Blue & White Curiosities

image002A customer from the UK, a quilting teacher, came into the shop yesterday and told how amazed her husband was that she had found the shop.  How did she know about it he asked? She replied smugly that she just knew. Blue & White has a cult following, she explained.  I was taken aback by her remark at first, but the more I thought about it, the more pleased I was.  Why should we have a cult following? I wondered, but then I looked around the shop, having only recently been investigating other out of the ordinary, quirky shops, and realized that yes, we were a bit odd, out of the ordinary, HEN as they say in Japanese.   So I took out my iphone to photograph the possible candidates that may have earned us a “cult following”.
Some of the best oddities come from friends

image004Mittens by my SCRUNCH potter friend jill Hall, made out of her old bathrobe and sweater. Nothing wasted! Warm all over!
Below:  SCRUNCH ITSELF!  My favorite SCRUNCH sake cup, though the sake doesn’t always arrive at its intended destination.


Other friends add curiosities as well.

image008A letter from clever Nancy Ukai Russell amazed me even more when I realized that the attention grabbing envelope was from an old Blue & White calendar page!
It all only serves to show that in these times of mass-produced sameness, a little odd, a little jolt of surprise, adds spice and amusement to an otherwise bland and unexciting horizon.

image010Have a look at some of the curious inhabitants of Blue & White

image012image014Selvedge edges of indigo fabric become magical balls of ribbon just waiting to be put to use by some imaginative sewer.  Here they support Washi necklaces of  random indigo patterns.  Part of the curiosity comes from not knowing what it is you are looking  at!

image016Small pins of indigo wih innocent little spectacles embroidered on by of As It Is Museum.
When I first met her at As It Is,  and complimented her on the one she had on, she gave it to me – a true Japanese trait of generosity.  Now she makes them for Blue & White.  Lucky!

image018In a cardboard whirl.  Splendiid  sculpted cardboard pin by Colleen Sakurai, The Cardboard Whisperer!

image020Amazing find at the Flea Market at Tomioka Hachiman  Shrine,(1st, 2ndnd and 4th Sundays in Monzen Nakacho on the Oedo subway line).  A contemporary BORO quilt of raggedy squares pieced together in a giant and enchanting and heavy whole!  The maker kindly lent it to me so I could show all who come to Blue & White the marvels and resourcefulness of Japanese artisans.  She didn’t know me.  She didn’t know the shop. But still she let me bring it to the shop for 2 weeks!  Curious and beautiful!  And uncommonly trusting.
Now in the window and for sale at the shop.

image022Colorful, fanciful bag by Special Ability artisans of Aomori prefecture introduced by Consummate weaver from Aomori, Osonae Nori san.

image024Close up of the BORO QUILT in the window for all the International Quilt Show visitors to enjoy.

image026Charming Otafuku creation from cut ends of tenugui, becomes a star player at Blue & White. With ingenuity, Susanna Wellenberg of Munich, puts to use whatever she finds and makes it into something charming and unexpected. Susanna is a long time faithful follower of the Blue & White cult.  Her inventive Sashiko transcends everything that is normal.  She takes it to a higher place.

image028Small Boro note books with pages of inverted copy paper mistakes.  Mottainai: Nothing wasted!  Everything has a use.

image031Voluptuous bag by NONOICHI SAN.  She takes stips of Tenugui and Yukata and knits them into a charming all purpose hand or shoulder bag.

image033Baby socks by NONOICHI san/  Every time she comes she brings a new surprise!  Something made with whimsy and love.

image035A perfect fit for BLUE & WHITE

Flower surprise!  Our irrepressible Hayasawa san works hard arranging and displaying the shop, entertaining customers. but on her days off, she takes long walks in cemeteries and abadoned lots and picks the unwanted weeds and flowers growing by the wayside.  Her arrangements are spontaneous collages of what she has found.  Finds that no flower shop could ever match.  For sale at the shop as a from the heart gift to a friend, or to bring home to brighten up your life.

image037Indigo swirls of the cut  selvedge edges  of material woven by Tsujimura Japan Blue Indigo workshop.

image039The end of our story of Blue & White Curiosities.  Otafuku from the rear? Mrs. Santa Claus?  Or simply a reminder to keep us from going into the fridge again!

image041That’s BLUE & WHITE.  CURIOUS INDEED!  Look for the BLUE & WHITE sandwich board at the top of the escalator in Azabu Juban.

