BLUES KEEP COMING TO ME
HEART FILLED BLUES, HAND MADE BLUES
OUT OF THE BLUE BLUES
The New Blue & White seems to be a magnet for new blues.
And that is what we feature in Blue & White to show to the world and to all who visit.
The parade of blues is unending and I can NEVER have enough. Nor do I ever cease to be amazed by the NEW BLUES !
Look at what just moved in to the small Palette Gallery next door to Blue& White! The luminous one stroke! Blue paintings of Mina Kazuki, a young artist similarly obsessed with blue. Her group show ended on June 19.
I am asking her to paint a special One Stroke Blue for Blue & White
Blues to wear always draw my eye, but this kimono worn by Mayumi Barakan after her stunning dance performance was Divine.
At last I have seen the PERFECT kimono! Mayumi told me she had had it for 20 years or so, but it was still fresh and lustrous. Silk kasuri in all its glory.
Even from the back it was mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop staring! Or taking photos.
The blue and white washi, Japanese paper necklaces of Kyoko Fujimura bring joy and playfulness to all who try them. This amusing woman who lives in Azabu Juban performed a jig of joy for us inspired by her new necklace. She bought two.
This customer from Seattle was happy to take the washi earrings home with her.
Necklace made from deep indigo washi by Kyoko Fujimura
Blue plates and rag weave rug by artisans of Tamagawa Special Abilities craftsmen sell out as soon as they come in.
When our new visitor, Monica met the artisan who made the rag weave tapestry, she immediately wrapped it around her to wear and take home. Both were thrilled !
Gouged blue plate by Tamagawa Workshop
Even my dearest friend has caught the blue and white bug – and mastered it ! Voila!
Indigo dyeing at Ai Kobo, now named Factory Ai.
Traditional earthenware indigo pots filled with indigo grown and processed in Shikoku.
When I made a sudden visit to Ai Kobo, I found things being dyed, hanging out to dry, and ready for me to take back to Blue & White.
I was overwhelmed by their industry.
Members of Ai Kobo all have specialties.
This woman’s specialty is graduated indigo. A deep clear indigo disappears into white. Not an easy technique!
Mastering one technique is a key to the success of Ai Kobo / Factory Ai. It nurtures pride in one’s own work. This man does pole dyeing shibori.
New best friends. We came across them playing baseball after sumo practice!
A young sumo wrestler
Black dog Basho
True Blue !
JUMP FOR JOY !
Rocket scientists and bamboo dealers, potters and poets have come to see the new Blue & White and have declared it a great success.
WHEW ! We have been working hard on getting the move upstairs right so that the new shop would carry the Blue & White spirit, and yet go forward with new energy and a fresh young persona.
Blue & White has reinvented itself in a bright new space, open-to-the-world where people are welcome to come and see our choice of the best of Japan in rotation.
We are jumping for joy!
Our smiling ceramic Otafuku door handle still welcomes all to Blue & White.
Robbie Belgrade and Bruce Huebner provided music that set the perfect tone of celebration. Their fabulous music was unexpectedly interrupted by the drumbeat and wacky music of 3 Chindonya, a musical troupe of riotous musicians dressed in comical Japanese costume, beating drums and symbols, and playing clarinets, who have an age-old tradition of going around neighborhoods to announce the opening of a new shop. They were a marvelous surprise from secret admirers in New York!
Food was homemade and delicious. Generous friends came and brought their home cooked specialties.
The hit of the day were cookies and cupcakes from twin chefs, Zoe and Jemima who put their artistry into their baked goods.
Their lacey blue filigree cookies went so fast that they were gone before I could take a photo . Fortunately one of our guests took one for me.
The New Blue & White is filled with vitality, ideas and a palpable atmosphere of welcome and communication.
Joy Boy and Genki Girl are giant welcomes of fabric patches on both sides: of cut cardboard, old indigo on one side, contemporary strips of tenugui and yukata patches on the other. They stand in the large double display window inviting people to come in and see how we have fused old Japan and new, and forged them together into a new configuration for all to enjoy.
Each corner is a small vignette of like objects grouped together:
paper goods, things for sewing, ceramics and table ware.
An indigo corner.
Books and oddities. All manner of ideas for present giving.
These owly ladies made by Shobu Gakuen seem like a modern day Otafuku, making people laugh.
