This year we decided to create a new section which we entitled ‘Life,’ we saw this as an opportunity to go a little outside of Japanese crafts and culture and introduce exciting talent in many different creative fields. This experiment seems to have been a success, we have met lots of interesting people, and quite a few of them also had very insightful things to say about crafts!
In 2015 we look forward to continuing these kinds of articles, but first lets have a look at what happened during 2014.
One of our first interviews for the Life section was published on the 25th of December 2013, it was an interview with UK based actress Haruka Abe. We were delighted to hear her opinion about crafts:
I absolutely adore traditional Japanese crafts and their aesthetics. I always loved them but even more so now that I live outside of Japan. I worked in a Japanese lacquer ware store in Narita Airport for a brief period before I started University, and completely fell in love with lacquer ware. I think Tame-nuri is such a beautiful color, and gold leaf on black lacquer is my favorite combination.
In January we followed up with an astonishingly well received article by Japanstore.jp editor Mike Sullivan about the use of chopsticks in Japan. To date it has been read thousands of times and we really hope this has helped people with the use of this utensil when visiting Japan, or any Japanese restaurant anywhere!
Several important aspects of Japanese chopstick etiquette are actually connected with funeral rites, this is especially crucial in understanding why there are things that simply can’t be done with chopsticks. For example, chopsticks can’t be stuck vertically in rice as this is a visual image that you may see at a funeral, it is normal to offer rice to the dead person and to stick chopsticks vertically into the rice. In addition you should never pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s chopsticks, again because at a funeral there is a custom of passing bones via chopsticks.
Normally the recently deceased are cremated after which family members pick up fragments of bone from the ash which they pass between each via chopsticks and place in an urn. In other words, these actions will remind Japanese people of death, and in Japan there are a lot of ceremonies and traditions which surround funerals and honouring dead ancestors. With this in mind it is easy to understand not only why you shouldn’t do certain things with your chopsticks but also how doing these things are not just rude but will remind Japanese people of death.
It took us a while to refine the concept that we wanted to create with our Life section, but in May we moved forward with a fascinating interview with an up and coming film director. Takeshi Fukunaga was working on his first feature film and had previously made a documentary about one of the last traditional sword makers in Hokkaido.
The main subject of the documentary, Mr. Watanabe, is a friend of my father in my hometown and I’ve known him since I was little. When I was in Japan, I didn’t have much appreciation to what he does or any Japanese traditional art and craft, but I started to grow my admiration and respect over the years after I moved out of Japan. When Etsy approached me to pitch an idea for their documentary series, it was one of the stories I came up with and they gave me a green light for it. I’m very honoured that I had an opportunity to share his amazing story and the beauty of his swords to the world.
Guest Writer Weini Liao gave our readers a very insightful guide to using the onsen in Japan during the summer, an essential read for anyone planning their first visit to a Japanese hot bath!
As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen (a term for hot spring in Japanese) around the country. For hundreds of years people have taken the opportunity of using these naturally hot springs to bathe themselves and relax. Today in modern Japan it is possible to enjoy both natural onsen and artificially created onsen, as there is a great demand to have an onsen now many hotels include their own onsen.
In late summer we really started to hit out stride with the Life section and began to feature regular articles presenting amazing people such as violinist Midori Komachi. She was even a fan of one of our favourite crafts, Furoshiki!
Even though I grew up moving around to different countries, there were some Japanese crafts which my family always kept with us, wherever we went. So for me, Japanese crafts are memorabilia of home. Japanese crafts are very practically designed, and beautiful. For example, I still use furoshiki (wrapping cloth) whenever I travel for concerts, to organise my clothes! They come in various designs, but I’ve always used the same furoshiki that I’ve been using since my childhood, one with a crane print.
Every year there is a massive festival in London called Hyper Japan and we were lucky enough to interview a Jpop singer, Yun*Chi.
It turned out that even in London, she still likes Japanese things!
I love green tea, so for example the other day I went to Japan Centre in central London and bought some there. I also love shochu mixed with green tea.
By the end of the year we had managed to interview a large number of different creative people, please check out the life section on our website to see more. It was an amazing 2014 and we want to say a big thank you to everyone for their time!
We hope that 2015 will be just as exciting!