It’s the time of year in Japan when little boys drop their mittens and kind people, shopkeepers pick them up and hang them in a conspicuous place where they can be easily found.

It is also time for OHina Matsuri, Dolls’ Festival when little girls, and older ones too, dream of emperors and empresses, of princes and princesses and all their retinue. In most houses in Japan, where there are daughters, families set out their OHina dolls for display and celebration. In some houses, when a daughter is born, the grandparents or parents rush out to buy a new set of dolls to celebrate. Some girls take their OHina sama dolls with them when they marry. Peach blossoms are arranged to accompany the dolls, special sweets and foods are set out to celebrate the glad occasion, as has been done for over 1000 years! It is a tradition that first started in the Heian Period when dolls were floated down the river to wash away evil spirits.

But as usual, Blue & White does it differently. Below clamshells have been dressed in regal kimono to symbolize the emperor and empress by Reiko Okunushi, Blue & White’s indefatigable seamstress and magician.






A charming cross between OHina sama and fat cheeked Otafuku, Japan’s Goddess of Mirth, these puckered silken ladies emit smiles and a certain carefreeness that we all respond to.





Ohinasama close-up.

Reiko Okuniushi’s whimsical Ohinasama quilt made with vintage material by fingers that dance and hands that persuade old silk to do things it never dreamed of doing.














Oh! the patience! Oh the dexterity that these dolls require at the time of year when my own rough and clumsy fingers catch the threads of silk and make runs in my stockings. The antique kimono silk does just what Okunushi san asks it to do. Her dolls are infused with humor and playfulness that reveal her joy of life to all who see them.


Tradition adapted. Emperors and Empresses of silk and clam shells are arranged on an antique wooden frame/tool, a far cry from the usual graduated steps covered with red felt where they are usually displayed.


An array of imperial dolls sits in solemn splendor, resplendent in their antique kimono robes painstakingly stitched by Reiko Okunushi.




And sometimes Blue!

Okunushi san marries the sharp and simple contrasts of blue and white country indigo cotton kasuri with the sophisticated colors and designs of vivid kimono silk and gives them both new impact – and playfulness.











Three Otafuku Ohina Sama Daruma Muses – each in her own world, thinking her own thoughts.

Don’t Forget Blue and White Okunushi san is equally at home in blue and white as she is in silken kimono fabrics.







Tools of her trade.

Okunushi san’s traveling sewing kit has all she needs to create her magic on the road. She expresses herself with needle and thread in a way that most people cannot do with words. Her secret dreams are in her stitches.













hina21Never one to cut up a textile – kimono, yukata or obi that is in wearable condition, Okunushi san works her magic with discards and otherwise unusable textiles. And she uses them to the very end. Here is a spool of her leftover snippets of yukata material knotted to make wonderful twine for presents and other wrappings.

Wound around a recycled bit of decorated cardboard, this length of cotton string is simple alternates of blue and of white. Something I treasure , along with the other only you! creations of Reiko Okunushi.









Reiko Okunushi, Blue & White seamstress divine, and master quilter. takes pieces of cast away material and gives them new life and playfulness with her quilt designs.

Her love of textiles assures their being given new life to the very last bit. Her fanciful creations exude joy and whimsy that is infectious.

These pin wheels make me spin with their energy.













Her silken kokeshi are soft and almost huggable. Okunushi san is with me always in the colorful pinwheels that spin on her bright kimono quilt, and on the many Otafuku images she has sewn for me. She generously says that she want to be my hands, a welcome offer to one who is hopeless with a needle and scissors.

Reiko Okunishi on OHina sama installation day, February 14. The window filled with her creations makes people young and old, men and children stop and admire.

They may just be self-portraits. 

hina27 The OHina sama follow me everywhere. On a recent trip to Okinawa, they enjoyed basking in the sun on a glorious deck overlooking the East China Sea so much, that they decided to stay there. And bless the house.



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Meiji Shrine in all its majesty and Blue surprise is a destination for all in Japan.

But there are other sights and sounds and textures to be found at this season of preparation, decoration, celebration and purification.







