Tag Archives: japan

Parallel Nippon Contemporary Japanese Architecture 1996 – 2006 opened at artisan: idea skill product in fortitude Valley on 8 August 2013. Photography Christina Waterson.

Parallel Nippon Contemporary Japanese Architecture 1996 – 2006 opened at artisan: idea skill product in Fortitude Valley on 8 August 2013. Photography Christina Waterson.

To conclude my wrap of the exhibitions and events I visited throughout August I would like to make special mention of the thoroughly enjoyable evening I had at the Parallel Nippon opening hosted by artisan: idea skill product, on 8 August 2013.  I attended the opening on the generous invitation of Raymond Quek (Professor of Architecture at the Soheil Abedian School of Architecture).

Professor Raymond Quek, Dr. Paul Emmons and Christopher Hill. Photography Christina Waterson.

Professor Raymond Quek, Dr. Paul Emmons and Christopher Hill (Linedota). Photography Christina Waterson.

Raymond was also accompanied by Christopher Hill (International Adjunct Teaching Fellow at Bond University and Co-Founding Architect of Linedota, London) and Dr. Paul Emmons (Associate Professor at the Washington – Alexandria Architecture Centre of Virginia Tech). Paul was in town after presenting his lecture “Embodied Orthographic View of the Architect” as part of Bond University’s 2013 Architectural Lecture Series.

Traditional Music enjoyed. Photography Christina Waterson.

Traditional music accompanied the opening at artisan. Photography Christina Waterson.

Guests attending the exhibition opening enjoyed tracing the evolution of Japanese Architecture between 1996 and 2006 while enjoying traditional music and intelligent conversation.

It was interesting to see many projects I’d personally visited, summarised here in an exhibition format. How hard it is to translate through exhibition the true experience and joy of architecture. One must experience architecture in the flesh; in time; through arrival and the sequence of spaces; and within a greater context.

Parallel Nippon at artisan

Parallel Nippon exhibition panels. Photography Christina Waterson.

And then there is the detail, of which an exhibition can offer but a taste and only encourage one to undertake an international quest. I am dreaming of travel; especially a return to Japan in the not too distant future. Parallel Nippon only further ignited this feeling in me.

Now I must hasten to the joyous and ever shifting present…

But first a special thank you to Professor Raymond Quek for such a kind invitation to attend the opening. Further gratitude to Raymond, Christopher Hill and Dr Paul Emmons for making it a most enjoyable evening.

For more on the travelling exhibition see a review by Hayley Curnow for ArchitectureAU. Continuing its international tour Parallel Nippon opened at The High Court of Australia, in Canberra, on the 12 September (running until 4 October 2013). Visit their website for details.

Kyoto Arcade

You would not believe it. I was riding my bike through one of the arcades and I ran into Toshie Kusamoto, a photographer I had met the week before in Beppu! So lucky!

We both were very surprised and very excited, so we made a plan to have tea and hang out before my train left for Osaka that night. In fact Toshie only lived a block away from my hotel!

Toshie at Home

We enjoyed tea and special sweets. Toshie was kind enough to show me her work. She had recently documented the hot springs of Beppu; communicating the essence of the place: mysterious scaleless landscapes that materialise through the steam.

And then suddenly it was time to go! Taxi…Shinkansen…Osaka…plane! I was sad to leave Japan especially all of the gifted people I had shared time with.

Time to fly…

…next stop China!

Kyoto Skyline from JR Station

What happens when you’re in a city like Kyoto where there is so much to see and the topography is fairly even… you get on a bike!

On My Bike

Bundaberg, where I grew up, is very flat. It has one hill, The Hummock, an extinct volcano. Its so flat that as children we would lie on our backs in the field, and looking back towards the horizon, see the curve in the earth. Kyoto central (whilst surrounded by mountains) is fairly flat, so perfect for biking it.

Having visited Kyoto before, I was aware that moving experiences surface when you least expect them; when you are between origin and destination. Biking offered the best way to be open to these in-between discoveries.

The in-between
Shinhiyoshi Jingu Shrine
Markets at Shinhiyoshi Jingu Shrine

I was headed to Sanjūsangen-dō, a Buddhist Temple known locally as Rengeō-in or Hall of the Lotus King. The interior of the Temple is divided into thirty-three bays by sets of columns. The hall houses 1000 statues of the Bodhisattva Kannon. Each may manifest into thirty-three forms to take flight and ward off evil.

