On April 29th, monomo hosted a food and craft event titled “MEGUMI” in celebration of the blessings of spring and craftsmanship passed down over the generations.

This cross-cultural communication event was intended to provide an opportunity for both foreigners and Japanese people to get together and learn about people living close to the blessings of the earth, and discuss this while enjoying springtime in full bloom.

  • Nature's Creative Blessings
    • Fresh, local Kyoto bamboo shoots
    • Sansei–wild mountain vegetables–harvested by a self-sufficient family living in the mountains
    • Sake from a local producer
    • Spontaneous, ingredient-centered menu by a “blooming” chef
  • Blessings of Human Wisdom
    • Master Craft Lecture: “Inherited craftsmanship and the life of people”
      Guest Speaker: Shuji Nakagawa, master wood bucket maker, interviewed by Sachiko Matsuyama (monomo)
    • “Nature's Blessings” exhibition of Japanese crafts
      • Wooden Buckets by Shuji NAKAGAWA
      • Hakone Yosegi Zaiku (wood parquetry) by Ken OTA
      • Ceramic Works by Takayuki WATANABE
      • Bamboo Basketry and Accessories by Chiemi OGURA
    • Conversation with like-minded guests and artisans about our natural and creative blessings

Ever since humanity began life on this mother earth, our lives have been both threatened and supported by Nature. Our circle of life has always been in unison with that of Mother Nature’s. We have learned the wisdom necessary for living on this planet from her, and we have passed down that wisdom through the generations.


Through visiting and talking to many craftspeople, we have learned that many of their inherited techniques and tools utilize nature’s blessings to improve people’s lives. By showing consideration for preserving the abundance of nature, the next generations can receive its benefits as well.


The project of MEGUMI was inspired from what we had learned.


For this particular event we decided to focus on oke, the craft of creating wooden buckets, and invited a master oke craftsperson to give a talk about the wisdom and techniques he has been handed down from his predecessors. Our intention was to have a discussion on two kinds of blessings, the ones we receive from Nature and the others we inherit from tradition.


Mr. Shuji Nakagawa was the oke master who gave us a talk about the blessing called “wisdom.” It was such an honor to welcome the star of traditional craft industry, who plays an active part as a member of GO ON, a young craftspeople collective of Kyoto, collaborates with a contemporary artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto and recently has taken the platform at TEDxKyoto.


Mr. Nakagawa told us how oke itself is a tool that optimizes the function of Nature and how the handiwork process of making oke utilizes that function and helps preserve natural resources at the same time. It was a moving experience to learn about the wisdom of his predecessors and how it has been inherited for generations.


However, today plastic buckets are taking over and replacing the wooden ones, and we hardly see handcrafted oke in our daily life. At the gathering, only two of our guests raised their hands when Mr. Nakagawa asked how many of them owned a wooden bucket in their household. He told us about his challenges under the circumstances of today.


When Mr. Nakagawa’s grandfather was running the business, there were over two hundred oke shops in Kyoto. Now, there are only a few left. His grandfather used to produce about two hundred oke a month, now production is down to a few dozen.


In order to reach his grandfather’s level of mastery when he could not afford to make as many oke as he needed until he understood the craftsmanship through repetition, Mr. Nakagawa saw the necessity to theorize the technique so that he could logically think about it. That is when the “wisdom” that had been passed down over generations was verbalized and systematized.


This verbalization and systematization became the basis for Mr. Nakagawa’s innovation. We will not discuss his specific “wisdom” and innovation here, but we can tell you one thing; the sharp and modern impressions of his works would not have been achieved if not for his innovative thinking, which was a result of his confrontation with his “wisdom.” They are not just beautiful designs to look at without meaning and value.


With this innovative idea, Mr. Nakagawa made a bold move. Winning the designated official champagne cooler for Dom Pérignon as a start, he started to express and promote the technique and beauty of Japanese craftsmanship all over the world.

Mr. Nakagawa’s MEGUMI talk turned out to be an exciting one, covering a variety of topics: what he has noticed about the Japanese view of Nature while touring all over the world and what surprised people abroad the most, the things he has realized after having a unique career of graduating from a contemporary art university and entering the traditional industry of craftsmanship, current world affairs, and the changes in the positional relationship between art and craft and the role that Japanese craftsmanship should take in it.


After the talk with the oke master, it was time for the feast. Fresh steamed rice was prepared in the rice bowl Mr. Nakagawa made, and we waited for a toast.

 

At the MEGUMI event, food is not at all a supporting role but is a co-star among the crafts that monomo specializes in.

  • The relationship between the tools for handiworks and our lives around eating, in which so many tools are used, are strongly associated with each other.
  • For Japanese people, eating is not a business just on the dining table. All the food we eat is a blessing form the gods and to celebrate the act of eating is equal to celebrating our unity with the earth.


We believe that ideas like these can be easily shared with everyone in the world, if only we could gather around a dining table and enjoy a tasty feast together.


We would not have been able to carry out this event without the help of our supporters who went out and confronted Nature, gave careful thought to the ingredients, took care of them and fought with boars, monkeys and deer. Our deepest thank you goes to the following people:

  • For the edible wild plants, bamboo shoots, honey produced by Japanese honey bees in pesticide-free areas: Family of Imabaridani mountain
  • For the additional bamboo shoots: Our landlord
  • For the boar meat and tubers: Ms. Masami Utsunomiya and her father


The food was very creative, and looked as good as it tasted. We believe everyone enjoyed the delicious meal as well as the joyful chat with the oke master who stayed with us for the feast.
More photos of the event are available for viewing at the following link:
https://goo.gl/WI8dgm


We would also like to show our appreciation to the following supporters:

  • Interpreter: Mizuho Toyoshima
  • Photographers: Yotaro Akagawa and Aya Shinto
  • Venue: Impact Hub Kyoto


There is no greater blessing to us host members like the one we were given through meeting with everyone who supported and helped organize this event with us and those who brought their curiosity and passion to the event and helped make it so memorable.


Thank you very much!

Direction: MATSUYAMA, Sachiko 

Food Preparation: TADA, Eriko 

Drink Preparation: YOKOTA, Maki