May 31,2013

i thought you might enjoy this-

i’ve said this before but the Japanese have bathrooms down to a science.  this one was especially good.  lights, music, automation.  everything was motion detector triggered. even the underwater light inside the toilet bowl. mine played classical music while some of the other rooms had bird chirping overhead.

this was the hotel in the Yamanashi 5 lakes region. the view of Mt Fuji was spectacular.  the lake in front of the hotel was Lake Kawaguchi. we moved here from the town of Inaka to be closer to the next day’s visit to the indigo dyer Fumiko Satou and the Ichiku Kubota Museum.  this was also a resort type hotel with baths.  the bath was on the roof of the hotel-indoor and outdoor with stunning views of Fuji san and the lake.  the moon was out above as we bathed outside in the cool night air.  the next morning before leaving, we all walked around the lakeside and many memorable photos were taken-

fuji san upon arriving

fuji san upon arriving

morning view out our windows

morning view out our windows

a couple of the gals taking photos from their balconies. who could resist?

a couple of the gals taking photos from their balconies. who could resist?

old hidden stone staircase

old hidden stone staircase

small shrine appears at the top

small shrine appears at the top

a view for the gods and the ancestors!

a view for the gods and the ancestors!

Have just arrived in Nagoya with Phil and we will meet Richard in a little bit.  He had a quick meeting with a TV show to discuss a rare historical find tht will appear on a program here that is the equivalent of our Antiques Road Show.  Kinda cool!

 

Tomorrow is the Arimatsu Shibori Festival and we set up at 8 AM.  I’m a little nervous about this one!

じゃまた!

May 30, 2013

Yesterday was a work day. I accompanied Maggie to the Tokyo office of Fujix Corporation where she is planning to have a class for her Cross Cultural Tour next year. The classes will be held at Fujix’s Tokyo location and we went to see the site. On the way we passed by the new Kabuki Theater in Ginza before catching the train.

May 29, 2013 from Japan

a little side trip again yesterday. it was back to Hayama beach and Hirata San was kayaking. We loaded the kayak early and arrived at the beach at 8 AM.

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I had added this book to the tour’s suggested reading list and brought my copy along to read. It is a fascinating account of the Helm family and the author’s recollections of growing up in Yokohama. Maggie is a bit further along in the book and came across a story about the Emperor’s home here in Hayama. It recounted the 1923 earthquake and tsunami by a housemaid and her escape from death by running into the hills. Upon her return to the Emperor’s home she found it in splinters and folks ransacking corpses for whatever could be found and carried off.
So interesting to read that after having visited the site and seeing the bridge and grounds around the home.

I could have spent all day there walking that beach. there was an amazing amount of beautiful beach glass and porcelain.

May 25, 2013-Sericulture farm visit part one

Today’s first post covers the visit to the silk farmer and sericulturist Koyata san.  Koyata san is in his early to mid 90’s at this point and this is our third visit with him at his house and cocoonery.  Although he is 4 years older now than when I first met him he remains the same- maybe it is the steep uphill climb to his family shrine and graveyard nearby that keeps him so fit in addition to the daily chores of silkworm rearing he continues to do.  These days, he does get some help from the Tama Silk Life 21 group that preserves traditional silk techniques, history and intellectual property through education, practice and exhibitions.  It is difficult and sad to see so much disappearing before our very eyes.

Koyata san and Okonoge sensei

Koyata san and Okonoge sensei

Upon our arrival we were greeted as the bus pulled up by a group of volunteers from the Tama Silk Life 21 group who were here for the day to help educate us on silk sericulture.  We have met them before and they are very happy to see our interest in what they are doing.  It has become increasingly difficult to interest the younger generation in sericulture and it’s important place in the history of Japan.

We began with a visit into the cocoonery- where the kaiko (silkworms) are raised-

cocoon house

cocoon house

 

Noriko explains the process in English

Noriko explains the process in English

The white powder you see is lime- it helps keep the silkworms dry as they shed their skins and move into the next instar.

3rd instar kaiko

3rd instar kaiko

inbetween instars, they take a rest from eating and look like they are in a “praying pose”.

Once they have shed their skins, they will become ravenous and the 4th and 5th instars are a very busy time with all the feeding that takes place.  Much mulberry leaf is eaten!

Moving on- we learn to reel silk cocoons-

Sensei gives us the reeling demonstration

Sensei gives us the reeling demonstration

the whole reeling set up

the whole reeling set up

Sue reels and is amazed! Gambate Sue!

Sue reels and is amazed! Gambate Sue!

hands that know teach hands that learn...

hands that know teach hands that learn…

Here, we begin to learn about the cocoon and the pupae inside.

then we learn to spread the cocoons into mawata-or as we call it silk hankies.

