun amassing the beginnings of a Japanese guidebook together before the exigencies of my leaving Tokyo for London got in the way. Fast forward a number of years later, another project loomed. Japan Collages. Amy invited me to do a mixed media show celebrating Japanese life in the ‘city-village’ that is Azabu Juban. These schoolgirls were featured on a set of notecards.
c Susan Detjens
The first in the tradition of the hand-made books that I still make today, “Azabu Juban” was my love-letter to this unique area. It was formatted in an 18 page accordion-fold book with yukata fabric covers and hand colored drawings.
The Blue & White blog post that inspired this reminiscence was a delightful compilation of many clever craft projects using the Blue & White annual calendar. Check out the blog: http://blueandwhitetokyo.com/2013/12/05/december-already/. I have a pile of these calendars that mark our lives as expats. Trips, parties, language lessons, visitors, school events…they are all there. It became a challenge to decide how to use the calendars without destroying these memories.
Over the years, the calendars changed shape and even changed the shade of blue. This favorite cover from 1996 is a New Year’s game called Fukuwari, rather like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey…..only this is pin-the-features on Otafuku……
In the end I decided my Blue & White challenge would be to make a blue and white bowl to celebrate my friend’s anniversary. As we did not usually spend July and August in Japan, I sacrificed those mostly empty pages to create the bowl above, using a deep indigo artist’s paper as the background. The technique is much the same as in the container in the last post “Flora for a Young Girl“.
Happy Birthday Blue & White! Congratulations Amy-chan and to everyone who keeps the shop humming. We so miss you, all the doings and all the fun.
Plans for the new year, hopes and dreams too, need noting.
The new Blue & White Mottainai Calendar rolled in from the printer last week and is guaranteed to make you laugh – or smile at the very least. It should provide humor and surprise in 2014. Large squares provide ample space to record plans and promises.
Pages of old calendars have been repurposed with the free and inventive imagination of our friends and fans and creatively turned into hats and lunch boxes and necklaces and notes.
MOTTAINAI means too good to waste. It is a beautiful term from Buddhism that is central to the mindful upbringing of most Japanese, (notably the older ones!) that honors the preciousness of things.
Treasure it. Waste not. Too good to waste. Use it again. Too good to be true. So many nuances, so many layers of meaning.
Generations of grandmothers have taught their grandchildren about the importance of treasuring each thing, eating everything on the plate, and not throwing things away.
Today recycling is a new imperative at Blue & White where we use only old shopping bags from other stores that our friends bring into Blue & White, and make eco bags of rejected materials from the dyers, and notepads from leftover paper from the printers.
For years friends amazed me when they write letters, postcards, and gift cards on old Blue & White calendar pages they had saved. It delighted me to see the rebirth of old pages of the calendar and know Blue & White travels the world in many different forms!
Try it yourself and see what you can make out of our old calendars. There is no end of possibility.
Old calendar pages reconfigured bring life and fun to the the New Year.
We use the last bits of old calendars as labels and price tags in the shop.
Recycling old Blue & White calendars can be playful and fun. Playing is important! Use it again. Make something that’s never been thought of before. And smile while you’re at it.
May 2014 be filled with play and innovation and happy surprises.
To order your own Blue & White calendar, please email or fax us at
FAX 813 3451 051 0512
Payment by credit card: MasterCard, Visa, American Express.
Please send name
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Price: ¥2,100 for calendar
Blue & White relies on two indispensable power sources for our well-being.
The most critical player is the maker: the craftsman, the seamstress, the dyer, the weaver. Together they fill the shop with their handwork and give it honesty and purity and beauty. They are the heart and the pulse of Blue & White and their skills and flourishes bring joy and brightness to all who see them. They bring imagination and flights of fancy, humor and playfulness to the shop. They don’t necessarily do things or make things in the usual way that sometimes becomes mechanical and dry as they go along, making the same thing year after year.