View of perimeter of Sanjūsangen-dō adjacent to Yogen-in gateway
Sanjūsangen-dō special entry with courtyard and Hall beyond
Sanjūsangen-dō Hall exterior
Sanjusangendo-Hall of 33 Bay (1995) by Sugimoto

Photography inside the temple was prohibited. Japanese Photographic Artist, Sugimoto Hiroshi, was permitted to photograph the interior for his work Sanjusangendo – Hall of 33 Bays. I still remember the first time I saw this work, first hand, while working at The Queensland Art Gallery. It echoed the experience of the place: a calmness; an eternal drawing out of time and space that you can almost hear rising out of the dark.

I left Sanjūsangen-dō, visited Yogen-in again, then rode until dusk heading in the direction of home.

A Great Day in Kyoto!

See Sanjūsangen-dō official website for Interior views.

It is very important to experience Karakami within space and time through the sequence of arriving and discovering the work, and experiencing the change of light in its surface. Toto and Aiko directed me to places that feature ancient Karacho Karakami with later editions of the Karacho patterns, as well more recent commissions of their artwork. One important example sits within Yogen-in (very near Sanjusangen-do officially called Rengeo-in, Kyoto).

Yogen-in gate
Path leading from gate to Temple
Entry to Main Temple
The mon or Family Crest of the Tokugawa shoguns – Maruni Mitsu Aoi (Mitsuba api) or three holly hock leaves inside a circle

Unfortunately photography is forbidden inside the temple. It was beautiful to see the very very old Karakami Fusami featuring the Dragon (protector of Buddhism). Karacho had recently installed new panels of the same pattern to sit next to the historical screens. One has to imagine being in the space by candlelight and seeing the glimmer of the golden dragon as it clutches the pearl.

Visit design boom to see photos of another example of Karacho’s karakami within Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu). Beautiful!

After a long restful sleep (and completely inspired by meeting Toto and Aiko from Karacho) I headed out to enjoy all of the beautiful moments of nature in my immediate area. For me it’s not just nature’s beautiful presence in fauna, and flora and season that inspire me. It is also the force of nature made evident through the changes in the things around us with the passing of time.

Street Chive
Space of Rust
Vine on Pine
Sun on Pine leaf
Potted Plants
Street Grass

What struck me most about Japan, and what is not evident in these photos (of nature in Kyoto City) is the difference in Japan’s nature when placed next to Australia’s. There is an essence; a flowing quality to it; a movement. I believe this is ever-present in Karacho’s Karakami.

Cocon Karasuma Building, in Kyoto
Shijo-Karasuma Store

After my very personal experience with Toto and Aiko at Karacho’s Saruyama Salon  we visited their Shijo-Karasuma store, at the Cocon Karasuma Building, in Kyoto (designed by architects Kengo Kuma and Associates). On arrival I was struck by the building’s facade. Karacho was commissioned by Kengo Kuma to re-interpret Tempyo Ohgumo (big cloud) as large printed glass panels applied to the facade. In fact this motif features throughout the building at different scales and in a range of materials. Each iteration has been carefully considered and responds directly to the surrounding space.

Within the Shijo-Karasuma store there is Karakami in traditional and non-traditional forms; cut to match the size of cards and letter paper; special mounted artworks in different formats (circle, square) as well as Lamps, Screens and Fusami.

Karacho is the last maker of Karakami in Japan. Working in this new way Karacho makes their art accessible to a wider audience and ensures the continuance of this gift for future generations to enjoy!

Shijo-Karasuma Store
Friendly Karacho Staff with Tempyo Ohgumo (big cloud ) and Kado Tsunagi (connecting angles) Fusami behind
Large mounted artworks (top) and Washi Lights using Karakami
Mounted Karakami including Tempyo Ohgumo (big cloud), Hyotan (Gourd), Shunran (spring orchid), and Kado Tsunagi (connecting angles)
Karacho’s Tempyo Ohgumo (big cloud) 

Karacho’s Saruyama Salon with Hyotan (gourd pattern) on the entry Fusami

On arriving at Karacho’s Saruyama Salon I was greeted by my special interpreter for the day (Karacho staff member) Mayo Ishii. Ishii modestly introduced Toto and Aiko, the twelfth generation of Karacho Karakami artists.

Toto first presented the Karacho Fusami screen samples. The patterns were very spatial and present in time; especially the white on white Kado Tsunagi (connecting angles). It was like a spider’s web at night catching the smallest amount of light with its silvery thread; a shimmering transient moment.

The hangi (wood blocks) are a particular size to match the largest size of washi produced in the early times. On the Fusami screens the patterns are set out to form a continuous pattern. Many of the patterns that looked contemporary were in fact the very oldest.

