09 May 2007

Why Japan?


I was recently asked what it was that sparked my fascination with Japan and Japanese culture, and to be honest it is a question I have asked myself often. I think that my particular interest in Japanese culture grew out of a general interest in all things Chinese and Japanese, and while I still like Chinese things it is the simplicity and minimalism of Japanese things that appeals to me even more.

As you can see in the photo, there were two bamboo scrolls painted with flowers on the walls of my childhood home, and at a later stage there were also pictures of ikebana flower arrangements. My mum often cooked Chinese food and I can vividly remember the first time we went for a meal at a Chinese restaurant.

I remember as a child watching television programmes like The Water Margin and Monkey. My favourite books in one of the local libraries had an oriental setting, although I can remember little else about it. I have also had, for as long as I can remember, an old book called Children of Other Lands by Mary Entwhistle, which includes stories about children called Chang and Ah Fu in China, and Ito and Okiku in Japan.

One of my grans had a tiny mirrored shrine with two miniature kokeshi dolls on it, and it was one of my favourite things at her house. I also seem to remember that my great gran had some ivory ornaments, which may have been oriental in style.

But the main thing that influenced me was a television documentary, Man on the Rim, which I watched in my late teens. The presenter travelled around the countries of the Pacific Rim, and examined their cultures. I could not believe the incredible craftsmanship of the makers of such traditional Japanese crafts as bamboo tea whisks and wooden combs. From that day on I was completely hooked on everything Japanese.

In 1997 I saw a photograph in a magazine of a Japanese dollshouse, and decided to make a dollshouse of my own in a Japanese style, which involved a great deal of research into Japanese culture. A few years later I moved into my own house and decorated my living room in Japanese style.

I finally visited Japan for a week last year, flying out there exactly a year ago tomorrow (my first time flying!). One of the things that I made sure to bring home as a souvenir was a bamboo tea whisk, just like I had seen on Man on the Rim about 20 years previously.

To bring things right up to date, this weekend I’m going to a Japanese spring blossom festival, and the following weekend I’m going on a Japanese woodblock printing course.

3 comments:

mrana said...

wow Emma, I was absolutely amazed by your dollhouse, it's wonderful! How long did that take to make? It's obvious that there were a lot of childhood influences that probably helped interest you in Chinese/Japanese culture, though there really doesn't have to be a reason ... I for one, am glad for your interest, when you produce such beautiful works from it!

Emma Reid said...

Hi Mariana

It took ages to make the dollshouse - about 3 months from what I remember.
But it was well worth all the hard work! My mum was working on one of her
dollshouses at the same time, so we kept each other company doing them.

mrana said...

Well, it was well worth the 3 months ... for me anyway :) I love dolls houses.

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