During the cold beginning of February there was one big event we were really looking forward to. The MONO JAPAN fair at the iconic Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy in Amsterdam. The cultural event was meant as a celebration of Japanese crafts, design and food culture. It offered a stage to acclaimed masters of traditional practices as well as a new generation of ambitious and enthusiastic creators. It showcased products ranging from pottery, paper, textile, clothing and furniture to teas and sakes, all presented in different “showrooms” throughout the hotel.
The Lloyd Hotel was the perfect setting for the weekend-long festivities. The classic 1900’s building is known for offering a stage for all sorts of cultural events. Hidden in the Eastern Doc neighbourhood of Amsterdam, it’s somewhat of an oddity amidst all of the tall new architecture of this part of town. It seemed like the perfect place to debut an event showcasing a culture which is all about juxtapositions, nowhere do modern lifestyle and lifelong traditions blend so seamlessly as in Japan.
This feeling was palpable through all of the exhibition. The Yama no Katchi project by Shuhei Shibayama and Osamu Suto made use of old know-how from Yamagata, in an attempt to keep traditional techniques of the region alive. They presented hand-made works that use traditional materials including iron, copper, hemp, rice straw and vine, and Sashiko (quilt works) from the Tohoku Region. The region of Yamagata knows four distinct and sometimes harsh seasons, this has made its inhabitants very inventive craftsmen.
List is the name of the company that manages the handcraft gallery Público in Dejima, Nagasaki. During the event they introduced works and techniques of Nagasaki artisans who make potteries, woodworks, towels and food. In addition to the Nagasaki crafts, List selected products from other regions clothing and small items made of Aizu-Momen, a cotton fabric made in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima -that has 400 years of history- and sweaters and socks produced using technology from Japanese factories that dedicate special attention to yarns and dyeing processes.
One of the presentations that caught our attention was that of the artistic duo composed of Ryo Okamoto and Daimon Kanno. The two paired up to show their approach to the quickly fading religions and handcraft traditions of Japan. Okamoto does so with his unique pieces of art. These are made from antique materials and minerals that express a Japanese religious perspective that is quickly being lost. This is due to the rapid development of science and technology; which is spurring people to be more and more atheistic. What he expresses, in other words, is the new values of modern-day Japan. Kanno on the other hand, is a designer who promotes new types of craftsmanship that are originally from the Japanese mountainous areas. He exhibited lamps that make use of Yoshino Washi. Washi is the Japanese word for traditional handmade papers that are crafted in as many as 45 different steps, from the nurturing of the Kozo plants to the process of tossing mesh screens into a paste-like pulp . This paper-making technique has been handed down from generation to generation for about 600 years, but now is facing the danger of disappearing. Kanno makes the lamps with Yoshino Washi in an attempt to protect and pass down the invaluable technique to future generations.
Most of the exhibiting parties also organized workshops and lectures throughout the weekend, meaning there was always something new to try out and discover. Giving you a hands-on approach to Japanese design and crafts. Safe to say, we’re looking forward to the next one!
Pictures 2, 5 and 6 by Daniëlle Vink.
All other pictures by Kiyomi Yui.
Words by Sara Martín Mazorra.