sometimes the mend is hand made paper, every bit precious in the Edo period. Here a washi zabuton, floor cushion, mended with cuts of old ledgers or letters or whatever was at hand.
Hundreds of years ago, or so it seems, when I was 22 and celebrating our first Christmas in Geneva with new husband Yuichi, I opened the one present he gave me, wrapped and laid under the tree. When I saw what was inside, I burst out crying, remembering the tears I had shed when I broke my favorite Danish covered jam pot in thoughtlessly trying to swat away a marauding bee. When Yuichi came home from work, he found me crying over spilled jam and jam pot, hopelessly broken in many pieces. He comforted me and said it was just a thing. No need to be so upset, and he quietly swept up the pieces and put them away. I had forgotten about it, but he hadn’t. He had saved the bits and sweetly put them back together into a viable hole. That was my first Christmas present as the wife of Yuichi Katoh who went on to teach me many things about mending, repairing, Mottainai, and never giving up. Leather gloves the dog had bitten, sneakers Yuichi had ripped. Dishes he had glued back together. Even a daughter’s – the one who fixed the andon! – cut over her eyebrow. He held the two sides of the cut together for hours until they stuck together on their own. He, and his Mother before him, taught me the power of mending. The beauty of the repair. The lasting nature of things you care enough to repair. They will be with you forever and grow more beautiful with each mend.
Foxes! Throw them away, my daughter, the fixer, had advised. Too many pieces, small bits, many missing, and the clay is too soft to mend. Two of my favorite foxes had been knocked over into a hopeless looking mess, but I picked up the pieces, and swept up the bits and kept them for years in a shoebox in hopes . . . Recently while isolated in Karuizawa, we went to our favorite restaurant, Tsuju, and were served a delicious dish whose side had a distinctive line of Kintsugi, the traditional Japanese mending with laquer and gold. But this was Gintsugi, repaired with silver lacquer, and I was quick to ask who had done the repair. The waitress pointed across the street to their Gallery, Dark Eyes, and said they have a shokunin, artisan, who repairs dishes. When I met her later with two broken cups, she agreed to fix them, but then when she looked at the foxes, that I was sure she’d say no to, messengers of the gods who are in charge of rice, she looked at them in doubt and said Kitsune? foxes? with serious doubt for their future and her capabilities. But look at them now. Beautifully mended and dressed up in shimmering silver evening wear. Fit for the Gods!