With their basic skills as a starting point, they experiment with new (and sometimes old) materials and making new things in new ways. Experimenting and breaking rules is part of the flavor they bring to Blue & White.
Reiko Inaba did just that with her appliquéd wall hangings of recycled vintage indigo and other snippets that she reworked into Kimono forms.for her appliquéd wall hangings.
Inaba san treasured each bit of cloth down to the end, and was able to breathe new life into especially the most threadbare cloth. I found her at Togo Shrine flea market, now discontinued, in Harajuku maybe 15 or 16 years ago. Her bright indigo appliqués commanded a spotlight of their own for their clarity and sense of color and form. Above all the kimono and other bright things hanging on display, her work had a quiet command of the market scene. Enchanted, I invited her to exhibit her work in Blue & White. She had other suitors as well, but fortunately our shared love of textiles, even the most lowly and forgotten was in sync, and she came to be a generous and passionate and talented member of the Blue & White family.
Every time Inaba san came into Blue & White with a new batch of appliquéd Kimono wall hangings, of kimono or monpei, women’s farm pants, or fish – choosing just the right bit of fabric to convey the kimono shapes, the pantaloons with pockets, the fishiness – we held our breath and oohed over her sleight of hand, her perfect choices, her steadfast stitches, all the time marveling that this was the way she had chosen to combat the painful cancer therapy she was undergoing. She turned cancer treatment into a creative force, and there was a depth to her work that no doubt came from her pain. Sewing, vegetable gardening, smoking fish – all were passions she took up to take her mind from her illness. Her visits were moments of happy unveiling, admiring and laughing at her modesty and endless energy. We will miss them mightily. She lost her battle to cancer, but not before she made hundreds upon hundreds of small tapestry jewels that are now hanging in houses in Japan as well as kitchens and stairways and bathrooms and living rooms around the world. Her work was penultimately Japanese, but at the same time universal.
Also essential to team Blue & White are people who come in looking for new things, new forms of craft, new ways to brighten life and often make it easier. Their delight in what they find at Blue & White is a trigger for us get going and keep coming up with new surprises, new creations to delight them and keep them coming back for more. Some people come in weekly to check out what is new, or even to see if they haven’t missed something. They bring chestnuts from their gardens, persimmons from their trees. Some come less often but are still intent on discovering the new thing made by hand that will be a catalyst in their daily life or a perfect present for a friend or a mother (in law). They are all inspectors of sorts who peruse the shelves and examine what is there. Their reactions and comments are invaluable to us and we take their remarks and suggestions very seriously.
And some come every day like our dear Rei Kamikubo.
Kamikubo san first came in 4 or 5 years ago, a shroud draped in a black cape, with a scarf wrapped round her head, an ominous white mask and a large hat. We could barely see her eyes. There was something frightened about her as she walked tentatively into the shop the first time. Her voice was small and hesitant. As she started to come in more regularly we learned she was enduring treatment for lymphatic cancer and had to keep protected from infection. But she drank in the words of encouragement and support she found at Blue & White and each time she came. Gradually she took off the layers of protection she had worn at first.
She came for tea, she came for hugs, she came to laugh and became a daily source of joking and enjoyment. Hovering around 80, she was frisky and playful and loved clothes. She became our private model and we wound up producing a photo book of her modeling all the things she chose from the shop.
She was a dancer and sometimes proudly came to Blue & White to show us her wonderful sense of style when wearing kimono.
She was a clothes horse and looked at home in whatever she chose to wear.
A day was not complete without a visit and a natter with our beloved Kamikubo san who was also number one customer at Peacock Supermarket next door and would bring in treats for tea after she had done her grocery shopping. She comes no more, having lost her feisty battle to cancer, but her laughter and her stories still ring in the shop.