One of the many joys of Blue & White is learning from customers. A kind quilter from Australia put me on to this amazing array of blue lanterns at Meiji Shrine and sent me her photos. Of course, I had to go see for myself.



Imagine my delight when the bamboo dealer moved their Kadomatsu making workplace right across the street from our house. Every morning I watch the workmen come to work early.

And every morning! they told me they closed up to go home. I could see how much effort went into their stately New Year decorations.





 But for the plastic ties and the snazzy pick up truck, this could almost be a 19th c image of the Morishita bamboo dealers when Hiroshige depicted it in his woodblocks of Edo in the 18th century.























Cleaning the local shrine seems to put a smile on Daikoku sama’s stone face.









The New Year in Japan is a time of purification and renewal. Shrines are flocked with people with prayer and hope and dream. Here shrine maidens offer sweet sake to the reverent at Tomioka Hachiman And next door at Fukagawa Narita Fudou Myou there is a different kind of celebrating.





















Bright exuberant shouts of the faces of celebration and colorful invitations to Good Fortune.












Celebrants of all plaids and stripes.

























Fluffy blue sheep painted on white washi clouds by our talented Sayoko Hayasawa, puff their way around the windows of Blue & White.









New Year’s sheep?
or camels?

or anteaters?

These whimsical creatures drew lots of attention to yet another one of Hayasawa san’s eye-catching window displays.







The fresh handmade original Shimenawa New Year’s decorations of rice straw and pine and nandina and even garlic! by our ever creative friend, Takako Nishikawa of Ishikawa Prefecture, were sought after by all who saw them. They were the great pride of Blue & White this year.




















After all the celebrating and purifying and decorating came The Big Blue & White Clean!

Not at all the usual way of welcoming the New Year, but our two hardworking children spent the first four tireless days of the New Year cleaning and scouring and purging the detritus of 40 years of collecting. Now the shop seems twice as big and 10 times as tidy—A cause for great celebration!




cl21All the flag waving above is a tribute to the Emperor on his 81st birthday on the 23rd of December. 

cl22Our sheep in the window joins Emperor Akihito in his dedication to PEACE with the words from the song “Let there be Peace on earth and let it begin with me”.

cl23Blue & White Flea Market January 12—29 featuring many of the treasures culled from 40 years of collecting— and saving!

Come have a look.


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Getting Genki Calendar 2015 



Returning home to Japan after a long journey abroad, I felt the power of the touchstones of GENKI that help give energy and peace of mind and vitality to most Japanese people.  GENKI is all these, and it is a vital force in the Japanese sense of well-being.  GENKI is a state of being healthy, energetic, vibrant.

Symbols of GENKI, while origins and meanings are lost in the tides of time, are everywhere and even if they are little noticed, somehow they do communicate Energy and Good Fortune.  The Tori no Ichi Festival of November features bamboo rakes with symbols of good fortune. The gigantic one hung high from the rafters of Ueno Station greets visitors coming and going.  Just making such a huge decoration, and hanging it high over peoples’ heads as they arrived and departed from the station left them with a jolt of GENKI and many stopped to take photos of the gigantic monument to GENKI and Good Fortune.

Matsuri or Festivals abound in the autumn and their shows of super energy reassure people that traditions prevail and give GENKI in full measure.



I feel a surge of GENKI in other places as well.  The sight of long bolts of flapping white cotton cloth drying in the autumn sun against a brilliant blue sky mottled with shibori clouds make me rejoice in the work I do.



In the yard below, long stretches of stencil dyed kasuri patterned yukata are strung from one side of the yard to the other at Asahi Senko Dyeworks in Takenozuka in eastern Tokyo. The GENKI of blue and white! The power of the countless pairs of hands that worked together to put pattern to yukata!



Nor can we forget the GENKI that comes from the bath – In this case a wooden tub. A heavenly host of energy splashing Otafuku – 100 at least! – are surely laughing and giggling as they soak. Laughter too is an indispensible source of GENKI!  Close up of a Blue & White original tenugui.