Bags, paper, ceramics and tableware
And of course our signature Tenugui and Yukata
Indigo koi nobori fly in the windows
An escalator delivers people right to our door, and outside there is a safe space at our entrance at the top of the escalator for children to test drive their indigo koi nobori made by the artisans of Factory Ai (indigo), a special abilities workshop.
It is very clear.
Blue & White has created a space where koi nobori and sashiko and handmade things of old Japan and new can play together happily in their new windows on the world for all to enjoy.
In January of 2017, Blue &White moved from its original site of 41 years in Azabu Juban. The last 3 months have given us a chance to regroup and refresh and observe the world around us more closely
and see how much is going on in the world outside – flying kites, trimming trees, smokey moons
Our world spins in blues and whites:
Tenugui roosters drying at Asahi Dye Works
Woman modelling kimono at O Edo Antique Market, first and third Sundays
Exhibit of Tenugui and Yukata creations by Todaya Shoten, attests to future possibilities for tenugui.
And February on the thick handmade washi calendar of Shobu Gakuen in Kagoshima
We have not been idle !
We have been working hard getting ready for the new shop. Thinking of new ways to dress, new fashions to present!
We have had time to take in Blue & White street scenes
Elegant spotted shades of indigo and white kasuri on a masterful but seemingly carefree Kurume kasuri kimono. (She agreed to being photographed, but asked me not to include her face.)
More blue and white spots at a neighborhood festival bringing a Tai, red snapper of congratulations to offer to the tiny shrine with blazing red and white banners lining the path to the Matsuri
S U R P R I S E !
Not ready to show photos of the shop – everything’s covered and barred in now, but the New Blue & White will open soon – white, bright and filled with new creations in indigo, tenugui and ceramics..
Opening April 29th! Look for the Checkerboard Banners. They will show the way to the fresh and bright new shop bursting with energy, ideas and Indigo. Old things, too.
BLUE & WHITE
A NEW LANDMARK IN AZABU JUBAN !
THE NEW DESTINATION
FOR THE BEST OF JAPAN IN BLUE & WHITE TEXTILES AND CERAMICS
BLUE & WHITE has suddenly and mysteriously vanished.
In one quick day, 41 years of colorful history disappeared.
Totally demolished and leveled and fenced in. What a Shock!
We hope some of you have worried where we have gone, and wondered what has happened to us.
Into hibernation might be the best answer.
What was once a cozy shop filled with charm and quirkiness is now a memory, or a photograph.
The front of the shop was studded with ancient imari shards collected from the beaches of Japan. The walls were hung with old textiles and quits.
Even the bathroom had pizazz!
The old shop, created in the open space beside a supermarket, was deemed illegal and demolished to make way for the new market, super power AEON.
Blue & White was leveled and given space upstairs on the other side of the building.
We moved out of our 41 plus year premises on January 10, six weeks ago, and packed ourselves up into hundreds of boxes to sort and cull and edit for the New Edition of Blue & White – Fresh and Young and Sleek – to Debut in April of this year. Our new space on the second floor of Aeon Market in a bright window filled corner is sure to become a new landmark in Tokyo for those looking for Indigo, sashiko, handmade ceramics, tenugui, clothing, bags and presents in all shades of blue and white.
The pick of Japan.
All made by hand. All made with heart.
We will be even more exciting than before and showcase the best that Japan has to offer in blue and white.
We are excited about the change in Blue & White. We will be bright and beautiful and look out over the charming neighborhood of Azabu Juban. A new perspective/ vantage point.
We will be new and different in many ways, but still, as always, bring to the world the best and most extraordinary handmade crafts of Japan.
We take this change as a chance for us to remake ourselves into a young, dynamic and slightly zany, fun-loving place where people will be welcome to come and chat and enjoy themselves. Do come and have a good time, while having a look at what we have chosen. We offer you the cream of blue and white creations in Japan. Blue & White presents old ideas in new ways.
Look for the Blue & White checkerboard banners. They will show the way to the newest hot spot in town.
The New Blue & White in Azabu Juban –
The last dance in the old Blue & White
Indigo stoles by Ai Kobo Special
Abilities Workshop in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward.
By word of window
We let the neighborhood know,
it was time for a change . . .