Posted in Journal | 6 Comments






Posted in Journal | 1 Comment


image001After 43 years of Blue & White, my eyes only see BLUE.  And it may well be that BLUE is taking over the color spectrum. From the skies, to the rivers to the bridges, and even the netting that surrounds them under repair, BLUE is the reigning color
The autumn skies in Japan and in winter are especially blue and vibrant against autumn leaves and snow.

image003Blue skies of summer are brush work paintings in themselves.  August clouds are like no others.  Of course, clouds are the best counterpoint to brilliant blue skies.

image005The blues of the sky meet the blue pacific ocean at Enoura, an enchanted sanctuary near Odawara built by photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto from an old mikan plantation, for solstice viewing and to be home to his astounding collection of centuries old stones and bridges, cobblestones and a 14th century gates.  A new must visit for travellers to Japan.

image007A massive torii of ancient stone pillars and lintels is the gate between the blue sea below and the Tea House that Sugimoto has designed after Sen no Rikyu

image009But blue’s not all skies and clouds.  People are blue too.  This celebrant in blue at the July Kumano Nachi Fire Festival was in strong contrast to the whites of the standard bearers who carried flaming red standards up and down these ancient steps.   An incredibly dangerous and thrilling sight!

image011A joyful young fisherman in Naoshima not only just in blue, but in blue karakusa, a favorite scrolling vine design.

image013A carpenter in Tokushima wrapped in an indigo dyed towel surveys the extensive damage done by a recent typhoon to a large old walled chieftain’s house in Tokushima that is fortunately a protected cultural property so that some government assistance will help with repairs.
Blue helps him smile, though he has his work cut out for him.

image015True blue believer at the ultimate Flea Market in Yamato, outside of Tokyo.  Everything and anything is there, from junk to treasure, and everything in between.

image017A beguiling shibori dress in indigo dyed washi at a recent Washi exhibit at Awagami Factory in Tokushima


image019Home dyed swatches of indigo shibori made as Christmas presents for a large family, sit photogenically in the kitchen of multifaceted Dorie Vollum in Portland.

image021Acrylic painting by Mina Katsuki, a Kyoto artist who only sees and paints blue – flaming cobalt blue.

image023A quiet beach scene at Naoshima, near the bus stop on the way home

image025The majestic shape of the roof of the Naoshima Hall was recently designed and built by Hiroshi Sambuichi of Hiroshima whose designs evolve slowly from long consideration of  the confluence of the essential elements: sun, wind and water.  A magnificent counterpoint to blue.

image027The buildings of the beautifully restored !8th century town of Mima in Tokushima, Japan’s indigo capital, are architectural masteries of carpentry and plasterwork where even the skies are indigo.

Below the Udatsu walls between houses are elegant firewalls of plaster and tile, built to prevent fire from spreading.
Uncommonly beautiful craftsmanship against blue skies in the restored town of Mima. Everything looks better against a blue background.


image034Demon roof tiles, Onigawara, keep bad spirits away, under a glorious blue sky.

image036Of all the blues my eyes keep focusing on, one humble one was on a seat cushion of Zuisenji temple in the craftsmen’s town of Inami in Toyama.  The ladies of the temple had put their hands to crocheting cushions of all colors in  crysanthemum shapes for long prayer services on the spartan chairs in the main hall, but I ONLY HAD EYES FOR BLUE.

image038But then again, each time I think I have found The Ultimate Blue, something new/old keeps appearing.  And here was a Glorious Blue Boro at the OEdo Antique Market on Sunday December 19 that brought joy to my indigo heart.

Posted in Journal | 13 Comments