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Art from Japan

January 2, 2008

I studied abroad in Japan in the summer of 1999 and I lived there from 2001 until 2004. I have some very special art that I brought back with me. These botanical prints were torn from a calendar and simply cut and put into frames. Now they hang above the headboard and their colors helped me decide how to decorate the rest of the bedroom.

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prints torn from a calendar

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I have two Maneki Neko figurines. These cats bring good fortune to their owners’ households and businesses. One has the left paw raised and one has the right paw raised. The figure that I bought (with the left paw raised) also depicts what I assume to be customers or else business owners. The one that my host mom gave me (with the right paw raised) is supposed to assure that lots of money is coming my way.

When the year of the dog is celebrated in Japan, some people (especially adolescent girls) include cats. The cat is not included among the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac, but cats are very loved in Japan. These two charms were sent to us by friends in Japan in 2006, the year of the dog.

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japanese cats

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This is something that we bought when we were shopping in a huge street market in Tokyo, during our last week of living in Japan. The woman depicted is holding branches from a cherry tree. My daughter was born in Japan when the cherry blossoms were just about to bloom. It is the ideal time of year for the birth of a baby girl. I picked this piece of art with the hope of hanging it in our bedroom.

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3-D kimono

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This original calligraphy was written for me by a teacher in Oosuka-cho, near Kakegawa. I visited the town briefly and was surprised to receive this in the mail a short while later. Somehow I made a good impression and inspired him to write these beautiful characters for me. I still don’t know exactly what it means. Bikkuri, help me, please!

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japanese calligraphy

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  1. January 2, 2008 8:21 pm

    Beautiful artwork! Missy said to tell you that she really likes the Maneki Nekos.

    BTW, you’ve just been tagged! Come and see me at my blog, ‘K?

  2. January 3, 2008 9:59 am

    I would have never known that the prints were taken from a calendar. Since your daughter was born in Japan, does she have dual citizenship? Now it’s my turn to be curious, without Missy the Cat! LOL

  3. Ginger permalink
    January 3, 2008 2:11 pm

    Lovely photos. I love Japanese things.

    I hope the calligraphy doesn’t say anything dirty. LOL πŸ™‚

  4. January 3, 2008 2:49 pm

    Curious, thanks for the tag. I’ll get around to it.

    Accountable, in Japan they don’t grant citizenship by virtue of birth (birthright). She could have been dual Peruvian and American but we decided to go for just American. The reason is, in Peru, the US Embassy can come to her rescue in case of a kidnapping or a natural disaster like an earthquake, but if she had dual citizenship and we took her on vacation in Peru she would be Peruvian (the responsibility of the Peruvian government) while she was there.

    Ginger, hahahaha. I hope it’s not dirty either. I think the character in the upper left means “love” and the one in the lower left means “language,” but I’m not sure of the ones on the right.

  5. January 3, 2008 3:45 pm

    Those pictures above your bed are gorgeous! Did you matte and frame them yourself?

    I love the statues. Whimsical and yet stylish.

  6. January 3, 2008 11:10 pm

    Hi, sorry to bother. Thank you for the insightful comments on my sight, they are always welcome – especially from someone with such a great contribution to the subject at hand.

    I have a favor to ask. All my comments go to the spam filter in askimet. Do you mind un-spamming this comment for me so it will go to your blog. Then you can delete it as it is not pertinent to what you have typed in your post. I wish to make more posts, but I am not allowed. Thank you and I look forward to more good posts.

    P.S. I am huge Ron Paul supporter and donated monies recently. If you watch my site, I will veer more into individual liberty/constitutional rights/economic freedom issues. I believe Ron will run as 3rd party candidate – his answers to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” pretty much put the ball in motion. I do not advance him yet because I want to builid up more of a following. If you advocate a candidate too hard at first, you are easily discredited and people do not pay attention to your political posts. I plan to appeal to reason and logic first, then the only obvious choice will be Ron Paul at election time.

    Anyways, sorry to bother. See you around.


  7. January 4, 2008 1:28 pm

    FreeFromItAll, The frames are cool because they don’t require mats (or mattes or whatever they’re called!). They are two thin pieces of plastic and I just sandwiched the calendar pages between them. Then there are four individual frame pieces that you have to wiggle on once you’ve got the picture in the right place. The pages now look like they are floating. πŸ™‚

  8. January 4, 2008 2:21 pm

    Johnnypeepers, sorry about the zealous spam filter. You did comment a few days ago on my “about” page and it didn’t go to spam, so I don’t know why other comments would. ??? I don’t mind if your comment isn’t about Japanese Art. πŸ™‚ I’ll leave it up anyway.

  9. January 9, 2008 10:47 am

    Sorry for my absence. I’m pretty sure the four characters are: ε’Œι‘”ζ„›θͺž. I am having a little trouble finding this combination of characters in my proverbs and sayings dictionaries. I’ll just take a stab at the reading – wagao aigo – but can’t be sure about which reading for the second character would be used.

    Aigo is a Buddhist term referring to “having the heart to offer intimate words to others”. Don’t confuse this with ‘protection’ which uses a different character for ‘go’. I couldn’t find a similar definition for ‘wagao’, ‘wakao’, or ‘wagan’, but I think I have seen these characters used in other writings to describe ‘Asian style’ or ‘Asian heart’. Literally the four characters are ‘harmony’, ‘face’, ‘love’, ‘words/talk’.

    If we don’t look for a particular connection to proverbs or religious sayings and just take it at face value, perhaps we could read it: “Harmonious face and loving speech”. Perhaps the author was inspired by your spirit during your exchange. Note the characters should be read top to bottom and right to left.

    It would take me awhile to figure out the author’s name. For some reason he seems to have mixed semi-cursive and cursive script. The second character appears to be sousho for ‘water’ and the red seal below his name looks like it is the name in tensho (seal script). The seal in the upper right is too small to read in this picture, but typically a seal in that position is provided for balance and could say anything (today’s mood, place where the writing was done, life direction, fun words, etc…)

  10. January 9, 2008 11:21 am

    Well, I got smart and did an internet search for those characters. Apparently it should be read: wagen aigo. The meaning didn’t seem to be far off, but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time translating pages about Buddhist philosophy, West/East contrast, and such tonight. The first page I looked at used lots of tough words and sentences about ego, self, and etiquette. Off to bed for me now.

  11. January 9, 2008 11:59 am

    Thank you Bikkuri. What you found and related here helps me tremendously to understand that teacher’s message to me.

  12. February 3, 2009 10:35 am

    Funny how information gets connected. Someone clicked through to my blog from this post today, prompting me to trace it back. As I was reading about the cats, I noticed your comment about the seven figures on the front of the left-handed cat. They are the seven Buddhist gods. Each of them is supposed to bring a different kind of fortune.

    Sorry I don’t have much detail about them. I know the one with the hammer smacks things with the hammer and makes gold. (You can notice his influence in some Mario Bros. games.) Also, I’m pretty sure the guy with the (omede)tai fish is Yebisu. He is probably the most famous of the seven.

  13. February 3, 2009 10:46 am

    Bikkuri, you’re the best. Thanks for setting me straight about the seven gods. I am glad you came back to comment again and help me understand more about Japanese culture and art. πŸ˜€

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