Next Month, Make A Wish Upon a Star…

OK, wishing on a star is a Disney theme, I know. But it is very fitting for a romantic (but not mushy) pastime at the Morikami.

From July 7-14, a bamboo tree will be in the museum lobby for visitors to decorate with their wishes written on colored paper streamers, or tanzaku, which symbolize the weaving of threads. Tanabata is a week of wishing, so to speak, for anything you want the Universe to receive. The activity is sweet and romantic if you know a bit about the back story –

Tanabata originated more than 2,000 years ago with an old Chinese tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi living in space. After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot about their jobs. The king was angry at them and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way).

The king allowed them to meet only once a year on July 7th. This is why tanabata is also known as the star festival. It’s believed that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t see each other if July 7th is rainy, so people pray for good weather and also make wishes for themselves.

To hang a wish is free and filled with tradition and another reason to swing by the Morikami this summer. There are so many cool stories behind Japanese traditions it makes you wonder if Walt Disney grabbed the idea of wishing on a star from another culture.

Things that make you say “Hmmmm……”

Make a Wish Upon a Tree at the Morikami

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Reiko Remembers The Meaning of Japan’s True New Year

This blog is written by the Morikami’s Director of Education Reiko (pronounced “Lay-ko”) Nishioka, who is native Japanese and later moved to the United States. In 2010, she will contribute to “More Morikami…” and share her cultural inspirations and memories. Happy New Year!

I was asked to write about my favorite holiday/celebration by a local magazine several years ago. I chose Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year celebration, even though I have been living in the U.S. for more than 30 years. I miss it dearly, although I work at the Morikami and celebrate Oshogatsu with visitors every year.  (The 2010 festival will be held January 10, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.)

In Japan, the New Year is celebrated for three days, from January 1 through 3.  So when December 31 approaches, people become very busy. They clean and decorate their houses, cook meals for the time of holidays, pound rice for mochi (rice cake), write greeting cards and attend year-end parties. There is one more, very important thing that Japanese traditionally do at the end of the year, and that is clearing away all debts and obligations. PHEW!

Lots of effort is given in preparation for the New Year, but on December 31 at midnight, the above activities stop. Bells at all temples ring 108 times which, according to the Buddhist religion, symbolize human desires. The last peal drives the desires away, and the new year is greeted in a pure condition.

What I like about the Oshogatsu observance is the symbolism of time. Graduations, weddings or retirements are lifetime experiences; they are “knots” of life. Japanese call these fushi, like the knots of bamboo. This is where the significant border between the old and the new, and the symbolism of time, lie. For example, yesterday was December 31 and the end of the year; today is January 1, and everything is treated new, like a new “knot.” A lot of people go to see the first sunrise; we even cherish the first dream of the new year. Whatever we do, we call it the “first …..of the year.” Oshogatsu is the time to renew.

My memory of Oshogatsu is quiet and calm during the three days of observance. Stores are closed, and there is no cooking as meals have been prepared in advance. Therefore, we have enough time to reflect on the past year and make a wish or set a goal for the upcoming year.

Oh, how I miss the quiet of those three days!

Families watch "shishimai," or the lion dancer, at Oshogatsu, the New Year's celebration; Jan. 10, 2010 at the Morikami

A Bit of Perspective on the Next Exhibit, Please

Curious about the next exhibit in the Morikami’s galleries? Read on…

Fusing elements of abstract expressionist painting with the textural nature of fabrics and the ruggedness of raw clay, Jun Kaneko is a prolific artist who contributed to one, if not the, most innovative movement in the history of American ceramic art.

From December 22 through March 7, the exhibit, Jun Kaneko, Ceramic Sculptures, Paintings and Drawings, will feature 50 works by Kaneko, an energetic contemporary artist known for his seven-foot-tall, half-ton “Dangos,” monolithic ceramic sculptures endearingly named for Kaneko’s favorite childhood treat: warm, sweet dumplings skewered on stick. Yes, seven-foot-tall, half ton pieces of hollow ceramic! One of the smallest pieces is 1,800 pounds. The man dreamt big!

