BLUE & WHITE NEW YEAR GOOD NEWS

Japan is keen on firsts. Not first prizes necessarily, but the first plum blossom of the season, the first bonito, the first bamboo shoot, the first sake. New Year’s Day is the day of the firsts of the year. All are GOOD NEWS in Japan. I was thrilled to see our heroine Otafuku hung from on high at the Kitte Building, the restored Post Office Building in Marunouchi, welcoming visitors from all over Japan with drums and cavorting Shishi Mai. A first appearance there, I am sure!

FUKU FACE! The face of Good Fortune! Otafuku is smiling down on all visitors at the KITTE BUILDING in Tokyo’s Marunouchi, across from Tokyo Station. OTAFUKU JOY OF JAPAN is a book written by Amy Katoh in 2005, detailing the history of this charming Goddess of Merriment who has spread good fortune and made Japan smile since mythological times.

The first window of the year at BLUE & WHITE featured New Year’s Decorations of bamboo and flowers and rice straw ropes by Nishikawa Takako of Ishikawa Prefecture, topped with a whimsical New Year’s Rat/mouse, this year’s zodiac animal by Reiko Okunushi.

The first flowers of the year have been picked and arranged by our multi-talented Hayasawa Sayoko to fit in with displays.

BLUE & WHITE is a spontaneous repository of nature, craft, things made by hand, utilitarian items from the past such at this step stool, and the indigo ropes in the background Randomly, various things from different times and places around Japan, made for daily life, come together and join the shop’s impromptu serenade. A whole history of everyday Japan is tucked into Blue & White.

Our 2020 calendar is grouped with Otafuku from the rear and a small mask of her face, along with red camellias, blooming everywhere in Tokyo now.

A happy surprise at the end of 2019 was too discover this book of Japanese Antiques in a Series called Tokyo Art Trips in which Blue & White was flatteringly pictured and described. Green post-it marks the page
Kumquats from Takako Nishikawa in Ishikawa Prefecture in a bamboo cup in front of precious scraps of indigo clamp dyed cotton, too precious to throw away.
Materiels, supplies, tools. kits, presents, things for daily life, clothing, IDEAS! All can be found at BLUE & WHITE.

Variegated squares of Shibori gauze are the perfect size for handkerchiefs or that indispensable cloth you need in your purse, or a man wants in his chest pocket. A special creation by Ikeda Daigo, a talented young Kasuri weaver and indigo dyer in Kurume, these are the perfect small present to bring home to friends, and keep a couple for yourself.

Vintage indigo cloth has been frugally rearranged to create hand made Needle Books by the resourceful Cynthia Nanto. Her relentless attention to detail has produced small books with charming juxtapositions of pattern, and colorful “pages” of patterned felt inside, topped off with carefully curated cord with a washi button for dessert.

Beguiling hand embroidered indigo dog brooches play on a bed of paper punches waiting for dog lovers to take them home.

Things are always new and changing at Blue & White. Without really thinking about it, we always have new artisans, new materials and new ideas coming into our small shop. But I was surprised and delighted when a young man from the United States, after taking a long time to study all the shelves and corners, remarked that somehow we had managed to present a whole spectrum of Japan – time and design and craftsmanship, tradition and innovation in a small space.

The Cosmos in a Teacup! That is Blue & White.

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A BLUE & WHITE YEAR

The year started with a book party with the small handmade books of Jody Alexander of Wishi Washi Studio and Blue & White books. And now, in December, as the days dwindle down to a precious few, my heart is filled with magical moments of the year now ending.

An unforgettable NOH concert at Enoura near Odawara, performed by musicians dressed in authentic costume standing on dramatic ancient  boulders and a glass stage overlooking the ocean.
Spectacular!
Our Shibori Christmas tree hung with Blue & White irresistibles and ideas for wrapping
The food was spectacular at Blue & White’s 44th! birthday. Lotus chips and delicious onigiri by Okunushi san our brilliant seamstress and chef. Here a Yuzu roll cake strewn with strawberries – not quite 44!

Sugiura Kazuko, a favorite character appeared in her own handmade creation finished just the night before our BORO Celebration in September. You couldn’t miss her! Below the BORO creators: Mieko Kobayashi, Nora san from Iwate, and Yamazaki san of Nagano.

The annual neighborhood Azabu Juban Matsuri was held on the same Saturday we chose for our Boro Festival so what could be better to join the parade and show how beautifully BLUE & WHITE is in step with the rhythms of the neighborhood!
A trip to the dyers in Takenozuka is always a flying display of the morning’s dyeing. Here Mt. Fuji tenuguis flap under brilliant blue skies.
Above a dynamic baby quilt made with triangles of tenugui materials, hand dyed by different dyers. They give energy and surprise for a little boy to grow up with. Yesterday a grown young man came to the shop with his Mother, telling us about the quilt we had made for him when he was a baby 20 some 20 plus years ago. A forever memory!
Our annual display of hand-dyed indigo Boys’ Day Banners by the clever artisans of FACTORY AI, in March. Factory Ai is a special abilities facility using indigo dyeing as therapy for their members, who produce their ever-original hand-dyed indigo Boys’ Day Carp Banners to celebrate BOYS’ DAY on the 5th of May. Their designs are fresh and free, with patterns as endless as those of the swimming fish they depict.

Two Sashiko workshops each month. Classic Sashiko taught by Yoshiura Kazuko Sensei on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. And Zaku Zaku, zany Sashiko taught by NONOICHI on the 4th Friday. Above is a delightful Sashiko creation by an Israeli student depicting our beloved Otafuku and her consort. Sashiko is a great enabler!

