Teppei Ikehira in Art Expo Malaysia

Teppei Ikehira who I introduced in takumist on Sep 9 participates in Art Expo MALAYSIA from Galerie Bruno Massa.

The expo will be held from Oct 12 to 14. If you happens to be in Kuala Lumpur, it is worth visiting to see his art pieces.

Art Expo Malaysia

Art Expo Malaysia

MATRADE Exhibition and Convention Centre (MECC)

Jalan Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah,

50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Teppei Ikehira 池平撤兵

Teppei Ikehira, artist’s official site


Meeting with Teppei Ikehira from his private exhibition ”今を灯して(Lighting up the present)” – Part II

At Part I, I introduced Teppei Ikehara‘s art piece, titled ’They know their place’.

Ikehira told me that he started painting it with ‘a boy cuddling a tiger’. Can you locate the little boy?  It is drawn at the lower part of left corner.

Teppei Ikehira 1

a boy with a tiger

One day Ikehira brought back a stuffed tiger from neighbor restaurant to surprise his son expected to be home from school.  Against the odds, the son started cuddling the tiger and that became an inspiration for Ikehira to start out the work.

Ikehira said that he normally doesn’t have full picture how he wants to finish a work when he started.  The finished work is so to say a consequence of accumulated daily inspiration.

“I intuitively find a motif that interests me and carefully draw it with high concentration and in detail.  I continuously find such  interesting motifs from daily life, so I have a plenty of sources.”

Ikehira‘s inspiration comes from a slice of daily life. Interaction with his children, orange tree in his back yard, insects, birds coming to his house, a picture in a magazine he happens to read, etc, etc. Anything could be sufficient to keep his fire going.

Looking at countless motifs scattered like stars on canvas, my mind traveled with memories, was stimulated with new encounters and felt like dreaming. I may have had a some kind of simulated experience through Ikehira’s artwork.

Ikehira‘s work is exhibited at Corridor Gallery 34, Park Hotel Tokyo this month. Don’t miss the chance!

Date: September 1, 2018 (Sat.) – September 30, 2018 (Sun.)
Time: 11:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
Place: Corridor Gallery 34, Park Hotel Tokyo (34F)
Fare: Admission Free

At the next post, I will touch on some more Ikehira‘s creations.

九谷焼:Kutani ware – New wave

I had a chance to meet with a young talented artist, Mai Kitai (北井真衣) from Kanazawa.   She makes Kutani porcelain by using the technic inspired by Mokubei Aoki, who is a porcelain artist back in 17th Century and was brought to Kutani to re-established Kutani ware.


“I have heard that Kutani porcelains use motives from a slice of daily life, that inspired me” – Mai Kitai

What I was most interested was her unique themes and motifs. Working woman on her way to the office, two business men exchanging a business card, a girl applying a mascara sitting down on a bench at a part…… A slice of our modern life is drawn in her own nonchalant touches. Those scenes seem so familiar and provoke laughter.

The below pictures are only some example of teacups. The price for one cut is 8,000 yen (excluding tax).

I am keen to see how her work will evolve. I am sure her style will attract new segment of people to the world of Kutani ware.




About Mai Kitai: 

Born in 1985 in kanazawa. Ceramic artist. After graduated from Kanazawa Kogyo University in 2008, she decided to pursue her career as a ceramic artist.  She graduated from Kanazawa college of art and gained a master degree in 2015.  She selects what she feels and observes in the modern daily life as a theme for her work. Once the theme is applied to her work,   the familiar everyday life  becomes unusual. She wants to express this transformation into a form of commodity products.

If you are interested in her work;


Kokoshi cafe (http://kokoshi-cafe.com/?mode=grp&gid=957512)


九谷焼:Kutani ware

Kutani ware is one of the greatest of Japanese porcelains.