The 2015 Calendar is all about GENKI. Celebrating 13 of the many forms it takes. The cover is a 1932 version of crowds celebrating the New Year at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. GENKI is contagious and eternal.



Celebration of the coming of Prussian blue to Japan depicted on a tenugui by Todaya Shoten.  A festival that captur d the excitement of a new blue synthetic dye to replace the time-consuming and unpredictable indigo.



On the 3rd day of February, Setsubun is celebrated to mark the end of winter and beginning of spring . Beans are thrown outside to dispel the demons of evil and beans are thrown inside the house to welcome Otafuku, Blue & White’s smiling Goddess of happiness, good nature and jollity. Here her face appears on shell fragments brooches painted by Reiko & Seiichi Hagiya.



Stones are eternal energy captured . Stacked one on top of the other, they are prayers in the Shinto religion. Here painted stones have been stacked and put together with a similar tenugui of circular forms. Nature is a constant inspiration in Japanese design.



Mt. Asama is an active Genki volcano in Nagano. It is always crowned with a halo of smoke spewing from its crater at the top and climbers climb at their risk. 3 toppings of snow at its summit preclude the start of the winter of snow.



A whirling spiral of energy was created by one of the artists of Ai Kobo, an indigo dyeing workshop for Special Abilities artists. Wax resist on an indigo ground gives a power and Genki to both the cloth and the artist.


2015 June

Different forms and shapes and patterns are brought together by the combustion of blue and white, the cosmic color combination echoed in skies and clouds, seas and waves. Rivers and splash. Blue & White is the eternal color combination powerfully juxtaposed here in a powerful composition of Genki . Kindness of the collaboration of Gen’emon kiln of Arita in Kyushu with Sogo-Isetan partnership and NENDO. Ume-play collection by I n meister.



The ocean is the ultimate source of GENKI and what could be more empowering than Genki Muffins served in a beautiful kitchen by the East China Sea in Okinawa?



Summer matsuri under the swelter of the summer sun have an energy all their own. Courage and dash and bravado / machismo all are part of the Genki of the Mizukake Matsuri of Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Monzen Nakacho, in Eastern Tokyo. Throngs of people splash water on the valiant young men who shoulder heavy portable shrines and shout encouragement as they parade through thestreets and across the bridges.



Shun is the idea of vegetables pulled and picked fresh from the field and eaten in their moment of glory, bestowing their true flavor and energy. The vegetables that ripen in September have been researched and drawn on our 4 season tenugui calendar that celebrates the Genki of each month on cloth.



Swirls of energy captured on a spiraling Tenugui echo the power of a waterfall spilling down to a racing river in Karuizawa where our black dogs love to swim and retrieve sticks.



Ever elegant Tokyo Tower stands watch over the city, guiding the lost, and giving reassurance with its vibrant vermillion thrust of energy into an indigo sky studded with white shibori clouds.



Basho Inari Jinja in Tokyo’s Tokiwa is a sanctuary for neighbors and haiku lovers as well.  The bell pull made of cut ends of tenugui was braided commissioned and contributed by Blue & White.





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To be crazy is far easier for some. Those whose hands are too experienced and too nimble are hard put to feel free and go wild and let themselves go. For many entrants to our recent Crazy Sashiko Contest that was the case. In all modesty, some admitted that their sewing skills were too advanced to try to do something “crazy”. It had to be perfect or they didn’t want to try.

Some reckless souls deigned to try their hand.


Akiko Ike of Niigata Ginka Gallery in Niigata City, is a highly experienced seamstress. Her fingers very agile, but she prefers the rough and random offshoot of sashiko that she calls Chiku-Chiku, the onomatopoeic word for the sound of a needle passing through cloth. By using pieces of old cloth to sew her Chiku Chiku, she applies squares or circles of old cloth to cover up holes while embellishing the decoration. She comes to Blue & White 2 or 3 times a year and gives classes on this meditative and therapeutic stitchery that brings rescued cloth back to life again.  Her Chiku Chiku koinobori carp banner was the heads on number one choice of all the visitors to Blue & White who voted for three top entries.

