Fall Festival Review

Written by Mina Hiraiwa

On the sunny day of September 18, 2015, J-Collabo Fall Festival was held at J-Labo Brooklyn. The smell of traditional Japanese food such as yakisoba, dorayaki, and dango permeated outside the venue, luring many locals enjoying a block party with blaring music.

On the first floor of the venue, four artists from Ibaraki, Japan, Makoto Oki, Atsushi Funakushi, Kei Kondo, and Yumiko Shimoya, exhibited Kasama ware. Their pottery works are called Kasama ware because they are made in Kasama, Ibaraki, Japan.

Kasawa-ware exhibition

The works of the artist Mitsuyasu Yokota were also displayed on the first floor. Mitsuyasu, who is an architect from Kyoto, came up the idea of incorporating used kimonos and their obi (sash)  into glass works since he wanted to pass down the Japanese traditions. These glass works are called Wa Glass, and they incorporate the knowledge gained by Mitsuyasu through his architectural work. The artist is passionate about introducing his intricate work not only in Japan, but also all over the world.

Wa-glass products

On the basement floor, the kimonos brought in from Japan and exhibited by Mitsuyasu adorned the festival venue.

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Makoto Oki, a ceramic artist from Kasama, Ibaraki, talked about the processes and techniques used in creating Kasama wares. He specializes in incorporating ceramics and metal at high temperatures to create novel designs and shapes. Some of his works didn’t come out as he had planned after the high-temperature baking process, which he thought was challenging and but also fun.

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Mitsuyasu Yokota explained his Wa Glass art works and the fabrication process. He stressed that if people will continue to not wear kimonos, the kimono artisans will be extinct in 30 years. Therefore, his goal is to pass down the kimono traditions to the next generations through his Wa Glass art works. More importantly, the kimonos and obis used in his Wa Glass works last forever with his novel technique. His Wa Glass plates have been used in restaurants, and he hopes to collaborate with others to make his works known to many more people around the world.

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Lastly, Geisha Kikuno wearing a blue kimono that is traditionally worn by Maiko (geisha apprentice) appeared onto the stage to talk about geisha history and activities. People often misunderstand geishas as courtesans, but geishas are professional entertainers who dance and sing. She began her career at the age of 15 after finishing junior high school and upon the recommendation of her aunt who ran a geisha agency in Ganriin, Nara. She has been in the profession for 30 years, training Maikos and being active in revitalizing Gairiin that used to thrive as a geisha entertainment district.

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The talk show by the three artists ended with Kikuno’s dance performance. Overall, the festival was held in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere, drawing a good mix of locals and Japanese.

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Photo: Mina Hiraiwa