The style is said to be started in 1655 in Kutani (九谷)region, which is in the current Kaga city in Ishikawa prefecture. After 50 years its existence, it disappeared once from the front stage of porcelains’ world.  The reasons remain mystery even today.  In 1807, only 80 years later, Kokutani was re-established when the domain of Kaga that governed the region that time, brought Mokubei Aoki, a porcelain artist, from Kyoto and opened a kiln.

However, the history of Kokutani had never been easy. During the period of 1940-1960s, the origin of Kokutani ware was challenged. Some started doubting that the origin was not from Kutani region, but from Arita region, where is still one of the most important home of porcelains.  Fragments of a china plate with the similar style as Kutani were found in Arita region, while the fragments found in Kutani region were different from Kokutani in it style. After 1987, the development of scientific research methods could identify a type of clay, form and tone. The research results concluded that Kokutani ware could be made in the current Okayama region in 1640-1650, but similar style of fragments were recently found in Kutani area and the origin still remains as a mystery.

Its most outstanding characteristic is the multicolored ceramics painting. There are two different kinds of painting. One is called ‘Gosaite (五彩手)’, which is named from its characteristics of using five colors of red, yellow, green, purple and navy. Gaussian often draw beauty of nature, landscape, or people’s life. Its bold and well composed pictures create an exquisite harmony on white porcelain.


Via: 九谷焼百話

Another style is called ‘Aote(青手)’. It uses deep colours of green, yellow and purple but no use of red. Aote style paints an entire surface of a porcelain by the similar touch and rich colour of oil painting. The thickness of the paint gives a dynamic three-dimensional effect. It is as though birds and flowers drawn were about fly out of the porcelain.


via 一生一石:青手古九谷の謎


水引き(Mizuhiki): A charm of knots

‘Connecting people’, ‘Uniting people’….these are the phrase we often hear and use today. In the era of smart phone, people can be always hooked and reachable literally anywhere and anytime.

‘繋ぐ (connecting)’, ‘繋がる(being connected)’, these are the buzz word in Japan, certainly after March 11, 2011 when we had the massive earthquake and Tsunami disaster in the northern part of Japan. We experienced the modern technology was useless under the natural disaster beyond our imagination, but it gave us an opportunity to recognize the importance of “togetherness”, physically and at heart. It really gives us an extra power to get over, perhaps, one of the toughest moment for many people.

Knots has an association with the symbolism of love, friendship and affection. The knots motif can be found in legend, old stories and custom in many countries across Western and Eastern world.

In Japan, we have a custom to use ‘Mizuhiki (水引き)’ for a specific event such as birth, wedding ceremony, funeral service. Mizuhiki knot is associated with the Japanese word ‘musubu (結ぶ)’ meaning ‘connection’ or ‘tying’. As the name tells, attaching Mizuhiki conveys warmth, connection and togetherness.


Photo from Kurume machi tabi official blog

Mizuhiki is made from twisted, traditional Japanese paper, which is made into a string hardened with starch.


How the tradition of mizuhiki started is rather funny. When packages arrived from Sui dynasty of China in 607 AD, the packages were tied up with red and white codes. Government officials who saw the codes misunderstood that the codes were meant to show respects and wishing ‘Bon voyage’ from Sui dynasty, while Sui dynasty tied them with codes just to distinguish goods for export from ones for themselves. It is interesting to see the naive misunderstanding of Japanese created such a ritual, which is still kept in Japan. Is it an irony of fate or a trick of fortune?

Knots are seen in the western world equally to symbolize connecting people and safe journey. ‘True love knot ‘ is the romantic one. There are many examples featuring sailors separated from their loved ones. True_Lover's_knot

It is said that true love knot was once common for sailors’ wedding rings. No wonder there are many jewelry using ‘love knot’ as a motif.

The one I still remember well is ‘Algerian Love Knot Necklace’ appeared in the movie ‘007 Casino Royale’.

Love knot necklace

Eva Green playing a role of Vesper Lynd worn throughout the movie and was subtly hinting her lost live in the past.