After the party was over and we had moved out, we realized what a beautiful space it was for 41 years, in the very heart of one of Tokyo’s most lively and charming old times/new times neighborhoods where we could not just watch the world go by, but be a vital part of the neighborhood.
Down to the bathroom floors, the eternal blue and white combination was everywhere!
The movers wore blue & white And they RAN to deliver their blue and white boxes from storage.
Construction began yesterday. Wrap around windows will make Blue & White a new look out point on Azabu Juban, the charming old fashioned neighborhood where we have been for 42 years now.
Blue & White dreaming . . . of all we can do with all those windows on the world, windows on Azabu Juban windows on the parking lot!
One artist’s rendering of what we will look like. But this is not half of it!
Our new space on the second floor of Aeon Market in a bright window filled corner will become a new landmark in Tokyo for those looking for Indigo, sashiko, handmade ceramics, tenugui, clothing, bags and presents in all shades of blue and white.
However new we become,
we will always embrace the old, the broken, the imperfect.
Surprising you with old things in new ways and new things you’ve never seen before.
Antique glass Go pieces, a Japanese game of chess.
Blue & White
forever presenting new ways of seeing Japan
and appreciating, no, loving it!
The good times will roll again soon.
Look for us on the 2nd floor right side of Aeon Supermarket.
We’ll be there as soon as we can.
Soft opening at the beginning of April.
Enter through the market, upstairs through the side door.
Formal opening: 29th of April when the escalator entrance to Blue & White is completed and you can enter through our front door.
Surprising you with old things in new ways and new things you’ve never seen before.
Old friends will be there.
Yoshida Ichiro, a wild and wonderful textile artist from Shikoku.
Below: Shobu Gakuen, an inspired and inspiring Art Center for People with Special Abilities in Kagoshima, Kyushu.
We will all be waiting for you to come and bless our new home
and join us making merry!
Have you ever thought about how important the lowly coaster can be? Not only is it the go-between between table and glass or cup, but the humble coaster is also micro universe, nano cosmos unto itself.
And coasters of all kinds came flying into Blue & White to decorate our architectural Christmas tree of leftover bamboo from the magnificent green bamboo yard in our neighborhood. I often do my shopping there ! The tree was constructed by 2 young and resourceful architect friends, Shuetsu Udono and Kumiko Nishihara out of cut up pieces of bamboo leftovers and rice straw. Buckminster Fuller would have been astounded. Envious even. On its own, the tree was a beauty, but the gradual addition of colorful and inventive coasters made by all our friends and makers and students created a wonderful panoply of expressions of thread on cloth.
The arrival of thirty intense and colorful coasters of Tamagawa Sagyosho, a special abilities craft training center in Tokyo’s Setagaya was a windfall of coaster energy. Our display of their mini masterpieces in the window of the Hotel Okura was widely admired, though difficult to photograph in all its splendor. The touching spirit of a handmade Christmas from the heart.
Our display of their mini masterpieces in the Hotel Okra window was widely admired, though difficult to photograph in all its splendor. The touching spirit of a handmade Christmas from the heart.
Much to my delight our very first coaster entry was Otafuku, made by Susanna Wellenberg of Munich out of the leftover cut ends of rolls of tenugui material. Such radiating joy and resourcefulness!
Susanna, an incredibly gifted seamstress, designer, origami folder, computer whiz, linguist, humanitarian friend from Germany, was first with scraps she picked up at Blue & White. She comes to Japan each fall and quietly parades her spectacular sashiko clothing in all shades of indigo, but in these playful creations, she shows what can be done with scraps and a boundless imagination.
The Rising Sun in leftover tenugui scraps.
A blue and white universe of threads by Susanna Wellenberg.
Front or back, both have a strong message. Chaos or order. Freedom or discipline.
At the same time as the arrival of our Christmas coasters, Blue & White celebrated its 41st birthday in delicious style with contributions from family and friends, starring the wonderful creations of Takako Nishikawa who flew in from Ishikawa Prefecture just for the occasion!
Coaster close ups
Mosaics on cloth
Our handsome bamboo tree changed with the times. From coasters for Chrismas, and our 41st birthday celebration, to displays of the elegant Shime Kazari New Year’s decorations by our talented clothing designer, (and chef) Takako Nishikawa (who also cooked and brought most of the delicious and beautiful birthday dishes from Ishikawa Prefecture!) and finally to this simple New Year’s display with nandina and pine. Sadly our last window display in the old Blue & White. Kazuko Yoshiura’s magnificent Sashiko Universe stitched on indigo hangs in the background.
