Look at this picture please. This is a piece of furniture. What do you think it is? It may be a little hard to discern because there are reflections on the shopwindow. Yes that is actually a table! But when you look closely, two chairs are inverted with a wooden board on top. What a marvelous inspiration to use two “hidden” chairs for a table. These chairs are one of the types made by the company “Thonet”. I heard that since about 150 years ago, this type of chair by the company Thonet was used especially in Viennese coffee houses and became quite popular. The company itself is German but this type of chair could be called traditional Viennese style. To construct a table from those chairs is a remarkable inspiration and an upside-down perspective. I think it is wonderful!
Picture by Yuka Simeno, Furniture shop in the 7th district of Vienna, 2019 (this shop manufactures made to order furniture)
Now in Japan it is the season of “Seijinshiki”. That is a ceremony of having reached adulthood at 20 years old, which means that one is considered mature. Each region has ceremonies for 20 year-olds. Many dress in Kimonos for those ceremonies and especially girls wear beautiful “Furisode”. That is a colourful Kimono for unmarried young women with long sleeves. I think it is nice that in Japan this ceremony exists and it is like with that young people can be conscious of being mature and go out into the world. But I did not attend that ceremony because I myself did not feel mature at that time. Because I am “Noron”. This was my nickname in primary school. “Noron” means slow in Japanese. Yes, I was slow. Very slow. But I can defend myself because everyone in my family was much older than me. Especially my grandmother, the person who mostly took care of me. She was still quite fit at that time but her movements were slow and she could not hear very well. When I went shopping with her, I had to adapt to her speed and walked very slowly. Also because she could not hear well I had to speak slowly and loudly. My parents also were much older than many other childrens’ parents, because I was born quite late in their lives. My father was a rather introverted person, who often immersed himself in philosophy by himself. He did not like speed very much. When I spoke fast or made fast gestures, he scolded me. He wanted me to become a tender, diligent, empathic person, who had the capacitiy of thinking about others. If I had had a sibling, I might have been able to train some speed, but I am an only child. Therefore I have the honour of carrying the nickname “Noron”. However I believe that even “Noron” has a good side to it. The lesser beneficial side of it I should improve upon. But I want to live a long and healthy life at my very own pace…
“Bam”! I hit my knee at the door. At first it didn’t look so bad but the next morning my left knee was swollen with a blue patch. Looking at my hurt knee, I thought that for a long time I had not been injured. When I was small, I often had some injuries. Maybe growing older one becomes more careful or skilled at moving around. The picture above was taken close to my house in Japan. Since the first grade of primary school I have been living there. When I was in primary school, the river banks were natural. On the both sides there were steep banks covered with grass.The natural bank was removed and now there are concrete walls (about one metre high) separating the bank from the street. That is because one time there was severe flooding from that river. It is not beautiful nature anymore but it makes the residents feel safer. Despite those measures unfortunately there has been flooding again. When there was still the natural bank, with my bicycle I wanted to cross a bridge over this river. That bridge was just flat concrete even without a railing. When I wanted to turn from the street onto the bridge, I could not steer properly and fell down the bank. My bicycle tipped over between the bridge and the road and I alone rolled down the bank. Fortunately the bank stopped my fall and I did not get wet but I sustained many small abrasions and there was blood coming from small injuries. This looked awful but after some days I started to heal. Especially my knees were hurt. Those injuries were only superficial and it did not take long for them to heal. Shortly after, exactly the same accident happened to me again. But this not only happened to me. About the same time near the location of my accident I saw a smiliar bicycle accident one time. At the edge of the road close to the bank I saw a bicycle lying there and I thought who might have just left such a beautiful biycle lying around. Then I saw a man, completely soaking wet, crawling up from the river. That was in winter and he had a nice suit, which made me feel very sorry for him.
