While at the Yui Valley home of Hila-san and Daisuke-san, we spent some time in a nearby village, Okabe, that featured a massive field of cosmos flowers abloom. Just before we walked to the flower fields, we had lunch in a roadside soba (buckwheat noodles) restaurant and souvenir shop. What was on this little, rural cafe's sound system? Blossom Dearie, of course. Improbable? Really not; more like typical. I'd venture that almost all the public background music we hear is Western classical, American jazz, rock and roll, blues, and Motown, with the occasional cameo by Edith Piaf. Here and there we hear brief riffs of Japanese music -- electronic announcement intros on railroad and subway platforms, . . . curious electronic versions of a few bars of traditional folk tunes played over speakers set high atop poles out in the sylvan, sparsely populated countryside, announcing the beginning (9 a.m.) end (5 p.m.) of the work day. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as I associate rural routines with seasonal changes of daylight hours rather than attention to ordinal time. Pam recognized some of the tunes from childhood 78 record collection, and was charmed. I was charmed as well, the tunes were tuneful and suggested a meal and a bath in the offing, but still surprised by what I took to hint at a degree of incongruous cultural regimentation.
Shibori: One of our earliest, decidedly niche cultural adventures, while in Kyoto, was a visit to the Shibori Museum (http://kyotoshiborimuseum.wixsite.com/kyoto-shibori-museum) which documents, exhibits and teaches a traditional textile art, resist dying -- part tie-dye, part batik, all (how shall I say this delicately?) anal retentive. Visualize bunching the finest of fine fabric, tissue thin silk, for example, into the teensiest, tiniest, wee-est little twists, maybe the size of a pin-head, and then tying this off tightly with many turns of fine silk thread, and doing this perhaps 30 or 40 or 50 times per square inch at carefully, regularly spaced intervals , and doing this over yards of fabric, towards the end of various modes of resist dying, resulting in spectacularly beautiful designs. Alas, this is a dying art, practiced by fewer and fewer artisans. Dating from the 8th century, its contemporary practitioners are few, the modern adaptations many.
So we went to probably the only (small) museum in the world dedicated to this traditional art form. In Kyoto. There were only two people there, both staff I reckon. One, a young Kyoto hipster native with a cockney/Australian accent (from time spent in Queensland and England), was not a shibori artisan but rather a good-humored advocate, interpreter, and producer of the "show" of shibori. Was it with a small degree of sadistic delight that he pulled apart two pieces of fabric wed by hundreds or thousands of these minute knots . . . for our benefit. The staccato popping sound of these many knots being ripped open was stunning -- in mere seconds he undid hours of someone's work, revealing the underlying dyed pointilistic patterns intended.
In fact there are several main shibori techniques, each resulting in a substantially different result, but all painstakingly labor intensive, all stunning in the ways in which the dyes impact the final designs.