Today, unbelievably, will be the last day of The Old Blue & White after 41 years of joys, discoveries, creations, friendships, to say nothing of surprises. You can see it is time for a face lift. And we will have more than just that!
The NEW BLUE & WHITE will open soon – date yet to be decided – in a bright new space on the 2nd floor of the next door market, Aeon. We will keep you posted when it will happen. Young and exciting and bringing you new blue & white discoveries, Blue & White will undergo not just a Face Lift, but a total Rejuvenation!
You will be dazzled!
Good things are coming in 2017! A Happy New Year to you all!
A CALENDAR AND A FACELIFT
Some traditions go on without end. Our Blue & White calendar is one. We have been creating fresh and original designs every year for nearly 40 years and are already thinking of next year’s theme. The new 2017 calendar is all about patterns. Patterns of Textiles old and new, and the continuum of the Japan textile lexicon/ tradition that Blue & White hopes to perpetuate.
2017 CALENDAR PATTERNS
Blue & White now has a (very simple) e-commerce site where you can order the 2017 Blue & White calendars securely. Please go to https://baw.theshop.jp while supplies last!
Please note this site is only able to accept Japan issued credit cards for the time being. If you would like to pay with a non Japanese credit card, please Please click on CONTACT on the top of the site, and enter your name, email address and phone number.
Please enter “Request Calendar Order” in the TITLE field, and provide the following information in the YOUR PROBLEM/ FEEDBACK field.
Number of Calendars Requested
[Shipping Details] – where to ship
Address & Postal Code
[Billing Details of Credit Card] – if different from Shipping Details
Address & Postal Code
Invoice [include/do not include]
We will process your payment through PayPal and contact you at the email address provided.
Blue & Whiteの2007年カレンダーをご希望のお客様、カレンダー用の簡単なウェブショップを開設いたしました。ご購入はこちらをご覧ください。https://baw.theshop.jp
現時点では日本国内発行のクレジットカードのみ対応しておりますのでご了承ください。海外発行のカードをお持ちのお客様はお手数ですがページの上部にあります CONTACT をクリックし、次のページでお名前、メールアドレス、お電話番号を各欄に、また、件名欄に「カレンダー購入希望」と入力いただき、お問い合わせ内容の欄に以下の情報をご記入ください。
Some traditions are subject to change. And the change at Blue & White will be a big one. After 41 years, we are being forced to move due to our new next door neighbors, Aeon Supermarket which is remodeling our old building to comply with earthquake restrictions. Blue & White, though unscathed by the huge earthquake of 2012, apparently does not live up to standards and so must be torn down – can you believe it!?!? We can’t!
In order to remain the same, you must change, our landlord told us . . . so after the initial, and ongoing heart break, we are determined to make the CHANGE a CHANCE to clean up and clear out and upgrade and streamline and make a new statement of good taste in craftsmanship and the handmade excellence of Japan.
As a place of warm welcome and lively center of human exchange, Blue & White will NEVER change! We don’t know where we will move to. Somewhere closeby and in Azabu Juban, of course. But it will be soon.
The new Aeon opens on December 9th, ironically Blue & White’s 41st birthday. We will keep you posted by Blog and directly as well. We will make CHANGE a very exciting CHANCE for Blue & White to grow, though the space may be smaller ! – to redefine ourselves, and to distill the best of 41 years of a shop which is very precious to us all into a stimulating new space.
Look for the new Blue & White in January 2017.
Write it down in your calendar!
Birthdays and trips to Okinawa need to be planned carefully. In order to start the day perfectly, you must avoid arriving on Thursdays or Sunday because that is when OTonariya in Yomitan, not far from the pottery kilns, is closed. They sell out early, so be sure you get there early enough in order to start the day with a slice of their freshly baked rosemary bread. A blueberry bagel, maybe? Some crunchy oatmeal, whole wheat and nut bread . . .
Some birthdays call for less fanfare, more quiet and even unplanned observance with family and friends, in beautiful spaces and favorite places. This year was just that. A spontaneous trip to Okinawa to stay with my dear friend and bask in the glory of her heavenly house was the perfect setting.