There is a special ritual that Toto performs to prepare for Karakami. This is personal and spiritual. Toto selected a wood block with the pattern of a wispy cloud (or for me like the moment when the sun glows on the lining of a cloud). It was very soothing to watch Toto work. In Karakami the colour is applied with a furui. This application is gentler on the woodblock than a brush and ensures the hangi’s longevity.

Preparation: combining the pigments to the desired colour mixed with mica; then applied to furui (fine circular sieve) with the natural brush; a selection of prepared hangi

Toto gently transfers the colour to the prepared hangi

Gentle touch as washi meets hangi through pattern

Checking, then adding colour

Gently the washi is lifted from the hangi and karakami placed face up

Toto informed me that it was now my turn! I was a little reserved as it was such an honour to experience the making of Karakami. Toto guided me through the process and told me that watching someone make Karakami gave an insight into a person’s nature…

The hangi Toto selected for me was asanoha (hemp leaves). This was a block that had been carved anew as the original was very often used.

…Come close and let me whisper something. There is a moment when the furui meets the hangi for the first time, that is like breathing.  Delicate and fleeting and very personal.

The feeling took my breath away.

Pattern of carapace seen on a tortoise sculpture at the Entry to The Forbidden City, Beijing

kikkō is used extensively throughout Japanese and Chinese crafts. It draws its origin from the carapace of a tortoise. The carapace is the upper part of the shell and has a distinctive hexagonal pattern. The tortoise symbolises longevity because they are known to live a long life.

Kikkō: The hexagon can appear singularly or concentrically repeated (R)

This pattern is also practically used for Kikkō armour. The armour is made up of small hexagonal plates of steel or hardened leather connected to each other by chain armor or kusari and sewn to a cloth backing. Because it is flexible and folding it is sometimes known as Kikkō tatami dou.

There are many beautiful variations of the Kikkō pattern. These include:

– kasane kikkō ni wa (kasane = repeated: kikkō = tortoise carapace: ni = and: wa = ring)

– kumi kikkō (braided/plaited hexagons)

– hanairi kikkō (a flower placed inside a hexagon)

My Favourite: Bishamon kikkō (Bishamon the name of Buddhist god) Bishamon is a protector of Bhuddist law bringing good fortune to the poor and is the patron of doctors priests, and soldiers
The Shrine: Opposite my Hotel

The sun finally came out so I explored my street; Teramachi Street in Central Kyoto.

Wares on the Street
Wares on the Street
Japanese Antique Store
Iron Lanterns; Moon Cake Moulds, Store Canopy; Ripe tomatoes in Bamboo Baskets; Bike Envy; Street Store; Shrine Tile Roof; Bamboo Tea Whisks; Traditional Braiding.
Design Store
View to Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens
My Street: The same intersection but from above, with gardens on left
Tennis in the Imperial Gardens
Beppu Streets

Before I left for Kyoto, I spent the morning walking through Beppu’s inner city streets. I visited Platform 04 (Select Beppu) the Beppu Project shop.

Select Beppu – Platform 04
QAG Staff install Lin’s work

Upstairs was a permanent installation by the artist Michael Lin. It was the same floral pattern used for his installation that I had managed for  APT 2002 (the Asia Pacific Triennial of 2002) at the Queensland Art Gallery. He had completed this new work for the Beppu Project in 2010. An amazing coincidence!

I walked to Platform 07 and then to Platform 02 where I met Japanese artist in residence, Miyuki Kido.

Platform 02 with Miyuki Kido working

She was working on her project, Beppu Memorial Garden, that maps the pattern of Beppu through the food she enjoyed during her stay. She collects the seeds from the food she has eaten each day; then washes and prepares the seed for planting. The day I met Kido the seeds from the watermelon she had eaten a week before were just starting to germinate.

Kido and her seedlings
The germinating watermelon seeds

All of her plants were to be installed in the Platform 02 studio where she had been based during her residency. More time in Beppu would let the garden be more advanced and diverse. After the opening visitors would be able to take the plants home and so the garden would continue to grow.

“Her works are universal symbols and they function where language stops in communication. Ever so gently they exist as a tiny powerline between her heart and everyone else’s.” CAThornton at

Her process and project Kido likens to mapping the ‘Synapses of Streets’. She photographs each stage; the food; the seed from the foods; the stages of growth of the plants; the presentation then dispersal to new owners. And so the garden will be a map of Kido’s time in Beppu; of the local limes and fruits and foods she has enjoyed. Her gift is to give back and nourish our minds and bodies with her beautiful Beppu garden.

View Kido’s earlier works including Paper Architecture series at Kido’s website.