Her thick red stitches bring the worn banner back to life and give it volume and thickness and splash. The relentless stitches that Ike san sews are a monument to her dedication to Chiku Chiku, a magic revitalizer to both cloth and seamstress. She has had exhibits all over Japan, and last year in Nimes, France.

Of course Akiko Ike was the unanimous winner of the contest was Akiko Ike with her Chiku Chiku Koinobori sewn with straight stitches of thick red thread on an old Boys’ Day Banner.


Hayasawa Sayoko, the styley and irrepressible manager of Blue & White is handy with a needle and spends a goodly amount of her time in the shop sewing special bags for Otafuku masks and chop stick covers for the shop and also makes her own skirts out of old shibori and kimono and adapts clothes that make her a stunning fashion plate as she welcomes all who visit Blue & White. Her first entry into a Zokin (dust rag) contest that we held perhaps 8 or 9 years ago, was a never-to-be-forgotten sashiko portrait of her and her dog Tuan and what they think about.


This year she was more restrained, and though beautiful rather than crazy, she won second prize with her BLUE EARTH. All who visited Blue & White were asked to judge their number 1, 2 and 3 favorites.


Other entries were also notable and worth showing here. Hopefully they will encourage others to try their hand at the Crazy Sashiko contest Blue & White will hold the contest at the end of each summer.

Kumi Sasaki is both highly skilled with her hands, and her head is filled with flights of imagination that dexterity sometimes brings. She deservedly won third prize in the completion. Her entry is a needlework sculpture of the form of her own hand cut out of cloth and stitched with random and skillful stitch work forms and colors. A joy to behold, it makes you laugh and gaze in wonder. And it is stuffed with sweet smelling mint leaves and serves as a potpourri.


Reiko Okunushi, whose magic fingers have been creating superb Otafuku quilts, quilted bags, toys and baby blankets for Blue & White for over 30 years, also has a touch of crazy in her. Or, if not crazy, playful and whimsical are qualities that define all her work. Joy and a love of sewing shine out from every unique piece she creates. Her work is distinctive and filled with a perfect combination of deftness of hand and fullness of heart.




Not only cat lovers were taken with these naïf cat portraits that take sashiko beyond the pure graphic and into pictorial realm.

cs9Stitchery madness!

The helter skelter stitchery on this apron is the work of NoNo Ichi san who hides her considerable sewing ability behind these rough rides of thread on cloth, creating marvels that harken back to the antique indigo BORO that are so popular today.


Chiku Chiku Junior by Tomoko Ike, Akiko san’s talented and imaginative daughter and manager of their iconic gallery Niigata Ginka in Niigata.

cs11Sashiko Wearables.

These pants will surely stand out in any fashion parade while being durable enough to wash floors in when you get home.


Colorful T shirt by Akiko Morimoto shows just some of her energy and spontaneity. She even left the needle and thread in the T shirt for further embellishment.


Uzumaki bag by our own NoNo Ichi San who makes miraculous bags, each one different, each one jaw-dropping. Wild and wonderful seem to come naturally to her.


Lowly and loveable Mermaid! by Hana, 6 year old grand daughter of our dedicated and forever young Megumi Kajikawa.

sc15Sashiko Faces

Wandering sashiko hat by Asako Sangai, our own irreplaceable artist and Blue & White graphics designer of original cards, calendars, catalogues and announcements.

sc16The Last Stitch Sueko

Meandering sashiko, my own unsteady sashiko on left over pieces of wool muslin collected by Sueko Nakazawa, my husband’s beloved Aunt who taught me about the marvels of Japan and the importance of preserving its textiles and culture. She and her elder sister Toshiko, my husband’s irresistible Mother, taught me Mottainai and the spirit of Japan. They live on in their stitches and in their carefully collected textiles.


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Fluffy clouds of August puff out their chests in a brilliant blue summer sky.
Constantly changing sculptures of form and volume, they are a sky show that mustn’t be missed.