An ancient banyan tree inherited from an older friend stands guard at the gate and protects the house and all who enter.
Old roof tiles saved by master plasterer and roofer KumamotoTsutomu san crown the stunning architecture and the final touch was a guardian Shiza, or lion dog made of broken pieces of tile and plaster, strategically placed to repel evil spirits.
The house is without equal, in my albeit limited experience, in setting, and architecture, craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail – all the best of Okinawa, an enchanted, if abused southern island of Japan.
The garden is a sumptuous mix of lush tropical vegetation deftly marked with old steps of old coral and stone and ancient coral rocks.
To walk outside in the garden to the beach is to be wrapped in voluptuous green as the breath stopping view of the sea below unfolds on your way down to a perfect white beach.
Looking back from your swim, the magnificent view of the meeting of green jungle vegetation on steep coral cliffs, and white sand beach with the gentle blue sea begs description.
The beach itself is studded with otherworldly stands of tall pocked coral that seem like abstract sculptures on the white sand. And a swim in the azure ocean is a soft embrace of the clear water, with a magnificent view of the place where green jungle vegetation meets soft white sand beach and blue green sea.
The birthday lunch was arranged at Fu-An, one of my favorite restaurants in the world, in an old Okinawan minka with a seemingly unkempt, but in fact artfully arranged aesthetic that captivates me each time I visit. Kinjo Dan is the young owner and chef of Fu An who has been collecting the ceramics of his favorite potter and mine, Omine Jissei, and serves his original cuisine of mostly Okinawan vegetables on Omine san’s works. We were 5 and Dan san kept serving an endless procession of glorious new cuisine on an amazing array of platters and dishes that were different for each guest.
There was even a sign to declare the occasion. So typically thoughtful of Dan san.
The grand finale of a magnificent lunch was the gift of a hauntingly beautiful blue black tea cup from Omine Jissei. Its deeply penetrating luster had a mystery about it, and its sensuous shape was one I will never let go of. Omine san had given me a box of Okinawan vegetables at the beginning of our lunch, so I never dreamed of receiving such a treasure as this…
And then to top it off, I returned to small blue and white wonders in Tokyo!
Original first ever cupcakes made by son Toshi who had never tried his hand at any baking other than chocolate chip cookies. He had hurried home from an important business meeting to make these delicacies for our dinner. They were not only works of art, but also utterly delicious, and made from scratch from an ancient family cookbook. How sweet is that!
And later still, a possible world first!
An original innovation of blue dyed eggs wound in swirls of rice and wrapped in seaweed. Blue and white makizushi with blue eggs. A wonderful surprise from young neighbors Shuetsu Udono and his partner, Kumiko.
斬新なアイディアで、卵を着色料で青くし、のりで巻いた Blue&White 巻き寿司です。若いご近所さんの宇土野シュウエツとパートナーのクミコからの素敵なサプライズでした。
A BIRTHDAY SUPREME IN EVERY WAY !
Nine big boxes of memories arrived at the house last week when I was a captive audience with a broken ankle. My husband Yuichi’s brother was tidying the family closets and came up with round three! of finding places for the massive kimono collection that their Mother and her sister had amassed.
Upon opening the boxes, the pungent smell of camphor and must filled with room and our throats. My brother‐in‐law had thoughtfully brought masks to prevent inhaling the fumes. But holding my breath as I pulled out the kimono and parts, I could hear the voices of the two sisters nattering together and rejoicing in the patterns and weaves and tones and stitches of the kimono rolls and obis they had found. And saved! No scrap of cloth was too small for them to throw away. Never!
Two elegant ladies, they were, but they were also hoarders plain and simple. But they taught me how to appreciate the deep hidden messages that Japanese artisans, textile and others, wove and dyed and sewed into their creations. I hear the voices of the collectors and the creators chatting away in those boxes. And now the textiles have come to our house to live. Is there any better way to heal? And to learn? The two sisters, one born in the Meiji Era, very Japanese aesthetic, the other was born 7 years later in the more modern and western looking Taisho era, taught me so much about Japanese taste and the finer points of Japanese textiles, not to mention Japanese thrift – the philosophy of Mottainai, of saving the very last bit. With my Father‐in-law they came to supper at our house every week and always took great care to dress in the finest of kimono and obi combinations to reflect both season and occasion. The pity I did not have m iphone at the ready to capture those elegant statements of fine taste.
