Friday, 11 March 2011

Some of the best things come in small packages...

My fascination with Japan extends far beyond the obvious. Ritual & cleanliness are important. Reading the Japan Pulse blog, which is the blog for Japan Times Online Big (only) in Japan? section I came across 'oshibori' which is the practice of cleaning ones hands & face before a meal with a scented towel. The ones made into birds are featured here, photographed by Daiji Hirata,whose photo of 'Shinjuku in a Glass' is fantastic!

For those of you who don't know I have many obsessions (healthy or not) & my love of 'things that fly' (birds, planes & helicopters especially) & cats are high on the list. Both such loves are shared by Japanese culture. So as you can imagine my favourite image from the Tokyo Story series by Emily Allchurch is 'Tokyo Story 4: Interior (after Hiroshige) 2011' which also includes many other fascinating Japanese things on my 'love it' list. Some of these details are hard to see online, much better full size close up if you get the chance to see them at Diemar/Noble Photography DO! Emily's image here has everything, including birds & an airplane! What more could I wish for....

Included in this image there is a fan, the one here is my own with it's case, a gift from Tokyo from the lovely Brittain Bright. I always put one in my bag from April 1st as the London underground starts to get warmer around this time (seems a long way off but it's not) & get a little smug when I see other less wise commuters stare at it longingly.

Many years ago now I learnt how to do the Yang Style Fan Form which is a rarity nowadays. This is an adjunct to Chinese culture, but the love of the fan & it's use as a weapon is common to both. It made my appreciation for the fan as an object grow, which with a flick of the wrist snaps open. By holding one edge between thumb & forefinger you can 'snap' it in a really satisfying way, try it! I had to learn it right handed (I am left handed) so it was very difficult but much more satisfying when I got the hang of it. I cannot find the exact version online (as there a many) but this comes closest to it. Origami paper on the floor also has a geisha upon it. There are many references to geisha here (as the Hiroshige has a geisha figure) giving a more subtle suggestion alluding to a geisha's presence. The kimono (more about those in a later post) & the sign announcing 'Private' indicates the geisha also.

Then there is inrō, beautiful accessories (often attached to ones obi) that contain anything small. The explanation here is perfect! My interest lies in the design & sheer beauty of it as an object. It is hard to find antique inrō, as much now is plastic & not nearly as nice. The British Museum has a lovely collection, the one pictured here is aptly from the Edo period. The full details & more stunning inrō are on the website. The interior itself is enticing yet open as the water beyond leads to the industrial horizon looming in the distance. This hints at the great times of change & upheaval ahead as the Edo period came to an end with the overthrowing of Tokugawa by the Meiji Restoration on 3 May 1868.

I could wax lyrical about this picture all day it is my favourite. On a personal note, the chopsticks also give me a twang of pleasure as I still have my very first pair given to me by my dad when I was 7 years old. The pride I took in using & mastering them was a big deal as a kid. I think this is how my passion for the art of Japanese food was instigated, as eating with knives & forks gets a little dull & the food can be so pretty. If the bird-shaped oshibori is just the beginning of the meal, what adventures the rest of the meal could be...

1 comment:

  1. Your link to the tai chi fan form no longer works. The page is now at

    Are you able to update it?