Saturday, October 29, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Tuesday, October 25, 2016, Part Two

Bingata style print on fabric of banana leaves in Okinawa.
This is the first full day that Akiko-san and I have together.  She evidently loves to plan because as soon as I get back to her studio from my walk, she pulls out her daily planner.  The night before, she had immediately started calling her artist friends to schedule us to meet with them.  So today we're going to the famous Serizawa Keitsuke's museum of his work of the Okinawan bingata style of katazome stencil printing on fabric.  We weren't able to take photographs inside but I took pictures in Okinawa.

The bingata technique is originally from Okinawa.  Serizawa Keitsuke was born in Shizuoka in 1895 to a family where his father was a draper (merchant selling cloth primarily made into clothing or as piece goods) .  He went to Tokyo to study design, and returning to Shizuoka, he married into the Serizawa family (his wife was Serizawa Tayo and so took her family name).   He studied with Yanagi Muneyoshi, the leader of the crafts revival movement in Japan at that time.  Serizawa decided to become a dyeing artist because of his studies with his teacher and his love of the Okinawan bingata technique.  He visited Okinawa several times after 1939 to study bingata.  He improved bingata and other dyeing techniques using a stencil paper he developed, calling the new technique "Katazome."  He won world-wide acclaim for his work, finally achieving credit for his abilities in Europe with an exhibit in Paris in 1976.  By 1956 he was designated as a "Living National Treasure" by Emperor Hirohito.  Serizawa died in 1984 at the age of 88.  His huge collection of work was transferred from his house, next to the museum, to the current display of almost 800 works from the 4500 in the collection.  It's a rotating exhibit changed three times a year.

The bingata style is explained in a later post when Akiko and I visit Serizawa's student and assistant, Yamauchi-sensei, tomorrow.
Yayoi village from 2000 years ago was unearthed in
Shizuoka city a number of years ago.  Re-created on
site, it radically compares to the current local buildings
and electrical lines of modern life in Japan.

Yayoi house
Next door to the Serizawa museum is the Toro Park which houses a learning center of Yayoi cultural artifacts from 2000 years ago.  I was so surprised to visit this museum because I remember learning about Yayoi culture in Japanese art history class at Waseda University in Tokyo back in 1972.

Inside the learning center, a village is recreated so
that school children can learn about their
history.  The thatched roof building is a
storehouse for grain and other food.
Their houses were thatched with a long stemmed grass that took 3 years to dry before being used.  You step down into a roundish room that has wood beam rafters above and a fire for cooking below.  Fish and meats were put on twig rafters above the fire to smoke.

They also grew rice and flax.  The linen fibers were woven on a continuous warp backstrap loom.

Loom beaters and equipment.
Shizuoka has a very temperate climate and never receives snow (Akiko has a lush bird-of-paradise plant growing in her yard.)  But it does become cool and at those times in the Yayoi villages 2000 years ago, villages wore animal skins to keep warm.

Yayoi ceremonial building where villages would assemble.
The other fascinating item was that when we entered we were told that one of princes of the Japanese royal family was visiting.  An entire line of black suited men and women were lined up inside the front door---Secret Service agents?  We never did see the prince (second son, not the Crown Prince) but it was exciting anyway.

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