Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Follow-Up from America

Seiyu Department Store, my mother-in-law's local
store for everything including groceries (in basement), is
owned by Walmart.
This is a follow-up now that I'm back home in Michigan and I remember a number of things I didn't include or mention.

One of them, that I realized actually when I was last at Seiyu buying sushi for dinner the night before I left to go home, is that Seiyu Department Store is now owned by Walmart.  Yes!  There was a computer monitor at a cash register that was shut down in another lane with just the Walmart logo on the screen.  My friend, Forde Sakuoka, had mentioned that to me soon after I arrived and I'd forgotten to mention it--- it hadn't sunk in yet.  It is a small, small world.

I finally looked up the Sogetsu school of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging.  Here are a couple of links that will help with the explanation:


I have a feeling that I have seen Sogetsu ikebana flower arrangements before, probably on my last trip in 2005, at the Hotel Metropolitan.  They are huge and dramatic.  If I can find an image of the hotel lobby from my last trip, I'll add it in to this post.  If you google search on "sogetsu ikebana flower arrangements" you find images that show endless images.  Some are small, but there are immensely huge ones that are used in hotel lobbies.

Jomon period pot with rope design used to store nuts
or cook meat or fish.
On my Tuesday, Oct. 25, Part Two post, I showed images of the Toro Village Learning Center in Shizuoka which recreates a Yayoi village:  its houses, buildings, and rice paddies.  I had learned about the Yayoi culture in my Waseda Univeristy Kosaibu class on the Art History of Japan.  I hadn't yet understood the difference between Yayoi culture and Jomon, and even the Haniwa figurines and where they fit in.  After doing a little research on line once back home, Jomon era came first (13000 BC to about 300 BC; hunters, gatherers, fishermen), then Yayoi (300 BC to 300 AD with the rice growing culture brought in from China and Korea; also iron and metal working), and then Kofun (300 - 538 AD) which brought together the southern part of the main island of Japan into one country with the emperor living in the Nara area.  (The Haniwa figurines, unglazed pottery figures, were produced during the Kofun period.)

Another pot (almost 2 feet tall) from Jomon period.
The Amuse Museum had a very good exhibit of Jomon pottery.  (The lighting in one of the rooms was colored and didn't display the pottery well.  Also, I didn't take images of all of the explanatory signs but I think even the second large pot shown is Jomon.)   In the Jomon period, straw rope was considered sacred and was used often on their pottery to create texture and designs.  I believe that the pottery and all the pieces of clothing shown were also from Tanaka Chuzaburo's collection as were the Boro fabrics.

A traditional Japanese back strap loom.
Also there was a traditional loom that sat on the floor.  It was a back strap loom with a branch arched above the loom and connected to the warp beam in front.  The other end of the branch would have a rope loop the weaver's right foot would go through that loop in order to change sheds.  Japanese weaving on these looms was only two shafts/harnesses (plain weave).  When the alternate shed was needed, the weaver would pull back on their right foot and the shed would be changed and opened.  I actually wove on a loom like this during the spring of 1972 at the Yuukitsumugi Weaving Factory in Tochigi Prefecture, except that it was raised up off the floor about 1-1/2'.

I hope you can read the sign describing the meaning of "mottainai"---  that's a waste or it's too good to waste.  When it comes to fabric especially (even food), it explains a lot about Japanese culture.  (If you click on the picture and Zoom In, you should be able to read the commentary.)

The Yayoi culture, which followed Jomon, is well documented at the Toro Village Learning Center in Shizuoka.  At the International Christian University's art museum, there is also excellent documentation of the Jomon and Yayoi cultures that I remember.  As the ICU dug the foundations for its new buildings on campus, pottery and living sites were discovered and an archeology department developed.  I wasn't able to take any pictures of the pottery and signs as photographs weren't allowed.