This will take you breath away: contemporary Japanese fashion


Come back tomorrow for an explanation!

Update: 7/20/13: There is a fine exhibit at SAM now called, somewhat confusingly, “Future Beauty” but is actually a show of some of the high fashion emanating from Japan from the last 30 years.


The show includes these designers:

Rei Kawakubo
Yohji Yamamoto
Junya Watanabe
Issey Miyake
Jun Takahashi
Hiroyuki Horihata
Makiko Sekiguchi
Hiroaki Ohya
Shinichiro Arakawa
Naoya Hatakeyama
Tatsuno Koji
Tao Kurihara
Hanae Mori
Kenzo Takada
Maiko Kurogouchi
Taro Horiuchi
Akira Naka
Keisuke Nagami
Kosuke Tsumura
Tamae Hirokawa
Masahiro Nakagawa
Takao Yamashita
Kazuaki Takashima
Mikio Sakabe
Naoki Takizawa
Aya Takano
Akira Onozuka
Kumiko Uehara
Hokuto Katsui
Nao Yagi
Lica Azechi


In a move that keeps art museums maintaining their reputation of being elite and unapproachable, the visitor is not allowed to take photos in the current exhibition.

Now, I have spent a good part of my adult life working in and for art museums and I know all the reasons for not allowing photograph (mainly the potential damage caused by the flash of the camera’s light).  But if art museums want people to come, to look, to enjoy, then they need to allow today’s visitor the opportunity to take a picture.  Phones with cameras are ubiquitous.  Phones are in everyone’s hands.  So, here’s a tip to the art museums of the world:  allow pictures.  You don’t have to do any more focus groups to understand why museums seem elite.


So, yeah, I took these pictures without permission by playing hide and go see with the guards.  Stupid.


The most aggravating part of the experience is that I couldn’t get pictures of the  most knock-out designs because the guards were watching for me (I don’t blame the guards, they were just doing their jobs, but the administration needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  Wouldn’t you think especially in the coffee-capital that is Seattle, they already would be smelling the coffee?)


So, please enjoy these few pictures that I stole.



This was interesting.  Some of the garments were folded like origami and displayed as 2-d designs.

One of the most flamboyant dresses could be folded up entirely and packed like a large, flat paperback book .  Now that’s ingenious.  Too bad I can’t show you because of the photog restrictions.

If you can, catch this show!

Sayonara! Mata ne.

R is for Rialto Bridge in Venezia, Italia!

And the winner is:  Erikeno who recommended the Rialto Bridge!  What a great idea!  You can collect your prize in person in September!

Honorable mention goes to JBragg with the suggestion of Raku ware from Japan.  Thank you JBragg! Here’s a picture for you:

But, back to dreamy thoughts of the Rialto…

It turns out that early versions of this beloved, gorgeous ponte di rialto were made of wood and kept collapsing.  About 1585, it was decided to build the bridge in stone and a Swiss-born engineer/architect known as Antonio da Ponte (1512 – 1595) (Anthony of the bridge, are you kidding me?), helped design and build the bridge that has since become a major symbol of Venice.

Check out this link for the latest and greatest information.


1588 – 1591

Tanabata @ Seattle Japanese Garden, July 7, 2013


A week or so ago I helped decorate bamboo branches with origami at the Japanese Garden in celebration of “Tanabata”.

Here’s the wiki explanation of the event:

Tanabata (七夕?, meaning “Evening of the seventh”) is a Japanese star festival…(which) celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.



Sayonara minna-san!


Jimminy Cricket, just because…

I didn’t post anything in the past two weeks doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything!

So, let me catch you up!


I encountered a stand of hollyhocks while looking for an iced Americano.


I went to see the exhibit at SAM on Japanese Fashion of the past 30 years.  Love this dress!


Here’s another masterpiece from the exhibition.


And one more in black that proves my point that turbans are under utilized!


What’s that you say? You didn’t know I had a position on the wearing of turbans?  Well I certainly do!

Here’s how I know:


That’s me in the brown turban while in Morocco climbing a mountain of sand in the Sahara Desert.  I can tell you that turbans not only look good and add drama and mystery, they serve the useful purpose of keeping the sand out of your mouth and nose.


This camel driver knows the truth!

Ciao, ragazzi!

U is for Uffizi; or is it for ukioy-e? Take your pick.

The Uffizi or the art of ukioy-e.  How can I decide?  I love them both.  They are like children, you can’t choose a favorite!

Let’s start in Italy.  How can you go wrong?!!  Well, you can’t!  Did you know that 40% of the world’s art resides in Italy?  It is the truth.  And a lot of the best is in this former office building in Florence.

Galleria degli Uffizi. I could look at this view–in person of course– for minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or even a lifetime.

Here’s a nighttime view, looking the opposite direction. Sigh.

Here is just one of the masterpieces included in the Uffizi collection.  Botticelli‘s Birth of Venus.
Time spent looking at this painting is my idea of heaven, although I have little patience with the crowds that gather in front of this beauty.

And, before I get carried away with the incredible Florentine museo, let me turn to ukiyo-e, aka Japanese wood-block prints.

Here is a masterpiece by Hokusai known as The Great WaveTry to imagine yourself as one of the boaters in the lower right quadrant.  Scary thought!  Is the artist making a statement about the magnificence of nature and man’s tiny role in it?  Maybe.

And then there is the great Hiroshige as seen in one of his views of the famous road between Tokyo and Kyoto. Notice how the smoke from the bonfire drifts up and out of the composition, even breaking the framing device.  Nice touch Hiroshige.  No wonder you are considered a master artist.

Based upon the realms of art, the letter U is a good, even great, letter!

Ciao, sayanara!

