THIRTY-SIX YEARS – Something From Nothing

Blue & White has just celebrated its birthday with a small party of friends and loyal women who have made it work for thirty-six years.  The juggler we had planned on hurt his back and so couldn’t come.  The old blue and white broken plates and bowls with slight cracks and chips for him to juggle never arrived from our antique friend in Oiwake who had planned to throw them away.  So the celebration was in food and display and friends and family. But that is what Blue & White is all about anyway.   Nothing is more precious.   Sayoko Hayasawa changed the buttons on her annual indigo cushion to read 36 !   Reiko and Seiichi Hagiya brought a bright red fan with Blue & White 36 Omedeto ! written on it.  They also brought an amazing box filled with Otafuku shell shard pins  along with another box of green surprise baskets wrapped with red tape for each guest to have and to open.  Theirs is a remarkable resourcefulness from nothing.  Spending next to no money at all, they find unwanted, discarded things at the flea market and they hand shredded old paper to fill the small round baskets.  Inside the baskets we find a small candle, a chocolate coin, a hand painted wooden cube with feet painted on it or faces, and many other small delights.

This joy is making something of nothing may be what Blue & White has been about all these years.  In 1975, Blue & White started as an empty corner next to the Azabu Juban Supermarket  Seifu, where forgotten pots and sorry plants were sitting unattended. It is now an established shop that started with a needle and thread, cloth and seamstresses and plenty of ideas inspired by Japan itself.  

For 36 years, Blue & White has been all about food, and cloth and thread and pots and mostly friends.  I cannot hide my pride and feeling of accomplishment when thirty-six years of creative women who have worked for Blue & White and shared their ideas and hard work and kindness, gather to celebrate our birthday.  Blue & White is the product of their hard work and devotion.

For 36 years, they have been creating original works for Blue & White that have never been made before and may not be made again.  That is the fun of it.  One off creations bring surprise and pleasure to our friends and to those who want to have them, or just be inspired by them. All are made by hand and have that pulse of the maker that gives them life and breath.

Thirty six years ago, when we asked the landlord of the building whether we could create a small and simple Japanese boutique, he agreed for some reason and built a truly tiny box where three women (with three husbands and 10 children) could live their dreams of creating a stage to showcase Japanese crafts – to prove how beautiful they are and how useful they can be in contemporary life.  Everyone laughed!  We ourselves weren’t sure we could pull it off, but we did !  After a few years, we doubled the space – still tiny ! – and we took off from there. 

A different kind of Christmas tree! Split bamboo branches with embroidered decorations by Shobu Gakuen in Kagoshima, Kyush, and Reiko Okunushi

 The Blue & White message is also one of community and outreach.  People come from all over Japan, all over the world to take part in the friendly spirit we cultivate.  They sometimes come to show us what they have made, or ask questions about the neighborhood, or learn about Japanese crafts and how to use them, or to buy what we have on display  – always a changing  and unexpected scene.  They come for the heart-felt care and attention that our Blue & White ladies share with our friends.  They come for the laughter and the surprise and the wild imagination.  The warmth is always here.  They are always welcome. Blue & White takes a true interest in all who enter. 

Our sincere desire for 36 years has always been to try make people happier for having come to Blue & White.

Happy Birthday Blue & White.

Blessings in the New Year to all our friends and family!

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19 Responses to THIRTY-SIX YEARS – Something From Nothing

  1. Lis says:

    Happy Birthday Blue and White, I am very excited that I will be able to visit you for the first time in April. Blessings, Lis

    • Thank you Lis for your email.
      Glad you are coming in April. It is a great time and we will welcome you !
      Japan is a hidden treasure and Tokyo is a great place to explore.
      April should be perfect.
      See you then.

      Blue & White amy katoh

  2. Doriann says:

    I was a fan of Blue & White long before my first visit. Living in Japan from 1994 until 2004, I fell in love with all things Japanese. Amy Katoh’s books illustrated the country life I aspired to and enjoyed vicariously through her books and on forays into the countryside of Saitama Prefecture and later Yamaguchi Prefecture. I’ll never forget my first visit to Blue & White, just before New Year 2006. The kindness of the store staff and the lagniappe to go with my modest purchase left me with a warm feeling for having been there. This morning I took “Blue and White Japan” from my bookshelf to read and reminisce. Happy Birthday, Blue & White, and best wishes for many more.

