I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Arimatsu Shibori

Not far from Nagoya is an artisan community who practice the Japanese tie-dying art of shibori.There is even a shibori museum with a very long name (Arimatsu Narumi Shibori Kaikan) where you can make your own shibori! Over the weekend, my Japanese host Seiji and his family took me there. This (very bleached out) picture is from where we had lunch (cold udon with dipping sauce). I am standing next to my hosts daughter and what I thought was a bear, but was told was definitely NOT a bear. Hmmm.Shibori is sort of like 1960s American-style tie-dying, but an intricate pattern is stitched into the cloth, then the cloth is dyed and the stitching is removed. The artistry of doing this has passed primarily through women most of whom are now very old and totally mesmerizing to watch. Here is the one practical use of shibori (at the museum),and here is a shibori Nagoya shachihoko.After a shibori-making afternoon, we went to a museum of local festival floats. The festival happens once a year and the highlight is that the dolls on this float "perform" famous scenes from Japanese antiquity and write Chinese characters. These actions are controlled by mechanisms in the dolls as well as skillful puppeteers inside the float.Behind a glass case upstairs was a huge mask also worn during the festival. There was no English label so I asked my host what it was. He told me that it was a mask...then after a pause, continued that it is of a famous Japanese goblin called a yamabushi-tengu with facial features (big nose, blond hair, and large eyes) modeled after foreigners (!). After a little research I discovered that although the inspiration for this goblin could be the hairy, blond, big-nosed Westerner, the Japanese tengu history is long and complicated with so many versions and incarnations (tengu literally means "heavenly dog") that historians can not be sure of the big-nosed tengu origin, or at least they arent saying...

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