This piece of jewellery is created from twisteva green with love knot necklaceed gold and silver rings, multi layered chains, and featuring a winged heart clasp which is a signature of the designer, Sophie Harley.

Knots are also a popular motif in the art scene. Lynda Bengalis is known with her artworks with knots as a motif. The first time I noticed her knot shaped sculpture was at MoMA in NYC.  The motif of knots somehow reminded me Mizuhiki and perhaps because it was in 2011, my eyes were caught by the metallic knots and I stopped in front of the work for a while but without knowing the sculptor’s idea behind the work.

Lynda Benglis

Photo from 15 Badass Art World Heroines Over 70 Years Old

“My work is an expression of space. What is the experience of moving? Is it pictorial? Is it an object? Is it a feeling? It all comes from my body. I am the clay; I have been extruded, in a sense. How to tie it together? I don’t need to tie a knot. The forms of knots in my earlier work were expressive of this idea. I am the form.” – Lynda Benglis

There are two major regions for the production of Mizuhiki in Japan, one is in Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture and another is in Iida in Nagano prefecture. I leave some directory below.

Iida in Nagano prefecture:

Mizuhiki Crafts Gallery Skijima (http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocalMaps-g1021319-d1573976-c2-Mizuhiki_Crafts_Gallery_Sekijima-Area.html)

Iida Mizuhiki Association (http://www.026.co.jp/mizuhiki/englishindex.html)

Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture:

Tsuda Mizuhiki (http://mizuhiki.jp)

Chitose Mizuhiki (http://www.chitosemizuhiki.com)

Jiyukajin (http://www.jiyukajin.net)

和菓子 Wagashi: Taste a pleasure of changing seasons


Photo via tumblr Japanese-wagashi

LADURÉE‘s macarons, Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolate, MAGNOLIA BAKERY‘s cupcakes, Garrett’s popcorns, SunnyHills‘s pineapple cakes from Taiwan and PANCAKE HOUSE from the US,……If you come to Japan, without a hustle of traveling abroad, you literally can taste a wide variety of sweets from all over the world.

Japan also has got its own sweets called Wagashi. The world of sweets in Japan is pretty much crowded and highly competitive. It is true that Wagashi’s future is threatened by the increasing number of foreign sweets, and the number of such Japanese sweets shops may be declined overtime, but it looks that Japanese people selectively enjoy a variety of different kinds of sweets for different purposes and situations without too much confusion.

Wagashi’s history goes back to Edo era in early 17th century. Japanese sweets were originally fruits and nuts, but after China began trading sugar with Japan, it became a common seasoning by the beginning of the 16th century. Then when tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan, the current form of Wagashi was created and it was often served with tea.

For Wagashi creation, a year is broken down to 24 seasons (24節気) and a new series of sweets is released every 2 weeks, which somewhat represents the season’s characteristics. Today, February 4 is called ‘Risshun (立春)’, meaning a start of Spring.

In this season, ‘Ume blossom‘ is typically used as a motif of Wagashi.


Photo via Saneido (三英堂)

Wagashi is named out of ‘Waka (和歌)’, which is a Japanese poem with a 31‐syllable, and often uses a motif typical from a season and nature and a theme such as separation, encounter, travel, friendship and affection. A piece of Wagashi expresses the season and story described in ‘Waka’.

It is said that Wagashi should be enjoyed by fully utilizing 5 senses;  sight, touch, smell, sound and taste.

wagashi close up

Photo via Itoh Kyuemon


When one sees Wagashi, one firstly get a visual impression. It could be an Indication of a season from the motif used or a delicious taste evoked by the shape.


It could be the softness you feel on your finger when you pick up a piece of Wagashi or when you cut it by a stick. It could be the texture you feel in your month when you hold it or when it is melting in your month.


You smell ingredients used for Wagashi such as rise or azuki bean paste. Or it could be a smell of a leaf wrapping Wagashi. The smell may have a certain indication of the season used as a motif.