When Susanna Brooks Lavallee, Curator of Japanese Art at The Morikami, answers what she enjoys most about the museum’s next exhibit, she talks about the “perfect storm” of time, the serendipitous environment and artistic influences that gave the world Jun Kaneko. What she appreciates most about Kaneko’s work is that “it transcends mediums – it is at once a drawing, a painting that uses clay as its canvas, and a sculpture. His work is intelligent, thought-provoking, and most of all engaging.”

When Jun Kaneko arrived in the United States from Japan in 1963, at the tender age of 17, he brought with him a skillful, energetic painting style and an eagerness to develop his artistic impulses more freely. With the aid of divine intervention and the support of his painting teacher in Japan, Kaneko was welcomed with open arms into the supportive, nurturing home of Fred and Mary Marer, avid collectors of a fresh, new style of contemporary ceramics being made by a group of intellectual potters in southern California. In the 1960s, ceramics was the number one industry in the state of California, and the Marers were perhaps the most devoted and passionate supporters of this experimental group of avant-garde potters that produced some of the most innovative and important ceramics of the era.

Kaneko’s arrival in California,  which led to his fortuitous acquaintance with the Marers, who introduced the young painter to the great ceramic movers and shakers of the time – Peter Voulkos and Paul Sondern among others – exemplifies the notion of “being at the right place at the right time.”

Would of any of the circumstances played out differently, Kaneko’s magnificent and magical clay works might never have been realized? Brooks Lavallee adds that Kaneko’s contributions to ceramics is not limited to the United States, but extends also to Japan, where his work plays an important role in the study and development of new kilns and clay methods and in the shaping and formation of contemporary Japanese ceramics as a whole.

Take a peek at some preview images, then stop by The Morikami and see up close!

Looking Forward at “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child”

For years, the Yamato-kan was the little Japanese house where you put on paper slippers and learned about early Florida and how Japanese settlers ended up there.

But yesterday, the Yamato-kan officially became more about today than yesterday. The ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiled a new permanent exhibit called “Japan Through the Eyes of a Child,” which invites you to step into a 3-D world as seen by a younger generation.

It’s a classroom, a living room, a shopping area and a train platform, all in great detail and accuracy, so you feel like you’re there – a child in modern-day Japan. You don’t have to be in elementary school to appreciate a day of make-believe. Although a “test” class of chorus singers from Morikami Park Elementary gave it a thumbs-up yesterday, after performing as part of the festivities.

More about this new, interactive exhibit in the next blog… Grand opening for the public is Nov. 7! All kids 17 and under are free! Learn more at www.morikami.org.

Larry Rosensweig and Cheiko Mihori

Former museum director Larry Rosensweig with Morikami trustee Cheiko Mihori

Larry Rosensweig Bonnie LeMay Beverlee Kohnken

Larry Rosensweig, Bonnie LeMay and Beverlee Kohnken walk through the classroom

Morikami Park meistersingers

Morikami Park Elementary singers entertain the ribbon-cutting audience

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky

Rebecca Feldman and Brianna Plasky, singers from Morikami Park Elementary

Wendy Lo with kanji chart

Wendy Lo, education coordinator at Morikami, with kanji chart in Japanese classroom

Japanese kitchen

JTEC's Japanese kitchen is modern with cultural touches

5 Fast, Fun Facts About The Morikami’s Gardens (Wow Your Neighbors. Impress Your Friends.)

Did you know…

1) George Sukeji Morikami donated his land to Palm Beach County in the 1970s with the wish to preserve it as a park and to honor the memory of the Yamato Colony?

2) One of the garden’s features is a traditional gravestone for Mr. Morikami, which was erected in 1989 as a gift from the people of Miyazu, Morikami’s home town. The adjacent marker memorializes Jo Sakai and Mitsusaburo Oki, founders of the Yamato Colony?

3) Literally meaning “tray planting,” bonsai are trees or groupings of trees artistically shaped and cultivated in a container. The Morikami’s collection is the most outstanding public display of the living art of bonsai in the southeastern United States emphasizing species which flourish in Florida?

4) From Rocky Point in Roji-En, a visitor has a captivating view in every direction?

5) Plants are not identified by signage within the gardens in order to encourage looking at the gardens as a whole. Indigenous and adapted plant materials have been selected for their qualities similar to plants found in Japan rather than the large-leafed tropical plants typical of South Florida?

Bonsai

Bonsai gardens are one of the attractions of The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens