As mentioned in the previous post, I had the privilege of being in the company of some delightful people who made the whole experience so much fun.
One of these amazing creators is Mr. Seijirou MATSUBA (松葉正次郎). His family name translates to “Mr. Pineneedle,” and he is a furniture maker. For his mini-booth, instead of bringing furniture, he brought beautifully crafted, enchanting toys and ornamental objects carved from single blocks of wood. They’re so beautifully made that I invested in one of his smaller objects of chain linked hearts. It releases the fragrance of Japanese cypress, ヒノキ hinoki, has a soft almost velvety finish, and makes a gentle clacking sound when you caress the pieces in your hands.
In the foreground, you can see the box with the wooden gears and handle. As you turn the handle, the expressions on the little bear’s face change. If you keep going the paddles on top lift, you’ll see a small red, yellow, and blue cylinder somewhere under the paddles. As you keep turning the handle, they will close, and the next time it lifts, the cylinders are in a different place. Think Two-card Monte, without the magician’s sleight of hand.
The box to its left has three ducks sitting on nests. Can you imagine what happens when you turn the handle? If you guessed the ducks lift to reveal which ducks if any have laid eggs, and how many, similar to the box with the bear and paddles, and every bit as much fun guessing where the eggs will be on the next turn, give yourself a gold star. He also has a pull toy on the ground with a compass on top that always points north no matter what direction you pull it in, accomplished mechanically without the use of magnets!
Another group who filled my days with fun and laughter are the folks from the Italian Culture Institute, Osaka (Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Osaka or イタリア文化会館大阪) who shared the hall with us. They offered free half-hour Italian lessons that were great fun. The lesson I attended on “ordering in a café” naturally primed me to want to eat Italian food – which totally worked on me! The very next evening when I found myself in downtown Kyoto after classes, I decided to go to a pub where they make homemade sauerkraut – a very unusual treat in Japan – only I never made it because of the many Italian restaurants seemingly beckoning me along the way. The food where I finally stopped was fantastic, and inside I saw a poster with the Italian Culture Institute logo. They are doing their job so well!
They also showed me the incredible kindness of promoting my mini-booth, for which I am truly grateful. A quick high energy coffee break with Antonio and hearing about his teaching philosophy in a mix of Italian, English, and Japanese was an extra sweet bonus. He’s so entertaining it was difficult to stop laughing long enough to snap the photo above.
The other people who made the day magical were the organizers from the Nara Design Association 奈良デザイン協会, my good friends the Murakamis from my earliest days in Japan who encouraged me to apply, the many friends who came to visit and show their support, and my dear friends who helped me set up, helped me stay grounded as I attended to all my visitors, and helped me pack up when the time came, and of course my loving family and the mentors whose gentle care and generosity have nourished my growth & spirit.