But now the question was How to sort them, sift through them, and give them good place in our lives now?
The first step clearly was to air them and wash them and throw away the pieces that had no future. A painful decision indeed. The yukata were easy. Just a long soak in strong yet gentle detergent and a hang in the breeze and the sun. They came clean easily. The others are more difficult to clean and freshen, but the encounter with all these textiles has brought back beautiful memories of two women who were my patient and brightful – my Mother-in-law’s own expressive word – mentors in my long years in Japan.
Blues and whites were first to be sorted, of course. Cottons and hemps and silks. All indigo, of course!
Bold stripes and bold plaids. Juxtaposing patterns makes sparks.
Gentle detergent, warm suds, bright sun, fresh air and good views bring these yukata back to life.
Nostalgic patterns and soft cottons distinguish these Showa era yakuta sunning in the fresh air and coming back to life.
Sitting at home with these memories was excellent therapy for one forced to be still, never quiet! But after weeks I became restless and ventured out to the nearby Tomioka Hachiman Shrine flea market with my kind and enabling son.
What? How can you possibly need more STUFF! I thought to myself? But just to see the beautiful creations laid out on the vendors’ mats and be inspired by them was also healing.
These indigo threads were leftovers from a weaver in Fukushima. What beautiful shades of indigo as a (hemp) thread. I am convinced that it is not the red thread of destiny that connects us all as Japanese romanticists believe, but the indigo thread of connectedness that ties us together.
A visit to Blue & White, my own shop that I hadn’t seen for weeks, brought strength and healing. This beautiful kasuri handbag of rounds of stenciled and freehand indigo appliques sold immediately after being placed in the window. No wonder!
Our original Genki Tenugui, is guaranteed to bring courage and well being to the long process of healing, be it after earthquakes or falls or sickness, or any other malady needing encouragement.
A young and satisfied customer who went home with a spotted apron from Ai Kobo, special abilities workshop. He is a florist and the apron works perfectly to hold his scissors and other tools. It is his second one.
This young man with blue and white woven scarf by Ishikawa Misuzu reassures me that blue and white is good for all ages, all walks of life. He is an aspiring chef in a French restaurant.
Having been out of circulation for a long time, my return to a world of blue and white brings intense nourishment. There is healing in antique indigo textiles as well. These two bush warblers (uguisu) on a blossoming plum branch are sharing their berries on a 19th century free-hand drawn auspicious futon cover, a tsutsugaki in my own collection.
Going to the last day of the exhibit of “The Aesthetic Eye of Morita Tadashi in Kooriyama, in Fukushima Prefecture, was the ultimate test of how far my healing had progressed. A two hour train ride plus taxis were worth the effort just to see the extensive collection of Morita san of Morita Antiques on Aoyama’s Koto Dori (antique street). He has been collecting folk textiles for 50 years? and sets the standard of taste.
And this jaunty fellow at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine antique market – first, second and 4th Sundays of the month, is dressed for all seasons, all occasions, all tastes. The last word is Blue & White ! The very sight made me want to stand in the sun with him and watch the world go buy.
Somehow surprises never stop in Japan. Or is it just in my life? Sights that surprise. Things never seen before. They keep you on your toes. If you close your eyes, you might miss something! A giant flaming Torii clad in brilliant copper in the new Suitengu Shrine compound soon to be opened in downtown Tokyo changes tone in the sunlight. The shrine compound is a miracle in contemporary architecture that preserves the masterful carpentry tradition of shrine architecture of old, built by Takenaka Corporation, a huge construction firm that builds super modern gigantic buildings while upholding its treasured tradition of shrine architecture – the most revered craftsmanship of all.
A happy gentleman at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine was delighted to be complimented on his spiraling cap that he had knit himself, his first opus. At the first flea market of the year in Monzen Nakacho.
A droll red lacquer mail box in the shape of the legendary Kappa, a watery creature who eats cucumbers and lies in waiting for unsuspecting girls. What is the relationship between Kappa and mailboxes, I wonder. Of course I brought it home with me!
Whimsy sightings in the neighborhood are common: Cauliflowers being grown in planters by the Sumida River – will they be served with the fish men are fishing for nearby?
