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The Artistic Flavor of Japanese Communities

Small shops were each unique...this Obuse bakery window is an example of attention to design detail seen in so many of the little shops frequented by local residents as well as visitors to the nearby Bonsai Museum. The owners of this bakery were so proud of their shop, and were delighted to have their photo taken as a representative of their city. Their wide selection of breads, cookies and European pastries were elegantly displayed and made with the finest ingredients.

Flower arrangement is both traditional and modern. This modern interpretation of a birds nest by young flower artist, Atsumi Kuwata shows the new spirit of artistic expression that is grounded in the love of nature so apparent in Japan's traditional arts and crafts.

Paper is an ancient craft that was adopted by the Japanese from their Chinese neighbors. This cut paper art is created by an artist who makes her own paper from the persimmon tree in order to have the strong fibers necessary to hold the cuts. The local Obuse museum exhibits not only her paper art, but a modern multimedia presentation that weaves the story of nature and art into a life experience. And her art is repurposed in silkscreened fabric, greeting cards, and explained to visitors with a demonstration of each step in creating this ancient art form.

The wood crafts show consistent mastery, whether in turned pieces for the eating and serving at the table, or ancient bas relief carvings such as this high relief with multiple stained images of rhododendron blossoms and mountains to complement the close up of the blossoms. The rough cut board with deliberate textural background set off the perfection of the carved elements.

This calligraphic sculpture of rock was part of the outdoor sculpture garden at the "Traditional tools" museum in Takeshi-mura, a town in Nagano Prefecture. The combination of the rough texture and orderly characters made a strong statement of how much people here appreciate both nature and civilization.

...And the street signs! I loved the beauty, organic shapes...and crooked traffic signs! Not only were they helpful -- extra tall, but those crook necks get your attention with their diagonal lines.

The small sign in the back is an elegant example of the creative simplicity used by businesses in their signage. Unique, oganic shapes with little touches, such as turning the diagonally but posts in opposite directions to add to the design impact.

And what is art without participation! The "Traditional tools" museum had a hands on exhibit for making fire. My sister was as delighted as anyone could be when her try at twirling the fire apparatus resulted in first smoke, then tiny embers, and yes, a tiny flame when she quickly dropped some sawdust on the embers. Her two-month old granddaughter, Maria, slept patiently in her stroller while Grandma played!

Ms. Yumiko Atobe of Obuse-machi, Nagano Prefecture is "Country Mama". Yumiko maintains a garden with more than 200 species of plants to be used with your family's meals and her world reknown dried flower masterpieces.

Satoko, our hostess, shared this special friendship with Vera and me by arranging a visit to Yumiko's studio and garden.

We were thrilled to be treated to a tea in her greenhouse-teahouse, and to see how she grew her plants, how her husband created a sink out of tree stump roots and a potting basin...and then, an even greater treat...a private lesson on how to create dried flower "paintings".

Tweezers, clear polymer gel, and a rainbow of dried flower petals and greenery were our palette. While we used the gel as a glue, the master explained how her internationally recognized works use no glue at all...only the static electricity of petals held in place by glass.

There were many other encounters with the arts and crafts of local artisans that we enjoyed. I'd just like to conclude by expressing the joy and simple elegance that I enjoyed as people wove creative projects into their everyday lives. That is truly inspiring...
Photos: Copyright 2005 Carolyn Allen. All rights reserved. You are welcome to link to this article.

For more articles about ENJOYING NATURE

Botanical Garden Links
California Poppy Reserve
The Botanical Garden and Montreal Insectarium
America's Ecosystems
California Poppy Reserve
California Agritourism

For more articles about URBAN NATURE

Urban Agriculture for Outdoor Adventure
Earth's Most Successful Life Form
Kudzu Grows a Foot per Day
Meow How? Should I keep my cat indoors?
Habitat on Your Balcony and Garden Patio
Keeping ants in nature where they belong