Cloud w txt overlay3 400


We planned an early lunch yesterday at Shabusen at Ginza’s major 4 chome intersection in order to get our visiting son to his afternoon flight on time. By luck we found a stage show being set up as we saw a nostalgic Japan returning to its origins with food carts and men walking in straw hats and yukata, tents with beer and soft drinks were being set up where you could drink up and cool down, or simply sit in the shade and enjoy the scene.



The Art of Ice

In times before air conditioning and electric fans, ice was a savior and still is in Ginza’s entertainment area where ice trucks come with their saws and saw big chunks of ice for their customer bars or the ice artistes who form huge objets of ice – fish, rabits, dragons and even encase flowers within the giant transparent blocks of cold.



















Organizers of the big
Ginza yukata celebration event.







IKI is Edo chic – the dashing style of people of the Edo period who flaunted their flair in unexpected clothing combinations and accents and splashes of surprise. Subtle textures and materials – this one a gossamer hemp fiber for his yukata instead of the usual cotton – are only seen by a few who appreciate the intricacies and complexities of Japanese textiles and craftsmanship.
This man seemed pleased when I noticed.







IKI Guide Lines
Obi slung low
No apparent restrictions on length.

Air of total insouciance
See the see through!








A Chance to BE Daring

Wearing Yukata is an opportunity to express your other self – a bright flamboyant and why not self that more conservative western clothes do not encourage. Summer is the time to let go and bloom. Yukata may just be a vehicle for the inner self to stand out and say something.
It is certainly a blue and white light for stepping out and enjoying life!




















Natural Yukata

Starting young, feeling proud, even little boys love to dress up and join the fun of a summer celebration.
Something special for all ages.
Japanese seem to step into their own character when they wear Yukata.








 A Yukata Frame of Mind

There is something bright and breezey about Yukata and their patterns and spontaneous color combinations. These days colors are flamboyant and all over the spectrum. Young girls seem to prefer the most colorful and gaudy patterns. Needless to say, we search out the classic blue and white combinations and this Mother and son confirm its staying power. The blue is a coolant and together with white they are crisp and fresh even on the hottest of days.
The ancients knew what they were doing when they chose blue and white as the natural order of things. It is natural. It is grounded and its simple understated dignity is supremely suited to the quiet Japanese state of mind. Blue and white also gives patterns a chance to make their own statement without letting colors take over the show and disturb the honesty and clarity of the design.



Yukata Variations

Just off Ginza a family is gearing up and taking turns taking photos of eachother. Each one has his own style. Yukata chic in all its various forms. They were all having a grand time getting ready to make their full family debut on the Ginza stage just coming together on Ginza 4 chome, one block away.





Always Look Back!

With Yukata, and Kimono as well of course, it is always best to have a look behind. Not only are there slim and narrow shoulders, but the bottoms are also good! and the way the obis are fastened there is always worth studying.
There are innumerable ways of tying an obi and often the knots and bows and twists that you find are surprising and fun and original.

You find IKI where you are least expecting it.





















Ginza is more Ginza when it is wearing Yukata.
Japan is more Japan when it wears Kimono.
All are more beautiful when they are Blue and White.







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crazy sashiko

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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.












BLUE   青


Mosquito netting fashion!   蚊帳のお洋服!




Style from behind.   後ろ姿。


Up front style.   そのまんまのスタイル。


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.




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Oki circ


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.




Oki circ or sm


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).




Oki3Laughter for breakfast.  笑う朝食。

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.




Oki5And 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 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)

Oki6Even more delicious to eat!  まだまだ美味しい食べ物が!

Oki7HITSUKI (Sun / Moon – great name for circles!) Glassworks in Yomitan makes incandescent circles. Their light fixtures breathe warmth into a room. Their bud vases help flowers stand up and be noticed.





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Indigo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.


Oki10INDIGO Antique shop in Yomitan.

Oki11 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.


Oki13Bulbous rice pot for cooking perfect rice directly on the fire.



Oki14Delicious circles at KOme Matsukura in Urasoe, Okinawa, perfect rice and vegetables sublime from Miyagi Prefecture, in an artistic and original setting.

米や 松倉 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。


Oki15While 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.




Oki17The 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.