Our dynamic 2020 Calendar filled with ideas and creations of our clever makers who work with needles and threads.

Paired with Indigo cloth, both all and new, Needles and Threads create a universe of variety and possibility and unfettered imagination to make anything you want to make.

2020 promises great things for us all. And small things as well, like mice and sewing projects and threads and needles. The Blue & White Furoshiki is filled with ONE OF A KIND THINGS MADE BY HAND.

THE BLUE & WHITE WORLD is at your fingertips at our OnLine Shop at https://www.blueandwhitejapan.com/online-shop.html . We are waiting for you to share our originality and JOY IN THE NEW YEAR !

You are always welcome to BLUE & WHITE.

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MY BLUE HEAVEN

IMG_4944.jpegHeaven is not easy to get to!

Particularly when it is at the top of Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture – about 6 or 7 transfers from Tokyo by train, by cable car and by bus.  But it is well worth the journey to the mystical mountain founded in 819 by Kobo Daishi, or KUKAI, esoteric priest and poet, the founder of Buddhism.

On the 19th of October, I made the trip, not for the first time, to see the heavenly Shibori exhibit of creations dyed by the Shibori Community, living and working all over Japan.  I first discovered them on Instagram, and my friend Teresa Misagai,, a Shibori artist from Brooklyn told me about the Mt. Koya exhibit.  The group was celebrating their 35th anniversary and decided to share their art in a holy and spectacular place.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to go.  Alone.  Me with absolutely no sense of direction! Despite having been to Mt. Koya several times before. This was a pilgrimage of a different kind – a pilgrimage in search of BLUE – heavenly Shibori Indigo! Everything was INDIGO!

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The first venue was in a large two roomed exhibit space in front of Kokubunji, the main temple of Mt. Koya.  It introduced the viewer to some of the marvels ahead.  What I liked about the whole exhibit was the large, free scale of the works.  Often shibori is relegated to bags and scarves and other small things that don’t allow it the freedom it deserves.    In the center of each room were two waist high columns perched with small and imaginative and  sculptural shibori creations mostly by international artists.

IMG_4961.jpegThis cosmic work by Takai Yoshiko of Hashimoto city at the foot of Mt. Koya, on Hashimoto momen/ cotton a coarse and textured, off white cotton, suitable to her suggestive cosmic shibori.  It was one of my favorites on my late afternoon preview when I first arrived, and I wanted to meet the artist but she was not scheduled to be present the next day.  But by chance? I found her standing like a sentinel in front of her work the next morning.  Like her work, she was open and natural, a busy country lady totally given to the exigencies of her art.

IMG_4991.jpegKokubunji itself is the imposing main temple of Mt. Koya, where the Shibori exhibit was held.  I had first been there with Oliver Statler on his Shikoku Pilgrimage tour in 1988!  The memories were clear and strong, if not my recall of the directions!  I was impressed that the temple had given a large, maybe 100 mat, maybe 50, tatami room over to the Shibori exhibit.  There must have been 60 large shibori creations hung against the wall with seats in front of them where we could gaze and marvel and enjoy the tea and biscuits kindly offered by volunteers.  Each was more spectacular and impressive than the last!

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This piece of plaid Shibori, for lack of a better descriptor, stood out for its technique of geometric gradations and linear shadings..  Graphic and modern, I could not help but wonder how it had been created.

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Another arresting one was this felted gradated indigo flames of energy on a sheer silk ground.  Totally captivating, I only wish that it had been shown in the magnificent garden of Kokubunji, or against a blue sky.  The lines of the shoji were distracting. I hope  to display some of my favorites at Blue & White sometime  early next year

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Kokubunji itself, is a national treasure to my mind, with its garden and angular layout of room after room after room, furnished with nothing but fusuma door panels and Edo period screens. No photos allowed, but I was taken by the lotus paintings whose caption wrote that according to ancient Buddhist texts, the lotuses emitted a mysterious blue light

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The last venue was a smaller temple where many of the artists were staying.  In it were hung Shibori kimono and other small chiclet-like panels  of indigo shibori.  Also very arresting and suggesting something larger beyond.

Square panels on the walls gave a taste of the range of the remarkable shibori techniques of the members of the Shibori Community.

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The  double rows of Kimono were elegant blue and white shapes begging to be hugging a human body and to move with it.  I dreamt of seeing them walking down the street nonchalantly, showing the mastery of the artists who dyed them.  I wanted to see them animated and filled with life.

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The journey was long and hard, but the chance to meet the Indigo Shibori artists made it well worthwhile.  As there were not so many visitors, I was glad I could speak with them and hear their stories.   And praise and encourage their tireless work! I hope when they come for their next exhibit scheduled in Tokyo, we can have a side showing of the work in Blue & White.  They are gifted and dedicated and they deserve a wider audience, though they could NEVER have a more heavenly venue!

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A stroll through the village of Koya san is a thrill for all the senses.  The nature, the reverence, the silence, the sanctity leave you spellbound.

IMG_4999.jpegThe Shibori skies

IMG_4998.jpegThe massive and masterful architecture, sacred and secular both – here the Meiji era Police Station!

 

The spiraling straw cushions in the hallway of Sainanin, the temple where I stayed, leading to the early morning’s fire ceremony prayer service.

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And the food!  Heaven itself!

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At trip to Mt. Koya is journey to a higher place.  And Indigo Shibori there was in its right place, along with all the sacred monuments of Japan

 

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