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.
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.
Once again soooooo beautiful and charming. Thank you for at least virtually bringing your visitors into Azabu and the New Year so touchingly.
Dear Amy and all at Blue & White — I was so happy, as always, to visit Blue & White on Jan. 18 on my most recent visit to Tokyo, and was able to introduce two Tokyo friends to your shop. I’ve been treasuring B&W’s wares and aesthetic vision since 1986! I look forward to enjoying your 2020 calendar on my wall — thank you!
Wishing all of you a peaceful and meaningful Year of the Rat in 2020 — until was meet again,
Mari in California
I live in Hawaii and am a frequent visitor to your shop. I thought I’d alert you to some more good news for 2020 – part of the boro collection that was housed at the Amuse Museum is going to be exhibited in New York City at the Japan Society. Here is a link:
Still hoping for a permanent home for that collection but this exhibition is a step in the right direction!
You and of Otafuku have brought joy to so many of us. Keep it coming. Xxxxxo jill
Haven’t lived in Japan for 8 years now but still love reading about the history, etc. I personally know Cynthia Poth and enjoy seeing her creations. Thanks for keeping me on your mailing list!
I was thrilled to be able to visit Blue & White when I visited Tokyo just before New Year. Your new location is as charming as the previous one. I purchased a few treasures that will remind me of my visit and your delightful staff. Thank you for continuing to send these lovely emails with inspired crafts and messages of good will from my Japanese home (in my heart). All the best to you all in 2020 and the years to come.
Hello! I would love to buy one of your needle books. Are they available for sale and shipping to the states?
Many thanks in advance.
Paula Shields Tacoma WA
Oh Amy, great post, so much inspiration to be had during any visit to Blue and White – and thank you for your flattering words about the needle books;).