Thursday, 2 August 2007

Chichibu update

One of the attractive facets of Japanese design is the 'ki' wood. It emphasises natural features and natural beauty and weathers with humility, natural faults and knots, considered desirable. The humility of wood is appropriate to remind humans of their frailty and imperfection. Sabi (used commonly in the expression adopted recently by Western design from Japan, 'wabi sabi') referred originally to things withered by age. More recently it has been applied to aesthetics of tranquility and simplicity or the 'rust of age' that engenders beauty and character, particularly important in the Tea Ceremony, in which rough implements, avoiding adornments and technological sophistication are appreciated. Savouring the 'rust of age' reveres nature, changing seasons, weathering and wearing, aging and naturalness. From 'Elements of Japanese Design' by De Mente, Tuttle Publishing, 2006, VT. Many of the rustic, old buildings in Chichibu embody these notions with delightful rust and faded paint, wooden panels and marks of age.

Yesterday, I visited Chichibu again for a shakuhachi lesson and also had the chance to wander around the small mountain town a little more, always encased by mountains. It has a sleepy village-like atmosphere and neighbourly friendliness, some retiring buildings and is generally flat with low-rise dwellings surrounded by the hills, conveying a different sense of suburbia and visibility for longer distances, a vista that cannot be found in the Tokyo metropolis where a building rises in every direction, hiding the sun and colouring the view. One experiences very little sense of natural formations in Tokyo, apart from microcosmoses of gardens and parks (which are truly beautiful oases) but one looses the whereabouts of mountains or sea, except on the riverside locations. Chichibu seems much more nested in and connected with its natural surroundings. I visited the trailer-home or cyber-caravan as we call it, where an Argentinean couple and their son, Horacio, Vika and Kai are currently living. This is where I will spend November before moving to Youkobo. The internet connection is faster than Sydney Uni's!