In an old printers’ shop sitting on the confluence of the ONagi and the Sumida Rivers in downtown Tokyo, an energetic young couple with a vision of what Japan has been and what it can be, has created a burnished gallery with soul and soar.  Both architects, firmly committed to restoration, Asami Kawada and Shuets Udono have gutted the walls and ceilings and stripped the space down to white walls and recycled  building site floor boards with mellow wooden beams playing overhead.

For two weeks until October 30, Asami Kawada and Shuets Udono, the gallery owner/ architects, have hung and displayed the MOTTAINAI Exhibit of Amy Katoh’s collection of old BORO (indigo rags, work clothes, and futon) hung from ropes braided of old textiles, mended pots, weavers’ swatch books,  and patched washi zabuton.  Together they attest to the spirit of MOTTAINAI – it’s too good to waste. Keep it, treasure it, repair, restore, rescue it – that is so integral a part of Japan’s  traditional thinking and feeling.

Wangari Maathai, colorful Kenyan Vice Minister of the Environment, was invited to come to Japan in 2005 after winning the Nobel Prize. She recognized the power of the concept of MOTTAINAI – rescue, recycle, reuse, restore – to rally the whole world to work together to save this endangered planet. She brought back the concept back to Japan itself that had nearly forgotten their grandmothers’ wisdom.

Fukagawa Bansho Gallery is alive with Mottainai objects:  dancing Boro, patched paper pawn shop furoshiki, mended pots, and rusted corrugated sheets of steel, and even a corroded drum can from a nearby demolition sight, which casts inexplicable reflections on the walls from the light inside that shines through the holes in its side.


A sister show at Amy Katoh’s shop Blue & White in Azabu Juban, features Miss Mottainai, and an assortment of other Boro, along with beautiful pieces of recycled glass.   They have created a folding Mottainai book with images of the exhibits covered with cardboard from vegetable boxes.

Meanwhile, Mottainai fever is breaking out at the Portland Japanese Garden which will hold a Mottainai exhibit from November 4th to November 27th.  Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto and Stephen Szczpanek of SRI Threads in Brooklyn have collaborated on the beautiful and informative book that is companion to the exhibit of their pieces of Mottainai.

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