Oki20Shinman Yamada draws inspiration from his own wild garden around him when making pots and painting his natural designs in blue and white.



Oki21 The ultimate sphere: a luminous sunrise during Okinawa’s rainy season.



Oki22Back at Blue & White, Okinawan circles and works by other potters draw the attention of passersby. Here the huge splotchy platter of Hiroshi Matsuda is fresh and spontaneous.

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。

Oki23And the perfect circle of thick random sashiko stitches on indigcloth by Kazuko Yoshiura is the pride of Blue & White.

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。



Oki circ

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AND SOMETHING RED . . . 赤いもの...

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.
私が常々言っている青と白が日本の全ての色ではありません。 先日訪れた京都と滋賀の旅は、思い返せば心躍る赤色に溢れかえっていました。

red1Scroll of Daruma overlooking partakers of Shojin Ryori, vegetarian food, at Tenryuj Temple in Kyoto.

red2Bib on archaic carved wooden saint a Chomei ji Temple in Ohmi Hachiman at the top of 808 ancient steep stone steps.


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.
川崎啓氏のギャラリー、ギャラリー啓 にて5月17日−21日まで開催されていた展示会は、全ての作品が紅花染めの赤色で埋め尽くされた、素晴らしく魅力的な展示会でした。

red3Sometimes dancing. Benibana/safflower boy’s kimono, hemp.

red4Sometimes translucent. Safflower hemp kimono for a girl.
時に光が透き通り(紅花染めの女の子の着物(麻)) 。

red5Sometimes with a shibori design of plums.

red6Sometimes in rolls with other shades of red.
様々な赤色の巻物 。

red7Sometimes quietly resplendent on its own.




red12Safflowers, 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.
その展示会において、全ての着物を赤に染めた原料である紅花です。 普段ギャラリー啓では藍染めの織物、強靭で抵抗性が強い魅力的な靭皮、日本の侘寂に象徴されるようなコレクションが並んでいます。ですので今回彼らが開催した、真っ赤な展示会には幾度となく驚かされました。


red13Shades of red at the main hall of Chomei-ji Temple.

red14Persimmon tannin dyed goods in many shades, many shapes, modeled by the maker, and salesman.

red15Bell tower at Chomeiji Temple in Ohmi Hachiman.

red16Intriguing pot by Kawai Kanjiro at his beautifully preserved house in Kyoto.

red17Torii donated by believers at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.



red19Red into forever.

red20An eternity of red.

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。


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mend1In 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.



これは私の大好きな沖縄の陶芸家大嶺實清氏の作品であるコーヒーや飲み物を入れてサーブする時のポットの蓋です。地震時に、竹筒が上におち蓋が割れてしまい、割れた破片、かけらをみて心が張り裂けました。不幸中の幸い、ポットの部分は奇跡的に無事でした。ですが大事な物を失った事へのショックが大きかったのも事実です。そこで“私のお直し”先の一つである東京青山にある「古民芸もりた」に行き、このかけらを元通りにしてもらいました。 ちょっと見た目や表情が変わっても、こうしてお直し後の新しく生まれ変わった、宝物との時間が始まることとなります。

mend2 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.


mend3 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。



mend4 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。



mend5 Just as I found it at the flea market years ago. Old washi ledger papers pages used to mend glass sembei jars? Why not!


mend6 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.


mend7   mend8 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.


mend9 Running rabbits, 19th century Imari plate was in pieces when I bought it. Repairs just add character and history.


mend10 Tender mends to the plates of Omine Jissei above and an unknown potter of the Edo era, 18th century perhaps, make the dishes more distinctive and give a feeling of care.


mend11 A beloved soy sauce container by Fumiko Kikuchi, now 93, and still kneading bits of her soul into each pot she creates.


mend12 Imagine! Repairing with wood! Honed and fluted to match the contours of the missing piece.


mend13 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. 


mend16 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.


mend17   mend18 Bad dog! A dining room chair falls victim to a young puppy.


mend19 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.


mend20 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.


mend21 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.  


mend22 But we can try . . . . .


mend23 Mid 20th century? child’s rice bowl, mended with a smile.



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