At the time of OHigan, the autumn equinox when Buddhist ceremonies are held to remember the dead, Higan bana (flowers) bloom everywhere as a reminder. Spikey flames of enlightenment, they bloom in the park now, around the rice fields, and along the river. They remind us of members of Team Blue & White who reached enlightenment before us and encourage us to follow their inspiration. Their spirits keep us company in Blue & White.
LIKE THE CIRCLES THAT YOU FIND IN THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND
Spirals, spots, bubbles, splotches, the song of Blue & White is sung in circles. Designs are often round and spotty and go round in circles – like the world we live in, like the movement of our minds.
Above is a random collage of spiraled pieces of recycled flyers, wound and arranged by Katsutoshi Yoshikae, an 85 year old man in Kagoshima, Kyushu who sees the beauty of recycled flyers that he rescues and rearranges into spirals and circles. A collage that he made caught my eye in the studio of Takashi Tokunaga, artist husband of our incredible Sashiko artist, Tokunaga Miyoko, and he kindly made another for Blue & White.
Though I had never thought of it, his spirals made me realize how much of Blue & White is circles going round and round. Ten large round and heavy glass fishing floats now sit in the window and take my breath away with their simplicity and beauty.
Captivated when I found them, I bought two or three boxes of the glass balls, each one slightly different in tone and size, many wrapped in fascinating structures of knotted twine. They reflect the light of the shop as they must have reflected the undulations of the ocean and the activities above and below.
Here, the glass fishing floats nestle on a bed of round paper punches that are thrown out as trash in our paper processing neighborhood at home. For me they speak of the preciousness of things. Mottainai! Everything can be used and reused. Too good to be thrown away. I rescue them regularly from the trash and put them to new uses in Blue & White.
The floats go well with the Shobu Gakuen washi bags that have hand drawn circles on them. Everything going round and round! It’s summer!
I found a whole cache of them in Nagano near our summer house and I couldn’t believe their purity of form and material. Huge reflecting bubbles frozen in glass! Bubbles have always intrigued me. From the wonderful bubbles that our children blew gleefully in the bath tub when they were little, to the bubbles the man from the sports goods shop on Patio Juban near Blue & White, creates by waving his large plastic wand, enchanting all passing children. Bubbles make us all children again.
Suds seem to be pouring out of the 100 Otafuku in the wooden ofuro. The joy of the bath! This is Blue & White’s newest whimsical tenugui, hand towel.
Materials too echo the circles of Blue and White, though they are not always blue. The green spirals of the child’s jimbei salute the energy of summer with their fresh stencil dyed whirls. The wonderful freehand dyed spots of gauze tenugui are the work of Abe san on Asahi Dyeworks who is always ready to try new ways of dyeing, in this case pouring dyes from dye watering cans through holes he has punched randomly through plastic sheeting, in response to our requests for softer and less rigid stencil lines.
Tea Time at Blue & White is served in circles
Spotted window filled with the free hand dishes and bowls of Yu Kobayashi, self reliant wonder woman who built her own house, and everything in it – furniture, paintings, mailbox, even a swing. She runs marathons, swims every morning in the ocean nearby and travels to Africa each year making friends and painting the life scenes that she meets. The circles and spots and spirals of her ceramics reflect her free life and free mind.
A 12 meter length of spotted gossamer gauze sends its cool message to the neighborhood. It is perfect used as a tablecloth, a stole, or a sundress, and we have even used them as a canopy over the deck on bright sun beaten days in the country.
Our Smiling necklace, made of recycled cuts of old calendars, reflects just how round in circles we go. We will use it for our 2014 Mottainai calendar next year.
But the ultimate spots before my eyes were parked in front of the newly renovated and magnificent Tokyo Station last week as I hurried to the O Edo flea market, held on the first and third Sundays of the month. I had to stop and photograph the 4-wheeled piece of art lest it be gone when I was done.
Here was the last word in circles.Circles are forever. “And the world is like an apple Whirling silently in space Like the circles that you’ll find In the windmills of your mind”