Yesterday (April 1) we went to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum which offers an exhibition of around 17000 items all classified as "Mingei" by Muneyoshi Yanagi. This refers to handicrafts dating from pre-industrial times and to be called Mingei the item had to meet stringent criteria -it had to be the work of an anonymous craftsperson, produced in quantity but by hand, made to be used in everyday life, inexpensive - therefore accessible to all - and be representational of the region in which it was made. (Thinks : Harris Tweed would be classed as Mingei!) There was pottery, metalwork, lacquerwork, bamboo, stone, paintings, tone rubbings, sculpture, glass, leatherwork, straw work and dolls. It`s also the only museum I`ve ever been in where you have to take your shoes off to go in as the building is traditional Japanese. You get a pair of mega comfy leather mules which were far kinder to my acheing blistered feet than the sandals I had on. In fact, it would have been good to take their slippers and leave my own!
Anyone who may be contemplating visiting the JFCM - the directions in English on the web site - http://www.mingeikan.or.jp/ are good, but omit to mention that you have to leave the railway station by the West Gate. Go down the steps, under the tracks and then go on from then. If you get off the train at the other end and leave by the East Gate - well..... just don`t do it!
Of course my favourites were the textiles - both printed and woven. Here are a couple of little tasters. Photography is allowed, though not with flash.
Woven hangings in silk
There is a lovely little shop at the museum and I could not resist a pocket size Japanese book of 800 pictures of various stripes and checks patterns dating back to the 1800s. If this doesn`t give me some inspiration for the loom, then nothing will! Also another really beautiful book about the work of Serizawa Keisuke who was awarded the title of "Holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property" (also known as "Living National Treasure" for his development of the dyeing technique now known as kataezome.
The book looks totally awesome and will give me much food for thought.
Then, just to show that Japan lives in the present as well as the past, on the way home we called at Yoyogi Park where there is a stage and open air arena where musicians play concerts and gigs at weekends and, because it was school holiday time, during the day. Today we saw a fine rock band who had a loyal following and made a very pleasing sound. Rock culture is big in Japan and people enjoy seeing "lives".
Last night there was a huge thunderstorm over Tokyo that lasted for hours and was accompanied by torrential rain. Though this was not the right season yet, apparently it was almost a Typhoon - not good to be caught out without a brolly.