Or the whimsical bonnet on a passing dog walker dressed in chic Issey Miyake pleated pants with assiduously matching shoelaces – wherever did she find such a perfect color? Or did they come with the pants?
No outfit chic enough for a dog walk!
Roppongi is full of them. This cool woman, the height of style at Soft Bank, seemed to be just waiting to have her photo taken.
Kyoto too has its share of whimsy and surprise. My son had sent me this Kyoto photo and on I recent visit to Kyoto, I was determined to find it, though my only information about it was “Face House” and in time I learned that the architect was Yamashita Kazumasa, built in 1974. Was it still standing? I worried, in view of Japan’s system of disposable architecture? With a little help from a young tech savvy friend, I did find it and fittingly, it is now a toy store with only two telephone wires in front of its wide eyes. Whimsy is ageless!
We found a country cousin of Face House at Gungendo in Omori-cho in Shimane. An anthropomorphic outhouse, it sits next to the iconic Hinaya, the idyllic old Japan thatched roof farmhouse moved from Hiroshima and recreated by Tomi and Daikichi Matsuba in their charming village of 500 people that was recently made a World Heritage Site for its 16th century silver mine, Omori Ginzan. Their slow life philosophy is seductive and invites us to put away our microwaves and conbenis (convenience stores) and take time to enjoy life.
In winter when no flowers dare to bloom, lotus stems do a surprisingly elegant job of filling Abe House, the village chieftain’s house the Matsubas have restored, with wabi and sabi. Abe House welcomes guests all year round. A stay there can be life altering.
My blue and white heart jumped with surprise when I spotted this line of yuzu, a citron fruit so much more delicious and subtle than lemon, drying in bags of white cloth hanging from strips of yukata material. The Japanese tradition of preserving food relies heavily on miso, fermented bean paste, which in this case has been mixed with mochi rice, nuts and sake to produce a delicious savoury that, when cut into thin slices, marries beautifully with hot tea during the cold of winter.
Kyoto whimsy and surprise! Though after all these years, I shouldn’t be surprised to find Otafuku, and often her consort Hyottoko, who keeps her fires burning, smiling down from housetops and shelves, I am always filled with wonder when I find them in new places, this one in Uji a tea center, near Byoudoin, the ultimate in 13th century Japanese architecture. Her smiling chubby face reminds us to enjoy life and she blesses us and inspires us with her good humour. This country plaster Kotei, or wall frieze, is in the time-honored tradition of Japanese plasterers to protect a building with an invocation of good fortune as the final touch to their work.
Tokyo is a capital of surprises.
Chef in the sky! in Kappabashi, the supply area for cooking utensils.
In his cups! nearby.
Look for surprise! You’ll always find it in Tokyo.
Chef in the street. Surprise at suppertime, we chanced upon a chef grilling tai, red snapper, on an outdoor grill in an alley in the midst of central Ginza.
Look for the whimsy!
Don’t miss the surprise!
These small covered dishes were from a new blond lady dealer at the recent Tomioka Hachiman flea market who spoke excellent colloquial Japanese. When I asked her where she was from, she answered Turkey!
Wisely, she didn’t want to split the couple up. I bought the pair for ¥1,000. Surprise again!
Otafuku is everywhere in Blue & White, her international headquarters. Yesterday, February 3rd, was Setsubun, the beginning of spring in the old lunar calendar. The day marks the confrontation between the forces of good and the forces of evil, represented by red and blue devils who prance around shrines and villages where they celebrate by throwing beans to dispel the evil.
Otafuku dances in with her power of laughter and goodness. Large crowds gathered in Azabu Juban Patio, the small open space near Blue & White, to watch the bean throwing ceremony and jostled to catch the beans being thrown by the village elders.
Devils can have their charm, particularly these demons of antique cotton appliqued on old indigo by our star quilter Reiko Okunushi. She is particularly fond of Otafuku and portrays her in playful and original ways. Otafuku, our Blue & White heroine is the Goddess of Happiness and Whimsy. She is good fortune itself and never takes things too seriously, She laughs at whatever comes her way reminding us to enjoy life and see the funny bits.
Make sure you have them in your life. Otafuku too. She is whimsy. She brings surprise. She makes you smile. And Blue & White is her center of operations.