I make mawata- everyone got a turn here.

I make mawata- everyone got a turn here.

then, we learned to take the cocoons and spread them into a lofty quilt bat.  Quite an amazing process.

mawata spreading 1

mawata spreading 1

mawata spreading 2

mawata spreading 2

mawata spreading 3

mawata spreading 3

Repeating this about 100 times a silk quilt bat was made and inserted into a cotton cover which was then tied and stitched closed.

tying and stitching- the finishing touches

tying and stitching- the finishing touches

Seems I will have to conclude this post in part two- my internet connection here is about to end as I have to travel to Shibuya this morning.  Will conclude the visit and also show you the fabulous visit to the Amuse Museum where the boro exhibit is located.

a little preview…

donja

donja

shibori and sashiko

shibori and sashiko

May 20, 2013

gall and cedar materials gathered locally for dyeing

gall and cedar materials gathered locally for dyeing

So back to the studio of Yamazaki sensei and a brief workshop on natural dyeing on Gunma silk.  The two dyes that were prepared for us were  gall nut and cedar.  Both were collected from the immediate area at the height of their season or at the best point of collection for optimal dyeing results. The gall nut results when insects bore into the woody part of the tree (these were oak galls I believe).  The tree responds in defense by extruding a tannin rich nut around the insect eggs.  These galls(nuts) are then collected for use in making a dye liquor after removing insects from inside.  Yamazaki sensei stores these galls in the freezer for later use.  The gall liquor was mordanted with iron to produce a grey/purple color.  The cedar was collected across the road from the studio and steeped in water to extract the  color.  It was then left overnight to oxidize, changing from a yellow to a brownish liquor.  When treated with an aluminum mordant the cedar produced a soft orange color on silk.

A few photos-

Yamazaki sensei explains

Yamazaki sensei explains

The gall nuts are opened and the grey-ish powder inside (insect eggs) is removed.

3 containers-dye, rinse, and mordant

3 containers-dye, rinse, and mordant

It takes many dips into the dye to build the color-rinsing and mordanting each time.

the group at work

the group at work

they were all set up for us and a group of women we had previously worked with came to assist.

drying in the wind

drying in the wind

the resulting colors

cedar dyed and the cedar trees in the background

cedar dyed and the cedar trees in the background

After looking over his work and the opportunity to make a purchase, we were served tea and chestnut sweets followed by a short trip to a local restaurant with a spectacular sweeping rooftop view of the area.  The women who had assisted us came and we were able to talk and see some of their work over a lovely lunch.  Omiyage were exchanged and we said our goodbyes.

rooftop view

rooftop view

 

silk panel

silk panel

 

omiyage- a silk pouch with a sewing kit and silk cocoon flowers

omiyage- a silk pouch with a sewing kit and silk cocoon flowers

We are still on the Ginza but today I will take a group to Asakusa and the Amuse Museum to see their collection of boro, sashiko, and ukiyoe.

じゃまた!

May 21, 2013

We are now at the Ginza for several days as the tour winds down and I have access to internet here in my room.  It will allow me to catch you up a bit.

This post focuses on the natural dye workshop and visit we had at the studio of Yamazaki Kazuki.  His grandfather, Yamazaki Akira coined the word “kusakizome” in 1930 to discriminate synthetic dyeing from natural dyeing.  Of course natural dyeing preceded synthetic dyes as all dyeing was “natural” in the past.  As synthetic dyes came into use and dyers and industry turned to their use, traditional natural dyeing needed a term of it’s own.  “Kusa” means grass- “kusaki” means vegetation, and “zome” (from the verb someru) means dyed.  Kusakizome then means dyed by natural materials such as grass, roots,flowers, buds, leaves, bark and so forth.  Upon doing a little googling on the elder Yamazaki, I found myself back at one of my favorite blogs with this. Fantastic!  His father, Yamazaki Aoki became a very famous dyer as well winning many awards and accommodations for his work and expertise. Now it seems this knowledge continues in the hands of Yamazaki Kazuki who specializes in the application of natural local seasonal plant dyes with katazome. (Katazome is a stenciled rice paste resist technique that involves the cutting of very fine stencils, screening of rice paste resist through the stencil onto cloth and the dyeing of the cloth-often employing multiple stenciling and dyeing.)

So, a little timeline….

Yamazaki, Akira, b. 1892 (grandfather), d. 1972

Yamazaki, Aoki,  b. 1923 (father), d. 2010

Yamazaki, Kazuki, b. 1957

So, for now, please enjoy the video.  Later, I will post some photos from the dyeing we did there.