Thursday, 7 January 2016

Oriental - turning Japanese.

Japan is still on my list of places to visit. I find Japanese art fascinating and was very fortunate to see an exhibition of work by Katsushika Hokusai at Lancaster University when I was a student there. The striking inked images, printed from carved wood blocks are delightful. I bought a notebook with a print on the front and delighted in using it to write my first serious poetry and also some cards, intending to send them to special friends, that I confess still sit in my dresser drawer.  These have become treasures, like favourite books that I am unable to part with.

Other aspects of Japanese culture fascinate me and whenever I encounter a book about Japan, I am quickly engaged, wanting to learn as much as I can. Twenty five years ago, I rescued a very small bonsai tree from a local garden centre.  It had been clipped straight across by someone who either didn't read or had never seen a picture of a miniature tree. It was a Chinese Elm.  I researched, read as much as I could, visualising the magnificent tree it could become. I left it undisturbed in fresh compost, in a large deep pot, in my mother's walled garden, for twelve years and was not disappointed.  I designed, threw and glazed a pot for it myself and then took both items to Southport Flower Show, along with my Mum and daughter.

There were bonsai experts showing and I sought their advice.  One expert was keen to help, lifted the plant from the pot and began cutting the root ball, then he helped to wire it into the pot I had made.  I came away more than a little upset, (he was very pushy) I really only wanted advice - not intervention.  The following Spring, my beautiful tree died. I made myself a promise that day. Trust no-one. Especially not someone calling themselves an expert. I still mourn the passing of that beautiful tree. Fortunately, I have 12 year old bay-tree in my front garden that I have nurtured and kept miniature. I love it so much that when considering whether to move house recently, I resolved that I must find a place with the right south-facing aspect or gift the tree to an arboretum. I am very proud that I have shaped it from a twig into a magnificent ornamental tree.

One of my other favourite Japanese things is an animated film. My Neighbour Totoro, by award winning magna artist Hayao Miyazaki, is a magical story, beautifully drawn and told.  Please get a copy and share it with your children, grandchildren, friends and neighbours. It will make you laugh and cry (possibly at the same time). Another favourite with Japanese connections is a book: The Hare with Amber Eyes, a biographic novel written by potter, Edmund de Waal, about a collection of Japanese netsuke, (tiny carved ornaments that were fastened to the ends of belts in Japan). De Waal traces the journey of the collection, a bequest from an uncle. The story straddles three centuries and is a wonderful epic (soon to be made into a movie).  Please read the book.  I have a copy but of course, I couldn't possibly part with it... the poem below, |I| have written as a Tanka, a poetic form originating in Japan in the eighth century.

Tiny, perfect leaves
trim ev'ry miniature bough.
scaled to perfection
and patience, by loving hands.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading, as always.  Adele