Sunday, January 1, 2012

A new year in Japan, with new challenges or opportunities

Last post I showed the wimpy little "Kadomatsu" decorating our gate. If you walk down the narrow street you will see a pair of these on nearly every front gate. (some of the gates on our street are back gates because the homes extend between two streets) Sunday we met at church to serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. There were many volunteers to help with the serving and I spent my hours at the sink on wash-up duty. I went to the worship service with the cleanest hands in the congregation , I am sure.

Our church is along a grand shopping street, as I have mentioned, but many shops will be closed for the first three days of the new year. Many items of the traditional meal are things that can be assembled before the year end and are packed into nesting boxes, stacked in a cool place, and brought out to serve family and friends that come to call. Today there are 24hour stores and many stores do stay opened but back in the early 60's, the colorful pickled stuff was what you ate and part of the preparations for the holiday.

The above picture is one of the pair of fancy kadomatsu outside the Oriental Bazaar. This is very traditional and well suited to the store which has a design resembling a temple.The pine is believed to serve as the dwelling place (yorishiro) for the god who brings good luck at the beginning of the year and the bamboo, growing straight, represents consistency and integrity.

Another shop along the street had a pair of decorations that were arranged in an original manner.

This shop had a very traditional kadomatsu of a smaller size but inside you can glimpse "O-sona-e Mochi" This is a very fancy version of what people display in their entry-ways at New Years. It has two stacked mochi (pounded rice) with all kinds of decorations, seaweed or "kobu" representing "yorokobu" (to be joyful) and a big crab wishing you to live a long life until your back is bent like that crab, two green leaves with white backsides showing that no matter what color you show, your mind is pure. Pine leaves are tied straight across to show constancy. I guess after paying for those fancy decorations, you might need a bit of luck in the new year. I came back home in time to rescue Nikko from a scary earthquake, I guess it was lucky it was not a worse one.

I have enjoyed a bit of relaxing quilting. After a large selection of blocks, I treat myself to a few flowers on the border.

All the while I am thinking of some projects and challenges looming on the fringes of the month.

First, there is homework for the auction quilt. We have been given the nod by the sensei to copy her quilt. I wish I could say I am relieved but for some reason I am still not too happy. I know the group needs my help. I love this group of young women and working with them but I just wish the project was anything else.

Next challenge is a new class ... facing the unknown. In 1998, the Women's Conference, a group of Christian women, many of which used to be missionaries, had the theme,"Bloom Where You are Planted". One of the workshops I attended was patchwork evangelism, taught by Sandy Shigeno, who went on to put together a nice booklet on Bible Quilts. Since that class I have made a few bible quilts and hangings. Now I have been asked by two friends to teach a class for women of their church. I think the plan will be to make a bible quilt for a fund-raiser. I have passed on the information about supplies and we will all meet for the first time in just a few weeks. I have taught the quilt-as-you-go style many times using Japanese designs for foreigners wanting to make a quilt of Japanese fabrics and design. This will be a first time to teach Japanese women to make Bible inspired work.

Another spin-off of the 1988 class (Thank You Sandy) is that the Women's Conference has asked me to teach a patchwork workshop this year.
The theme is, "Relive, Revive, Restore". The speaker will be a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing in Hiroshima.

Perhaps there is someone out there who can help me come up with a plan. I do not know how many people might meet for a one-hour class. I will need to make all the plans and take what I need with me to the retreat. I am thinking that rather than have each person try to make something, to do some kind of a cooperative banner that could be hung at future conferences. I have lots of 2 and 3inch blocks that could be assembled into some kind of mosaic design. If I were to have each person make something, what could it be in just an hour of hand-work? I am open to any suggestions that are out there. I just don't want to do something that will be a waste of fabric and time.

So ... that is what January has in store... The comfort of making progress on the batik quilt, overcoming the obstacle of the auction quilt, teaching a new class to new women, and coming up with an idea that will be more fun than challenge by January 20th. I haven't even looked at my calendar beyond that weekend!


  1. It looks as if you will be busy this year. Good luck. Thank you explaining the door decorations. Really interesting.

  2. I love the image of growing so old that your back is bent over like the crab. That was my mother, who lived to age 86 and was bent right over with osteoporosis when she died. She also had such advanced dementia that she couldn`t talk, eat, function....Do the Japanese have an wish for that which will make it better in my mind? You do sound like you will be super busy in the next while. I hope it all goes well. I`m sorry that I`m not much help with ideas for your group.

  3. wow you will have a busy start on 2012 :-)
    Wish you a Happy New Year.
    Hugs :-)

  4. goodness when do you have time to breath? Take your time and you will come up with a plan ...hopefully xx Good luck xx

  5. Julie I'm trying to slow down and do less and I see you speeding up and doing more - I'm not sure how you do it. Thank you for the pictures and explanation of the decorations. I loved seeing them and especially appreciated the meaning behind the traditions. Your Relive, Revive, Restore class made me think of the 23rd Psalm. If you are thinking of a banner maybe a scene which included the "still waters" where God restores our souls? Several years ago I collected off the internet patterns of several Bible blocks but I've never done anything with them. Every once in a while I get them out just to look at them but so far I haven't tackled it. I love the thought of it though. blessings, marlene

  6. What a busy start to your year!

    Building on the "still waters" idea... a variety of blue and bluegreen fabrics, maybe 6 inches square, each participant gets two, they are layered and then cut twice across in GENTLE curves, pieces from two fabrics are swapped and then sewn back together. Blocks can then be sized to 5 inches. That would give you lots of "watery" blocks to make a banner, and I think the blocks could be accomplished in one hour of hand sewing.

  7. May I suggest some embroidery? Perhaps a letter for each square, eventually spelling out words that go with your theme. The letter could be a block letter of their own design and they could add details to it, such as flowers, etc. A quick tutorial on simple stitches wouldn't take long and if the blocks weren't large it could easily take an hour.

    Thanks for sharing the New Year's designs. It's something I grew up with and seeing your photos was wonderful.

  8. I love the idea of using Psalm 23 for your group and the suggestions made so far, you could also include some flowing sashiko watery stitching. People will probably be familiar with the words which will be a good start. I guess you won't be sleeping much this year!! Blessings on all your projects.

  9. Hi Julie! I received my Neko today and already hung! I don't know how to post pics here on your blog so you'll have to go over to mine to look at it (I'm still trying to figure out why your blog doesn't show on my list lol!) I love it SO much! Doumo Arigato Gozaimashiita! *HUGS*

  10. I don't know how you do it. I'm worn out just reading your post! More power to you! Happy New Year!