My favourite shop in Tokyo is a tiny, idiosyncratic craft boutique in Azabu Juban, not far from the Australian Embassy. Over its 35 years it has presented local Tokyoites and visitors to that eccentric city with a charming and inventive array of handmade wares all celebrating the Japanese love affair with the colour combination of blue and white.
In Japan the refreshing blue and white pairing is found on a comprehensive array of fine art, craft and everyday household items from beautiful pottery to fabrics, ceramics and paper crafts. Its use dates back centuries reflecting the long interaction between Japan, China and Korea, despite present-day tensions.
The Blue and White Shop is the long-term labour of love of expat American Amy Katoh who has lived in Japan since the 1960s. The quaint boutique stocks traditional items such as tenugui hand towels, yukata kimonos, assorted rolls of fabrics, painted chopsticks, ceramic beads, and sundry other items, all in the quintessential blue and white, although the odd splash of other colours may be found. A theme around the shop is the cherubic visage of Otafuku, the Japanese goddess of good luck.
Saying goodbye to the 2014 Otafuku
One of Blue and White’s most popular items, especially at this time of the year, is their distinctive crafty calendar which each year carries a message and in which Otafuku makes her inevitable appearance. This year’s theme is genki – health, vitality, and energy. Last year’s was mottainai – don’t waste stuff. We were reminded that some things are better the second time around “or at least as good” – including the calendar which it was suggested should be given new life in 2015 in yet another craft form. A Japanese friend, who like so many of her countrywomen is clever with her hands, has already put her hand up for my 2014 calendar to give a creative second life.
The Otafuku makes her appearance in February.
Mottainai – last year’s calendar will not go to waste.