THE MAGIC FINGERS OF REIKO OKUNUSHI

The third day of the third month, 3 March, Girls Day, is coming soon and though it is a time for excited preparation for all families with daughters, few work so hard to prepare for it as our beloved Okunushi san (who in fact has two sons). For close to 40 years, she has been making whimsical princes and princesses and their entourage in colorful silk kimono material and bold kasuri patterns for Blue & White. Reimagining the stately and imposing OHina sama, Okunushi san puts humor and playfulness into her creations. And LOVE too – lots of it!

Whatever she puts her hands to – paper, cotton, silk, even rice in her delicious onigiri and out of this world shrimp and lotus root patties, Okunushi san is a wizard at making things.  And she has been creating her joy filled creations for Blue & White and delighting all who visit the shop for years.

With fingers and needle and thread Okunushi san brings life from forgotten cloth and stuffing. – sometimes using bamboo, sometimes cotton batting, sometimes even shells!

The Okunushis have been eating nothing but clams for the last month to empty the shells she planned to use for her original OHina Sama dolls, wrapped in bright vintage silk kimono material.

She even has her way with paper as seen in this washi bag, made of humble shoji paper, she has dyed with tea to dull its whiteness. scrunched and stitched to give me a present of the spiralling pin at the beginning of this article, and a long rope of braided leftover yukata and tenugui material. Nothing wasted!

Bamboo too, hidden beneath the colorful vintage silk kimono of these Sayonara dolls is a wrapping of washi for writing messages, or addresses – love letters even! – all covering a bamboo core. All natural materials worked with painstaking detail in the loving stitches of Okunushi san’s needle.

A covey of fat Hime Daruma. Daruma Princesses sit in the window under peach blossoms waiting for OHina Sama, Girls’ Day. Dressed in vintage indigo kasuri with white kasuri faces, they radiate the freshness of country.

Prince and Princesses of all types are set in small boxes for ready display in the genkan, entranceway for OHina sama season.

Rabbits too can become royalty in Okunushi san’s hands.

Princesses come in all species. These rabbits would make a lovely pair greeting people in an entrance hall in their yukata finery in their private boxes.

Personalities are clearly depicted in needle and thread.
A pleased with herself Princess, and a grumpyish Prince.

Okunushi san also captures the simple innocence of creatures – rabbits have long been a favorite.  This one is a popular toy for children in his natty plaid yukata chanchanko, vest.

An open faced beckoning cat welcomes good fortune and happiness in the window.  Who doesn’t need these friends! He sits on a rag weave mat of old yukatas.

Okunushi san can make anything:  jewelry, pins, and charming necklaces of old leftover indigo fabric.
She recycles old fabrics and gives them new life.
She throws nothing away.
These flexible braided bracelets of old indigo are always popular.  They fit everyone!

Our smiling Goddess of mirth Otafuku is her particular favorite. Okunushi san has made quilts of Otafuku in every activity imaginable, this one portraying Setsubun, the bean throwing ceremony chasing out devils, welcoming good fortune – always inviting good spirits and laughter.

She cooks. She sews. She laughs.
She works very hard.
Isshokemmei – she does her very best in whatever she tries.
She always says she only wants to be Katoh san’s hands.
Aren’t I the lucky one!

 

 

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18 Responses to THE MAGIC FINGERS OF REIKO OKUNUSHI

  1. namiyama says:

    I love those Kasuri Daruma. And what a nice expression „I want to be Katoh-san’ hands“. You certainly ARE lucky to have all those lovely people around you – although it is probably you with your generosity and open mind to „collect“ and attract such people. 🙂

    Greetings from freezing cold Munich on the first day of meteorological springtime (yesterday night -19°C and day -12°C)

    Susanna

    >

  2. Are these products available for purchase and shipping to the US?

  3. rtoomire says:

    Are these products available for purchase and shipment to the US? I LOVE them!!!

  4. hirookun says:

    Hello Katoh-san, thank you for the beautiful post. I happen to be Reiko’s younger son 🙂 and I’m really proud of my mom’s work and thank you for giving her the l-o-n-g opportunity to use her “MAGIC FINGERS” for these wonderful creations. Really hard work but she looks happy when these creations are born. I live separately so I wasn’t the one who was eating all the clam.

  5. Marge Malkin says:

    Marge Malkin

  6. devapnek says:

    inspirational as always! I look forward to visiting your shop and seeing Reiko-san’s creations!

  7. What a wonderful story! It inspires me to be better at my own stitchery. I would love to have one of the indigo bracelets. How may I go about purchasing one?
    Sherry Massey

    • Toshi says:

      Dear Ms. Massey – this is Amy’s son, Toshi. I, too, love the story, but as a matter of practice I try to leave responses to blog comments to my mother (who is delighted that people read and like her blog but is unfortunately not always great at replying to all comments). However, I can help you if you’re interested in buying the bracelets. Please either message me on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BlueandandWhiteJapan/) or at the shop’s email address (shop@blueandwhitejapan.com), and we will happily work on getting you what you need.
      With best wishes,
      Toshi

  8. I love my Daruma princess and my rabbit purchased at Blue & White on a visit to Tokyo. I’d love to have an Otafuku quilt, too. Maybe on my next trip to Japan. I can only dream. Thank you for a delightful post. They always lift my spirit and make me miss Japan.

  9. I am having a serious issue with coveting that Otafuku quilt. I’ll be thinking about her all day. Have you done any more about online shopping?

    • Toshi says:

      Dear Ms Chatelain,
      This is Toshi, Amy’s son, and B&W’s under qualified technical support ;). As I mentioned in a prior post, I try to leave proper responses to comments on the blog to my mother, but please allow me to comment at least on the online shop. While we don’t have any results to share with you yet, please know that we are working as quickly as we can on getting an online shop ready!
      If you have something in particular you are looking for, we can arrange for secure online payment and shipping to your address. Please do contact us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BlueandandWhiteJapan/) or through the shop’s email address (shop@blueandwhitejapan.com). We will do our best to help while we try to get our online shop together!
      Warmly,
      Toshi

  10. Nancy Hight says:

    The rabbits, the clam shell prince and princesses—all adorable. Hopefully online shopping is available soon.

    • Toshi says:

      Dear Ms. Hight,
      Thank you so much for your comments. We are working on online shopping, but if you like, we can organize to ship any of the items from the blogpost to you in the meantime.
      Please contact us on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BlueandandWhiteJapan/) or by email (shop@blueandwhitejapan.com) and we will do our best to help in any way We can!
      Warmly,
      Toshi

  11. Gigi Gruber says:

    Oh, Amy! You ARE the lucky one! And we are lucky too because you share these beautiful works and their maker with us! Thank you! I just love it when I see a new Blue & White blog post!

  12. Barbara Delaney says:

    I tried repeatedly to purchase a 2018 calendar with no luck and no answer to multiple emails. Do you no longer sell these overseas?

  13. Lovely post and I can’t wait to see the “new” Blue and White next week when I visit Tokyo!

  14. Nancy says:

    I have many of Reiko’s treasures in our home in Berkeley. They never grow old. In fact, they become richer and more wonderful as time goes by. Her care, love and creativity are reverberating across the Pacific in Hime Daruma and the doll with the wrapping around the paper scroll. That one I’m saving for a special occasion. Thank you Reiko sensei! xxx

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