Custom-made in Japan
Japan! Where does one begin when
talking about its traditions that span over twenty centuries? While
living in Japan from 1996 to 1999, I used to breathe a sigh of relief
when I found a Western-style toilet in a restaurant. Japanese inns
made for a difficult night of sleep because the traditional pillows
resembled cloth bags packed with dried pinto beans and the futon
just didn't have the same comfortable give of a mattress; I found
myself choosing the beds of the Hilton or Holiday Inn. I was pleasantly
surprised to find that the modern, "real" Japan suited
my tastes. I knew that less than a hundred years ago, I wouldn't
have had such choices--it was amazing that a country with more than
2000 years of history had changed so much in a mere century.
But the dark side of this change was all too apparent. I met Ms.
Murata, a country woman who makes her own indigo dye from the leaves
of the ai plant. She's one of only a handful of people who
still do so; naturally-made indigo has been almost obliterated by
new synthetic dyes. I befriended Mr. Toji, a man who for 30 years
has been playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute, one of Japan's
traditional musical instruments, which dates back to the 7th
century A.D! Six years ago, he had moved to a remote area in the
mountains where the pace of life is still slow, to teach lessons
and craft his own flutes. Kyoto had become too frenetic and fewer
people were opting to take the time necessary to learn to play the
shakuhachi. These artisans all told me the same story--their
traditions and many others like them, are quickly dying.
The idea for the Japanese Connection was conceived to expand the
audience and potential pupils for a small (yet huge!) niche of Japanese
heritage--arts and crafts--beyond the traditional watery borders
of Japan. A friend suggested I call the site "dyingarts.com"
and we laughed at the dark joke, but sobered just as quickly.
I gathered these people together, through recommendations and research,
as leading representatives of the artisans and craftspeople who
still adhere to the old ways. These masters at least, along with
their crafts, are still very much alive and a pleasure to know!
When Ms. Terada tells me that that she has been making yukata
and kimono for "only" 30 years, I laugh quietly,
still caught off guard by this trademark Japanese humility that
seems to go hand-in-hand with these venerable traditions.
So, please have a look at the works of artists
such as Mr. Nozaki, whose family of master woodworkers began
making shoji screens over 300 years ago, when King Louis the XIV reigned in
France and the British colonials in North America were celebrating their
Thank you for visiting!
Co-founder, The Japanese
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Quick and easy Japanese Connection gift certificates now available!