Our first stop was in Osaka- the second largest city in Japan.
After the 30 minute train ride from Kyoto Station we arrived in Osaka. The train drops you off nearly at the entrance to Osaka Castle, so it was just a short walk to the castle park grounds, nearly 80 acres to explore. I was so impressed with the moat and stone walls, made for protecting the castle. I can’t believe what a fortress this once was and the history behind it, the battles fought literally where we stood. Japan has so much history and you can see that the Japanese are equally impressed with the history.
After a few hours at Osaka castle, our daughter begged us to find the Neko no Jikan cat cafe. How fun! We paid the fee, received a coffee and petted sweet kitties for an hour. Most cats used to the attention so mostly they’re just sleeping or wandering among their play area. It was a nice place to slow down for a bit and rest. This was day seven of our trip and we were definitely feeling tired with all the traveling up to that point.
Later we met up with some friends and had some beers and ramen, did some yukata shopping and headed back to the house until the next adventure…
Kawai Kanjiro, (1890-1966), was known as a major contributor to the Mingei (traditional folk arts and crafts movement). More than just a potter and wood craftsman, he was the noblest of all kinds of person.
Kanjiro was an artist who wanted to remain a maker empowered by his craft, rather than as artist qualified by his fame or notoriety. He never signed a single piece of pottery. He said “my work itself is my signature.”
During his lifetime, Kanjiro turned down all official honors and rewards, including Japan’s Living National Treasure. He was a man unmotivated by material possessions and simply wanted to create for the sake of creating.
He continued to explore who he was through the things he touched and brought to life. This seemed to be a life long passion that became part of who he was. He said “to see my new self, I work.” This was a very important part of his craft. Constant improvement- “kaizen”. He believed “lifestyle is work, work is lifestyle.” They were one and the same.
Humble, unpretentious, real- He never lost touch with common folk and greatly respected the farmers in the countryside. “They are the kind of people we can never do without,” he wrote.
Last summer, my husband and I were debating what to do with our backyard. When we moved in nearly three years ago we knew we didn’t want to tackle the backyard right away. I spent many nights, up late at night, scouring Pinterest (addicting I tell you!) for fresh ideas for our future space.
We decided that we would take out all the grass (big water save) and remove a lot of the existing concrete-it was just a giant sea of concrete that really had no purpose. We wanted to create a back yard that reflected the simple character that our Craftsman style home has. Having a love for the simple, Japanese aesthetic, we followed our hearts and decided on a traditional Japanese garden.Truthfully, we modified our plans over and over again. Did you know how many different kinds of gravel there are? Choosing one plant over another. Researching which bamboo is not going to be invasive…and so on and so on. My handy husband built the wooden pergola, installed the decking, and built the fire pit/seating area. I was in charge of the landscaping design and finishing touches. After 6 looooooong months of working on our project (literally every weekend) it’s completed! We are so pleased with how it has turned out. We just hosted a baby shower with 40 people over and it is a wonderful place to have a party! Now that it’s finally Summer, were hosting a movie night with friends!
One of my favorite aesthetics of Japanese design is in the garden. In a traditional Japanese garden, design emphasis is placed on the balance of yin/yang, harmony, mystery, and meaning. Here are some of the fundamentals in Japanese landscape design:
1 Gravel or sand- “Karesansui”-which in Japanese, translates as “dry mountain water”. This style of landscape is meant to be viewed but never entered- except for raking and maintenance purposes.
2 Rocks- Each selected as a work of art and it’s shape, color, texture, and character are carefully considered.
3 Plants- The seasons dictate which plants to use. Each plant is selected for its leaf colors, bark, stems- even branch pattern. Asymmetry is the goal.
4 Water- Represents change. It represents impermanence: it flows. A stream, pond, lake or even just a simple granite water basin creates ambient sound that’s conductive to meditation.
5 Paths- Paths are meant to guide you through the garden and are constructed in such a way that a visitor must move carefully and slowly through the garden.
What is etiquette? I’m not talking the balancing books on your head, or using the right fork at dinner kind. By definition etiquette means “The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.”
Our recent trip to Japan highlighted etiquette in a profound way for me. In Japan, etiquette is everywhere. It is ingrained into their culture and way of life. For instance, on the subway I witnessed young men happily give up their seat for older commuters. In the mall I had my own experience. I found a beautiful leather change purse I decided to purchase for a friend back in the States. I took the change purse to the lady who worked there. She received the purse with both hands, bowed and took the purse away to wrap it beautifully in paper. She then came back with a receipt on a small tray. She then bowed again as to let me know that is what I am to pay. She took the money and then bowed again. returning with my change and you guessed it, another bow. Upon my exit she bowed once again and thanked me. I in return bowed and said my thanks. Seems like a lot of bowing, but it’s just their way.
I must admit, it was a breath of fresh air. It was so inspiring to see and feel how much care and thought is given to every little thing they do. The Japanese are not an “entitled” society. I never felt like they were “put out”, “inconvenienced” or in a hurry. It all comes down to etiquette. They express themselves and uphold this ideal in everything.