A sense of hearing. One may wonder how a sound is related to sweets, but the sound of Wagashi’s name selected from Waka and its aurally impression is very important element for enjoying Japanese sweets. Wagashi patissier tries to hold the impression in a piece of Wagashi.


Needless to say, the taste is one of the most important senses to enjoy sweets.

I hope one day that the delicacy of Wagashi will be widely recognized and get popular outside Japan as much as the popularity of foreign sweets mentioned at the opening. I leave some directory of Wagashi shops available in major cities below:

‘Minamoto Kitchoan’ (http://www.kitchoan.com) available in London, New York, Los Angeles, Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore.

‘Kitaya Wagashi’ (http://www.senjukitaya.com/index.html) available in London

‘Toraya’ (http://www.toraya-group.co.jp/english/shops/index.html) available in Paris and Illinois in the US.

‘Iroha’ (http://www.iroha-india.com) in India – not authentic, but offer typical modern Japanese sweets.

喫茶店 Japanese-style Independent Coffee Shops


American coffee chains as Starbucks and Tally’s, Italian as Illy and Segafredo and Japanese as Doutor. There are thousands of coffee shops at every corner of both urban and rural area in Japan. Japanese traditionally drink tea, but Japanese are now the world’s fourth-biggest coffee consumers (after the U.S., Brazil and Germany), drinking 446,392 tons of the stuff in 2013.

Today, coffee is available in a variety of forms in Japan, from canned coffee served hot and cold by vending machine to coffee shops of both chains and independent. The growth of coffee consumption was driven by the kissaten, independent coffee shops, which evolved as Japan started to urbanize at the end of the 19th century.


Kissaten is used for a variety of purposes. People are there for business meetings, killing a time before the next appointment, dates, reading a book, studying, etc. It could be an oasis to get out of the obligations of daily life.

Classical wooden table and velvety chairs. Renoir like impressionism paintings are hanging on the wall. Background music is often classical one. All these elements create really a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. Barista is making a coffee from a small vacuum coffee maker by cup by cup.  Coffee is served by a ‘real’ cup & saucer instead of a paper cup or a mug. A waiter wearing a white shirt and black vest in a butler like behavior politely serves a coffee. The process of taking an order, making a coffee and serving a cup of coffee are almost like a ritual. It seems time goes by slowly here.



There were nearly 155,000 such shops in 1985, but went down to about 70,000 now. The young people go to Starbucks or similar kinds as they take a cup of coffee either on the go or with their computers and smartphones. Modern coffee shop with Free WIFI connection may be suitable for such consumers.

I am writing this at a cozy coffee shop, Shu (珈琲茶館集) on Omotesando street. I noticed that some foreign tourists entered into this coffee shop. Old fashion coffee shops may be appealing to new type of consumer segments. I hope kissaten finds the way to survive another 10 years.

coffee and cake

盆栽 BONSAI: Creation of a little cosmos


Bonsai is often called a green little cosmos.

Bonsai is trees or plants grown in a container in such a way that they look their most beautiful. One admires the beauty of living things and energy of nature over the reproduced esthetics of wild nature in a small container. Captivating bonsai is an artistic hobby.

Bonsai is truly a living art. In this small world, there are the changes of seasons and the simple perception of nature forms alongside seasons.

The roots of bonsai is said to be far back in Heian era, running from 794 to 1185, and early bonsai can be seen in picture scrolls in the early 14th century.

In ancient times, bonsai was only for high-ranking people such as aristocrats and priests, but it became typical for commoners in the 17th century. Bonsai in the life of commoners in Edo era was often chosen as a theme of Ukiyo-e paintings. Those capture the popularity of bonsai and the vivacious life with bonsai as shown in some examples below.