Back then, when I strolled at this bank towards the mountain as in the picture above with my mother, she often said “I love this scenery most”. I don’t know why but every time she said it, she spoke with Tokyo accent, where she spent her childhood, so maybe with her friends she uttered such words. The scenery has completely changed and my mother is no longer here. Only the mountain in the distance always looks the same.
Over the course of time, things change. When I think about that, I understand how precious time is. I want to value the present and live ….
There are two ways of making my dolls. The first is: starting with the doll. The second is: starting with the material. The first way is in order to depict a situation with a doll. I want to express a situation with a doll and therefore I focus on making an appropriate figure for it. First thinking about the doll and after that I think about the clothes. The second way is choosing the material such as textile, wool , etc. which gives me inspiration. For example beautiful fine wool inspires me to use like human hair and to create a matching doll for this. Especially beautiful textile design motivates me to create a matching doll for it. About 10 years ago I had a bit of luck and stumbled upon some stores in Vienna and in Japan which sold small textile samples. In my hometown Kochi (Japan) by chance I stumbled upon a store, which sold many different small textile samples. Because that store was a big store for cloth and textiles and had planned to close the store soon, everything was on sale or in small sizes also at reduced prices. Most of the samples had a print on the edge “designed in Japan” and maybe also for that reason they were a good fit for my taste. I was so fascinated by the textile design and some are so sweet and some just beautiful and some feature interesting geometrical shapes and others have patterns similar to traditional Japanese kimono patterns. Most of the samples had a print on the edge “designed in Japan”and maybe also for that reason the way were a good fit for my taste. Also in Vienna fortunately I found many samples “made in England” at a very reasonable price. I was so fascinated by those samples that I would almost like to frame them but I think these designs were made in order to create something from them. It is obvious that the design was made for that. If I were good at sewing I would also been able to make objects like small pouches , pencases, etc. When I look at those designs, suddenly I had an image what the doll should look like with that specific pattern. That was so entertaining and fun. Most of my dolls have been created out of the image I had from the textile sample. First cloth and second doll. You could call my dolls fashion models. Because I wanted to make small dolls, their clothes were small too and in order to enjoy them, the clothes could not be overly complicated. Therefore they almost always wear wide skirts.
人形を作る時、私の場合、だいたい2通りのパターンがあるようです。1つは、人形から始める場合。2つは、材料から始める場合。1つめは、状況などを人形を使って表したい場合です。まず、どんな人形で状況を表現できるかを考え、次にその人形に合った服装を選びます。2つめの場合は、まず、毛糸や布地があって、それからインスピレーションを得るという形。例えば、細い繊細な毛糸は人間の髪の毛を想わせることがあります。それで、この毛糸を髪の毛にして、これに合った人形を作りたいな、と思い始めるのです。特に、私にとっては、布地のデザインが創造の源であることが多いです。１０年ほど前、ウィーンと日本で、ハギレを売っているお店を見つけることができ、それにより私の人形作りに拍車がかかりました。 特に、故郷高知の大きな服地屋さんが閉店するにあたって、セールをしていたことにより、私は安価にたくさん、少なく切った布地を買うことができました。素晴らしいデザインの数々で、かわいいものや、美しいもの、素敵な幾何学模様や、和柄など。私は時を忘れてそれらを眺めて幸福な気持ちになります。布の端に「designed in Japan」と表示されているものが多いので、私の好みに合っているのでしょう。また、ウィーンでもイギリスでデザインされたという表示のあるハギレを安価にたくさん買う機会に恵まれました。私はこれらのデザインから感銘を受け、額縁に入れて飾り、眺めたいと思うほどでした。しかし布地のデザインというものは、それで何かを作ることを考慮して施されていると思うようになりました。もし私がお裁縫が得意なら、ペンケースなど作れたかもしれません。しかし私の場合、これらの柄に合った人形を考え出すことに大きな喜びを覚えたのです。先ず、布があって、それから人形を考え出すのです。まるで人形がファッションモデルであるかのようだと思います。しかし小さい人形なので、あまり難しい洋服は私は作れません。柄を眺めて楽しめるように、多めに布を使用して、ゆったりとしたギャザースカートを着せることがほとんどです。