    • Dear Doriann

      Your generous comments on your visit to B&W brought tears to my eyes. Somehow we don’t always know how customers/friends feel after they have come, and certainly not after they have read my books. But you made is heartwarmingly clear. I will tell the girls in the shop and they will be reconstituted. And you also give me new incentive to get on with the book I have been working on for too long.
      Thank you for your support.
      You have renewed our power !
      Yamaguchi is one of my favorite prefectures too, but what is lagniappe?
      Wonderful to hear from you !
      Thank you

      Blue & White amy

      • Doriann says:

        Thanks for your lovely response, Amy. Lagniappe is a southern U.S. word for that little something extra given to a paying customer. The year I visited Blue & White, I purchased a calendar, and the shop lady gave me a small strip of indigo fabric. I treasured it and sewed it into a quilt square. I’m looking forward to your next book!
        Best regards,

  3. Happy Anniversary, wishing you many more. I will be in Japan in April/May and am organizing a day around a visit to Blue and White – can’t wait! I love the Otafuku pins, especially the lower left one with her eyes wide open

  4. Happy Anniversary, Blue & White. It was my pleasure to visit your store two years ago and I look forward to returning in the coming year. Best wishes to a Blue & White year with just a little red.

    • Thank you for you greeting, Patricia
      Did you get my email yesterday? or is it just telepathy?
      Anyway I am so glad you read the anniversary blog and thank you for getting me blogging.
      It is a great way to reach out to friends and newcomers with the good news from Japan and the Blue & White way.
      Come back soon.
      best blue and white amy

  5. Jean May says:

    A New York contingent of former expats in Tokyo send our congratulations on 36 years of creativity and inspiration that Amy and Blue and White have given to the world. Omedeto gozaimasu and much love.

    • I love the image of the New York contingent of expats in their blue and white cheerleaders regalia dancing their dance. And you have the megaphone ! Bless you Good Genie! You spread the good word !
      with thanks and love blue&white amy

  6. Blorgie says:

    Happy birthday Blue and White! May this year be fiercely wonderful, kindly and bountiful. Thank-you for your books. They are treasured and taken down from the bookcase often. I often feast my eyes on the blue sink in Blue and White and the onigiri served on leaves and the picnic on indigo cloths. Excited to hear that their will be another book!!!! It is anticipated with delight.

    • Love the name. I just wrote an answer, but it seems to have flown with the sermon.
      Your encouragement means a lot to me when I am struggling with the newest book. To think that you have read and read again the Blue & WHite book eggs me on. Bless you for your support. And watch for the Searching for Dragons blog that will be up soon.
      Thanks again, Blorgie. I will read your blog when I finish my Dogs on the Sumida River tenugui that I am working on now for a competition. Deadline last Friday! best blue & white amy

  7. jill hall says:

    Happy happy birthday and future to Blue & White and to the loving, laughing, why not, what’s next creative force that keeps it growing and changing while holding indigo threads from all over in one hand. I remember when Blue & White was just a dream and even the name was being debated. You have helped me see things I would have missed and created spaces that have love, texture, and soul. love and everlasting admiration, Jill

    • You make me cry ! Yes. Deciding the name was one of the hard moments. But you always make me forget them! Without you it wouldn’t have flown!
      and didn’t you get a good color patch! a

  8. Kate Gridley says:

    I have a beautiful antique jacket — blue and white — made with threads dyed in the ikat manner — that Amy gave me, back in 1976, when I was a home sick American student who had been living
    for the fall of her junior year in Kyoto, Japan. Whenever I wear it, people ask me where it came from ( it is so beautiful!) … and I get to tell them about a tiny store in Tokyo, and a wonderful cross cultural holiday season that I celebrated nearby… Suddenly 36 years seems like nothing, the memory is so fresh and yet… My own children are now growing up. My youngest son wants to come to Japan to study, and one of the first places I will send him will be Blue and White. One of the things I love best is that the beautiful crafts in Blue and White travel: all over the world there are beautiful pieces of Japan from your store. Happy Anniversary! I will be sending my son to your home away from home… Look for him when he comes, a tall gangly red-head called Angus.

    • Oh Kate !
      How wonderful to hear from you. All of a sudden the years disappear and I remember a genki young girl also with red curly hair who played with the children and romped with the dog.
      I had forgotten the Ikat jacket, but I am glad to hear that I gave it to you. Blue & White was 1 year old then.
      It is bigger now, and a bit steadier on its feet. But still reaching out to show what is beautiful about the handmade things of Japan.
      Send Angus on. We will be happy to house another generation of Gridleys – our third.
      We have sketches you did when you were with us . . . .somewhere !
      blessed memories !

  9. Eva Mikulencak says:

    I don’t know if you are still going to be reading this, but if you are, I want you to know that I used to live in Japan (7 years all together) and visited the store when I lived in Kamakura. It’s such a lovely place. Bue and white is one of my favorite books, and after many years I still love to open it and delight in it. This book, and the other one’s your authored, changed the way I decorate. In my house in Virginia, I had a blue and white room inspired by your book (complete with blue and white yukata fabric for the 4 poster bed!) I like to think you would have approved. I am now building a house in Houston and will incorporate a tatami room with a tokonoma and shoji screens. I do practice ikebana. One never sees things the same way after being in Japan. By the way, when I lived in Okinawa, and your book had just come out, I had the pleasure to hear you give a talk at the officer’s club on one of the American bases. Many moons ago.
    I hope you are well and wish you all the best.

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