Shikihanakurabe autumn

Photo via Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art 

Ueki-IchiPhoto via Network 2010

BijingaPhoto via 内外資料堂

After Japan opened the country up to Western countries in 1868, bonsai became to be appreciated as an object of art by Westerners. ‘Plant hunters’ from Western countries began to visit Japan since then.  A record remained in the UK that says those plant hunters were impressed by seeing so many Japanese people appreciate nature.

Plant hunters?? There is such a unique profession of searching for and studying new plants and trees in the world. It is fascinating to just imagine how the plant hunters from Europe saw the little cosmos of bonsai everywhere in Japan and the affection of Japanese people toward that back in the 19 centuries. I guess a plant hunter looks like him, Seijun Nishihata. If you are interested in his work, please take a look at his site from here. It is only in Japanese but full of weird BUT brilliant plants and trees.

Today, bonsai continues to be a hobby of the general public in Japan as well as an important part of Japan’s artistic tradition.

Speaking of bonsai, at the Hermes’s ‘Leather forever’ exhibition, bonsai was used as a motif to demonstrate a number of shared values between Hermes and Japan, such as ‘respect for tradition, the will to perpetuate savoir-faire, the patient and meticulous approach of the artisan, and a focus on detail’. In the exhibition, Hermes exhibited a set of unique pieces of micro-bags such as Kelly, Birkin, and Constance, inspired by a bonsai.


I got my little bonsai for my house. It is Japanese apricot tree and is expected to bloom in one to two weeks from now. I am so looking forward to it!

My Bonsai

There are many bonsai tours and a dedicated museum available in Japan. I leave a  directory below:





Bonsai Tour

http://www.bonsaiempire.com/origin/bonsai-japan (info)





KATAGAMI Exhibition at Dresden Museum until February 22, 2015


The Kunstgewerbemuseum at Schloss Pillnitz rediscovered vast archive of Japanese kimono katagami in their storage. 92 cases containing more than 15,000 katagami for textile printing, had been undisturbed and kept neatly for 125 years. During this long period, it has never been displayed and remained unknown beyond the confines of the museum’s collection.

This is the largest collection of katagami in the world. Apart from Dresden, ‎1,500 katagami is stored in Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, 4,000 katagami in V&A Museum in London, 10,000 katagami in Kunstkammer in Vienna.

Katagaim at Dresden Museum

via Dresden Museum

For the first time ever, a selection of 140 of refined work of katagami has been exhibited together with historic kimono in the Elbe Wing in Dresden Museum (Staatliche Kunstammlugen Dresden) in Germany.

Dresden museum katagami exhibition

via Dresden Museum

The exhibition “Logical Rain” will be run until February 22, 2015.  If you happen to be in Germany, this could be an interesting exhibition to visit.

KATAGAMI: Japonisme and its influence to Art Nouveau

The richness of the patterns and its intricate loveliness of katagami, captivated artists in Europe.  The katagami handicraft had a signficant influence on Western Art scene.

Ise-Katagami craftmanship

The first time that katagami got an attention was in London in 1891, when a Japanese art lover who just returned from a trip to Japan introduced the method of Japanese katagami and stencil dying (型染め) using katagami at the conference about Japan. After Japan opened the country, many of old katagami was exported to Western Europe through world expositions and by tourists returning from Japan and their motifs had a great impact on craft designs and decorative art.

Koloman Moser,  William Morris, Henri van de Velde,  Emile GalleRene Lalique……. Decoration designers in Europe were looking for new inspirations for their work. Katagami influenced designers to trigger the movement of Art Nouveau.

Katagami, which looks plain from distance, but when one comes closer, the delicate and intricate decorations can be observed with astonishment. This idea was used in numerous posters, jewelry, textiles, books, furniture, metalwork, and other objects.

Below shows a handful example from Art Nouveau design.

Philippe Wolfers

vase orchidée

Felix Vallotton

Félix Vallotton, Idleness

Rene Lalique


Lalique cherry blossom colm


Hoffmann Chair

William Morris

William Morris