Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My Japanese craft love
I cannot remember when I first heard about Japan; probably when I was at school during history lessons. In 1939 Japan invaded Mongolia but quickly, with the help of Soviet Red Army, Mongolian Army expelled them from our borders. After the war was over, near the capital city we had a cemetery with graves of hundreds of Japanese soldiers. During the 1990s many of their remains were returned to Japan.
In April, 2007, my husband and I and our one-year old daughter, who had just started walking, went to Japan to see the cherry blossoms. Our first stop was Tokyo, where we spent a couple of days looking at nearby gardens and frankly, recovering from jet lag.
We went to the Four Seasons Hotel's Japanese Garden. In early April the hotel was holding 20 something Japanese and Western style weddings in one day! We met a Japanese mother and daughter who had dressed for a wedding and asked to have their photos taken with us - sorry, we were tourists! As you can see daughter was wearing kimono with long sleeves, which means she is not married.
After Tokyo we went to Fukuoka and saw a beautiful Japanese garden. In a small plot of land, big rocks will represent the mountain, white gravel will be the sea, and these will be mixed with bridges, temples, waterfalls, bamboo and many carp.
During the 1980s not only Mongolian children but also adults sung a very famous Mongolian song about origami folded paper crane. It was for remembering a little Japanese girl who was ill after the American atomic bomb fell in Hiroshima. And her dream was to make a thousand cranes to recover. We visited the memorial and people all over the world would send origami cranes. I do not make many origami but I can make an origami crane by heart.
Kyoto was our last stop. It was divine for me as I found some craft shops and I was happy to shop till I dropped. There were so many fabrics and bags to buy. Like a typical woman I bought many, but left only three for myself after giving most away. You can see them here. The biggest one is for evening, the medium one for my mobile phone which has little geisha doll hanging from it, and the little one is for my coins; it has a frog symbol for money.
While we were walking in Kyoto's Gion district, a classical tourist area, two maikos (training to be geishas) came to us, asking to take their photo with our daughter! Usually, when tourists see geishas and maikos they ask to have their photos taken with them. In our case it was the contrary. We had our little darling and many Japanese called her kawaii - cute.
After my Japan trip I started making sashiko, traditionally hand stitched on blue working clothes to reinforce them, hence the tradition of white stitching on blue fabric. Nowadays, it can use any coloured fabric or thread. I decorated my daughter's leggings with sashiko stitch:
While searching on the internet for Japanese crafts I found a pattern for a Japanese knot bag. I made it with my Asian-patterned fabric. The handles have different heights.
Recently, I found some Japanese bags that I made a while ago. These bags have a little story to tell. Eight years ago after arriving in Portugal I went to learn Portuguese. A Japanese man was studying with us and at the end of the language course he gave to all female students Japanese scarves. The scarves were beautiful but I was more interested in how Japanese women kept their scarves. I made a couple of bags to keep my scarves, but the fabric is not Japanese. These are square scarves folded and hand stitched in sashiko style.
I hope you enjoyed reading my little story of Japan. One day I would like to go back and shop in the craft paradise in Tokyo.