Ever since I was a child I wanted to make dolls. After many and long tries, about ten years ago I started to make dolls with “Fimo” material. Some time I made many many dolls. Right now I am pausing but in the future I would like to make more dolls. The thought of making dolls presumably has to do with memories of my childhood. My mother was really good at sewing and she made a doll from fabric for me. Unfortunately it is made from cloth and the face was drawn on with a pen and got washed out, the eyes being quite realistic which I found a little frightening. Of course I was happy and grateful for that, I was about four or five years old at that time. Back then, I became friends with the children from the house on the other side of the street, where I used to live (Saiwai-cho in Kochi City). From them I heard that their grandmother was making dolls. One time I was allowed to look in their grandmother’s room and it was astonishing because everywhere in the room there were beautiful dolls. They were so beautiful and I assume she was a professional. I guess the dolls were made of cloth and very precise in all details. I think I saw some realistic dolls wearing Kimonos. Ever since I saw that, I also wanted to make dolls. Another memory from back then is that my father used to work at a high school (Ozu High School in Kochi city). One day some of his students came to our house to visit him. I think they all collected money together and brought a doll for me. She was so wonderful like the ones the grandmother from the neighbouring house made. She was a European elegant lady with a beautiful marron-coloured hairdo, a pearl-like necklace and wearing a rosé coloured semi-long dress. She was sitting on a small chair, both legs closed, stretched to the side below the knees. Her beautiful legs were slim and curvy, wearing high-heel shoes with pointed tips. She was in a plastic box and unreachable and she is only loking at me with her beautiful big eyes. She is still at my house in Japan and gives me happiness. When I see her, I think about the day I received her and I can relive that moment in gratitude.
As a dollmaker, I am entirely self-taught. I have studied singing thoroughly and deeply, which is my profession. But when making dolls, I want to express my creativity freely and spontaneously. Therefore I will never reach such a high level as my neighbours’ grandmother but for the time being, I am really happy and satisfied with that.
A happy New Year! How did you spend the first day of 2019? Here in Vienna the weather was unstable, even before midnight there was loud thunder! Also there was strong rain. I did not look outside but I presume it might have been sleet. I was surprised and immediately pulled out the power cord for my computer from the socket, because I am afraid of thunderstorms. Since my parents were both working, my grandmother (mother’s side) always took care of me. She was born around 1900 and her education of me was quite old-fashioned. She was extremely afraid of thunderstorms and when it was getting stronger, she even closed the typhoon shutters, switched off all lights and electrical appliances, cowered small in the room and we had to murmur “Kuwabara, kuwabara…”. That is a protective spell against lightning. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to go to a festival at a nearby shrine with some children from the neigbourhood. One older children, like a big sister to me, made a beautiful hairdo from my hair for that festival. She was so satisfied with having accomplished such a nice hairdo and I also look at myself in the mirror in satisfaction. In that moment, there was a sound of very loud thunder. Screaming, I pulled out all the hairpins from my head and ruined the beautful hairdo. The girl (“older sister”) was appalled and screamed “What are you doing?”. I was raised by my grandmother that lighting strikes metal objects like hairpins and mirrors also attract lightning. When there is thunder, I remember that day and laugh about it…
Later, in school and in documentaries, etc. I learned some things. I can differentiate between science and superstition, but I think the things that our ancestors passed on to us as knowledge are not always incorrect.
This year on New Year’s day I did not do something really special, I had a good time with toasting to the New Year and was a little delirious and lazy. At the end of that day, lightning struck my heart and woke me up. So I thought that this year should be spent with diligence and motivation going forward.
