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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5 Responses to THE MAGIC FINGERS OF REIKO OKUNUSHI

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. Nancy Hight says:

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

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