Japanese couturiers

I’m taking a break from the alphabet to talk about this fun exhibition I saw today at the Seattle Art Museum.  Plus the fact that the museum is air conditioned, which is a definite plus in this streak of hot weather here.

Issey Miyake is just one of the designers included.  Here he is:

Rei Kawakubo’s work was included.  Here she is:

Here’s another design by Rei:

I just can’t resist adding another:

And Yohji Yamamoto is in the exhibition:

Here’s his picture:

It’s a fun show and a cool place!

Three more beauties, a movie, a novel and a MOOC.

Have you seen this charming film? If not, you must!  It is perfectly delightful.

Japanese Film: The Hula Girls

Hula Girls was released in Japan in 2006 and, the following year, swept five major awards from the Japan Academy.  That alone might convince you that it is worth seeing.

Then, when you hear that the heart-warming story is based on a real life group of miner’s daughters in a real Japanese village, who reluctantly turn to dancing the hula in an effort to save their small community:  maybe that will make you want to see it.

But, whatever inspires you, see it!

I loved it.

Ellen Ullman By Blood 

And then there is By Blood, written by Ellen Ullman.  I juust finished reading this masterpiece, which was a New York Times Notable Book last year.

You know how sometimes you get lucky and find a book that you can’t stop reading?  Well, for me, this book was all that.  I read it in under a day because I could not put it down. I tried to do other things yesterday, honest I did.  But when I walked away from this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I read a lot, and this rarely happens.

By Blood is a must read for anyone interested in current fiction and great story-telling.  It is written with a fresh, new style that keeps the narrative flowing.  You will be amazed.  I promise.

And, finally, my MOOC.

The Ancient Greeks
by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak

You know about these Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), I presume?  If not, you need to find out about them pronto.  For anyone who loves learning, this is an amazing new resource, a cutting-edge approach to education for the 21st century.  And, it is free.  I am currently enrolled in a history course entitled The Ancient Greeks taught by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak of Wesleyan University.

As a learning or teaching format, this system has some kinks.  For example, if you watch the course videos, and don’t already know a lot about Greek history and name and place spellings, you are going to feel overwhelmed and need to stop the video a bunch of times to look up the spellings.  A word to the planners:  this is not a good thing.  A lot of “students” are going to get frustrated and stop “attending” your lectures.  I also think the “tests” are not currently stressing the most important concepts in learning.  But, again, I want to emphasize that the format is new and being revised, so still try out a course or two.

However, I persevered and overall have been happy that I did. What great access to good professors and new materials in an approachable format.  It is a boon for learners from around the world.  In the online forums, I found myself chatting about the course with people from Hong Kong, South America, all over Europe.

So, try it, I think you’ll like it.

“Chado” or, the “Way of Tea”; Japanese Garden, Seattle


A demonstration of “Chado” took place Saturday at the Seattle Japanese Garden tea house. There are many components to what sounds so casual, drinking tea.  Nothing about Chado, however, is casual.  Here you can see the interior of the tea hut, with the electric brazier topped by a kettle of water on the left, and the tokonama, or recessed alcove, on the back wall.  Notice that the tokonama measures 2/3 of the interior wall.  The tatami mats each measure 3′ x 6′.


First, the two guests entered the 6-tatami matted room.  They remove their shoes at the entry, carefully walk in and up to the brazier, kneel and observe the brazier, then make their way to their tea-drinking location.


After the guests are seated, as above, the inner door, shoji, slides open and the host(ess) enters the room and walks slowly and precisely to her position kneeling in front of the brazier, after she first made several trips into and out of the room, to carry in all of the tea implements, one by one.  In the photo above, you see the hostess is walking to her position in front of the brazier.


In this photo, you can see the various implements, beginning on the right side, in the front row.  The largest, brown container is ceramic and contains the fresh water the host has just brought in.  Next you see the bamboo tea whisk.  Just behind that is the lidded tea container, which holds the matcha (green tea powder), with the bamboo scoop resting on top.  To the left of that is the ceramic tea bowl in which she will add hot water from the kettle on the electric brazier, as well as the powdered green tea and some cool, fresh water. Here she has just dipped the scoop into the hot water and is about to add it to the bowl.


Above you see the hostess whisking the tea in the water in the tea bowl.  She prepares one bowl of this “thin” tea (there is a separate ritual which prepares “thick tea”, which is about the consistency of a roux) to be served to her first guest.  She speaks to her first guest, they bow to one another, the guest moves forward (while kneeling), takes the tea bowl, scoots back while kneeling and not disturbing her kimono (which I gather takes a lot of practice.  As you may know, kimonos don’t have buttons!).  Back in her original place, she takes her tea bowl in her hands, balances the bowl in her left palm and gives the bowl two distinct turns clockwise, so that the front of the tea bowl is now facing her.


Before drinking the tea, the guest has eaten a small sweet, which you see on the round plate in the photo above.  The sweet prepares the palette for the bitter green tea which she will soon drink.


After guest one has drunk her tea, and then examined her tea bowl, the host prepares a second bowl of tea for the second guest, who has likewise eaten a sweet.

Please note the placement of the closed fans right behind the feet of both guests.  They have lain these fans in these positions when they first took their places.  The fans then serve as a kind of place card.

After guest two (or more, if there are other guests) has drunk her tea, examined her tea bowl, and done her bowing to the host, the three people might discuss the scroll and floral vase that the host has selected for the tokonama.  They would never talk about politics, what books they are reading, or what they saw on tv last night.


Above, the host is cleaning up her utensils and then she will stand and carry them, one by one, to the outer room behind the sliding shoji.


Here she goes, carrying out the equipment.



The host has disappeared behind the shoji, the guests have departed after slipping on their shoes, and the room appears again as it appeared before the ritual began.