monomo — crafts — life — connection

Sachiko Matsuyama monomo

A Message From Sachiko

Like many of us who grew up in an industrial country in this modern era, my upbringing was like any ordinary life in Japan. Surrounded by industrial items ready for consumption, my admiration for the richness of carefully made handicrafts must have grown unconsciously, yet persistently.

During my six years living overseas, people kept asking what the beauty of Japan was, but at the time I was never able to verbalize it. One day, when I was holding a cup of hot tea, I gazed at my palms wrapped around the body of the cup, instead of holding the handle. My palms felt the warmth and sensation of the earth, which the cup was originally made of. And it reminded me of a story.

The story comes from Sōetsu Yanagi, a Japanese philosopher and founder of the mingei (folk craft) movement in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s. A ceramic artisan generated forms out of the earth. He put all his energy, efforts and skills toward shaping perfection, while facing the god of the earth and communicating with him through his palms. But once the artisan had done his part, the rest is up to the spirit of the fire god. And the Japanese have always accepted the decisions of the gods.

In primitive Japanese religious views, there is divinity—or sacred essence—in multiple forms. The sun, the moon, the sky, and in rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people, all can be said to possess the nature of god. Gods and people exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity. I realized that I did tend to appreciate the existence of “something” in the form of natural material, thought I am not necessarily religious. It is not easy to put my finger on such feelings, but “something” tells me about the comfort and closeness of Mother Earth.

It was then that I came to understand that this “something” I was feeling, cradling the ceramic cup in my palms, was my appreciation of nature's nearness. This became my understanding of the beauty of my motherland.

The unforgettable tsunami and nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011 in the Tohoku area of Japan was such a significant incident that it changed the life values for many people in Japan. As a result of experiencing such loss and helplessness, more and more people are now seeking a deeper life experience through more authentic living. Life is short, so we better be true to ourselves! Being authentic involves consciously choosing the ideal ways to work and spend your private life with your loved ones.

It involves appreciating the everyday setting of the household, grounding yourselves with a good cup of coffee, eating organic vegetables that you know the origin of, etc. And by doing so, we start noticing how much our physical sensibilities have become detached from nature in an industrial urban setting, just like my experience.

I see this philosophy through Japanese eyes because I happen to be born in Japan. Perhaps there is something the Japanese can share from our collective experience of facing life-threatening disasters and from our understanding of a Tokyo-style detached consumer lifestyle. I believe this appreciation of one’s life can and should be shared with anyone in the world.

For that reason, I decided to share with the global community not only exceptional Japanese crafts and artisan goods but also the meaningful knowledge and stories behind them.

With a professional background in web development, e-commerce operations, communications, and business development, I founded monomo in January 2014. In the Japanese language, “mono” means things, items, or objects, while “mono-gatari” means stories. monomo‘s logo carries two of the same Japanese characters, meaning “mono,” once to describe objects, and again to convey participating in stories. Our brand name came from the concept of telling stories behind objects, objects that carry the spirit of the nature and foster a deeper appreciation for daily life.

We carefully select products made by skilled artisans with techniques inherited over generations. I am hoping to help the Japanese artisan communities continue to pass on not only those techniques, but also their philosophy of craftsmanship.

We hope you find objects that will become cherished in your home and which elevate your appreciation for everyday living, and that one day we will hear your own stories with them.

Sachiko Matsuyama