One of my favourite Japanese snacks is “Kakinotane”. Those are spicy ricecrackers with peanuts. It is very popular and a long time ago a Japanese friend of mine in Vienna offered it to an Austrian friend. He became “addicted” to it and said that she should bring back two kilograms from Japan. My friend said “We must never let foreigners try Kakinotane because later there will be problems”. Nowadays in Vienna it is easy to buy Kakinotane, for example in so called Asia shops. There are some companies which produce it, but I especially love the ones from Kameda. Because it is imported from Japan, it is much more expensive than in Japan and so I only buy it for special occasions and I want to appreciate it as a treat. Usually one pack does not last very long. My Austrian husband loves Japanese food but he is not a very big fan of it. Therefore there will be no fight about Kakinotane. When I eat it he says “It stinks”. While you are eating you do not smell it, but for example on a train or in an airplane the smell is instantly recognizable. I cannot believe that a dried and hard snack has such a strong smell. In Kameda’s Kakinotane there are often six small packs in a big one and on each small pack there is one interesting story written on it. Today there is a story about rain forecast in Japan. In Japan the weather forecast shows the probability of rain in percent. According to this story 0% is not nothing. It is not read “zero” but rather “rei”. Zero is truly nothing but Rei means almost nothing but there could be a little bit. In German 0 is totally nothing.
By the way… In German 0 is read as “Null”. When I saw James Bond 007 in German language for the first time, I had to laugh because it sounds like “Nuru nuru sieben”. In Japanese there are many words to express sounds, feelings, actions, etc. “Nuru nuru” usually describes some oily or slimy slithering. Therefore the handsome secret agent suddenly did not sound so cool anymore. By the way… Roger Moore is one famous 007 and I am a huge fan of his. I rather prefer him as Simon Templar (The Saint) and Lord Sinclair (The Persuaders) but his 007 was a good fit at the time according to the Zeitgeist.
Yesterday I bought one pack of Kameda Kakinotane in order to have a special treat for New Year’s Eve and Day, today is the 30th of December and already almost all of it has vanished…
Today is Christmas Eve and I chose this video as a Christmas present. I read somewhere that young Chopin in his native country Poland took his piano outside, played there and his friends and neigbours enjoyed his music. I rememebred that also Gautama Siddharta delivered his teaching outside under a tree. The video above gives me wings of imagination to fly across time and space and fills my heart… (in this video Samson François plays Debussy. The pianist and composer give me the image of the setting being in Paris).
This year it is not so cold right now and there will be no white Christmas in Vienna. Back when I first came to Vienna, I was riding the streetcar and heard two girls talking about white Christmas. According to them, there absolutley must be snow at Christmas. On that day I was indeed snowing heavily and in that year there was really a white Christmas. But recently there have not been white Christmases. On TV they said that snow for Christmas in Vienna is actually rather rare historically. However, we would like to dream about white Christmas, how about your city…?
Ever since I was a child, I listened to Samson François’ (pianist) music with passion. Back then I could not exactly understand my fascination with his music. Also when I was studying the piano, besides my fascination I always asked why he played differently than what was written in the scores. Later I changed my major from piano to voice and the beginning was quite difficult becuase in my head I was still in an instrument mindset. After continuously studying and also with good teachers, I understood bit by bit what singing is and what voice is. When I watched the video above, I felt deeply moved by it and something within me felt as though a big riddle had been cleared up. Out of joy I almost feel like crying. I want to ever more deeply study voice and because of watching this interview I think that I have not been “singing” enough. I feel motivated to “sing”.
Here is a brief overview of what he is saying:
He is not looking for virtuosity, speed or technique necessarily. He is constantly looking for the melodic curve. Rhythm must not be ignored, that is anti-musical. When one sings, one does not think about rhythm, rhythm comes after melody. Rhythm is a function of melody. As examples Beethoven and Schumann are architecturally constructed pieces. He seeks to go from note to the next note. In order to find the melody it is allowed to ignore a little bit the rhythm. When he sees a piece, he thinks about how he would sing it. He tries to sing with the piano. In order to feel music, one has to sing it.