Sunday, April 26, 2009

Raggedy Ann of Hiroshima, Japan

Dear Friends,
Many have asked us about our friends Yozo and Yumiko Yamasaki and their painting studio and wood shop, Raggedy Ann. So here is their story.

Raggedy Ann is the first Decorative Painting shop of Japan. It began when Yumiko's sister, Kotami, who was living in Texas, told her of the wonderful world of decorative painting. With Kotami's urging, Yumiko opened the first decorative painting shop of Japan in Hiroshima. The first Raggedy Ann store was in the Itsukaichi area of Hiroshima City. Yumiko began to study painting as well. In 1987 she began teaching.

Yozo, Yumiko's husband has been making the wood for Raggedy Ann and other shops and distributors for years. He has two assistants that help him process orders. The Black Cat picks up orders every day. His wood surfaces are shipped throughout Japan.

For 23 years Yumiko operated a retail art store and studio on Coin Dori (Street) in Itsukaichi area of Hiroshima. In 2007 she and Yozo decided to bring their business home to Hatsukaichi. They remodelled the living space above the woodshop into a comfortable studio and art store. It has a spectacular view of the valley. It is perfect for seminars, relaxing and a bit of shopping. Oh, yes. And painting too!

So nowthey now have the art store and studio above the wood shop. Each day they walk down their drive to work. The store has all needed art supplies as well as beautiful gifts made by local and international artists.

Their assistant Miko helps with the seminars and day to day running of the store. Yozo keeps the wood surfaces in stock. And their dog, Kintaro makes sure everyone does their job. This is truly a family business.

And there are Raggedy dolls everywhere! These are only a few of the dolls that live at Raggedy Ann Art Studio.

Hmm A tough decision!

Oh no! Here are some more!

Decorative painting is very popular in Japan. The Yozo's woodshop is sending wood throughout Japan. Some of his pieces and designs have been seen as far as the United States. Yumiko teaches in her studio as well as traveling as far north as Nagoya for her students.

Each year Yumiko allows herself study time. She comes to the United States each winter to study with David as well as enjoy Christmas holidays with the Jansen family.

Yozo relaxes in Hatsukaichi with Kintaro. When Yumiko gets home they are all ready to start the new year.
We are truly fortunate to have the Yamasaki family as our friends. We enjoy their company and their creativity.

David and Martha

Random Japanese Beauty

Dear Friends,
We have been coming to Japan for many years. During that time, we have seen beautiful temples, historical sites and more. But there is another group of sights which most tour guides do not consider points of interest on the usual tour.

These sights our children named long ago (for them) "Random Japanese Beauty." These vignettes are part of our hosts everyday life. Yet to us, the visitors, they are utsukusii (beautiful).

This is a roadside shrine set up by the neighbors.

A beautiful bed of tulips after a morning of rain. Always nice.

A shrine to commemorate the loss of young and old. A mix of styles. Sad yet sweet.

A garden stairway, beautiful statuary tucked in among the trees.

As we walk across a bridge or through a gate, we pause to reflect on all this beauty.

We love it here.
David and Martha

Friday, April 24, 2009

Designing In Hiroshima

Dear Friends,
All is well here in Hiroshima. The design class has begun. And the students are off and running. This is their 11th year of studying design. To get this far, they have made the commitments to attend, study and paint their homework. Their commitment shows as the class moves very quickly. During the seminar, the students will bring their homework to be reviewed and discussed. It is a great method to show how different elements and colors are assembled for the style studied.

This year the Hiroshima students will study Rogaland, Romsdal and Telemark. After one day of discussing traditional elements and colors of Rogaland, they are already trying their hand at creating their own designs.

Tom has been David's translator for about 12 years. They have developed a great friendship. Tom likes the seminars. His favorite subject is color theory. He remembers the material from each year and often participates in the color theory discussions.

Our seminars each day are held at Hiroshima Raggedy Art Studio.

We are greeted each day by Kintaro.

Materials are prepared by Miko.

And yes, we have ice cream at 3:00.

I think everyone is here.

David and Martha

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pictures of Japan

Dear Friends,
David and I have been in Japan for almost three weeks. We have gone from Osaka to Nagoya to Tokyo to Hiroshima. During all of this travel, we have enjoyed several sites that are unique to the Japan experience.

Riding the Shinkansen is great. You are moving at 180 mph. The schedule is precise. So be ready to board when the train pulls in. If you are not ready, they really will leave without you!

This is some of the Japanese beauty we see every day. Formal gardens to rice fields, all are laid out with precision. A joy to view from the train, car or from hotel window.

Our rooms have ranged from traditional western style hotels to the traditional tatami mat with tea service and futons. Don't be afraid. This is a very comfortable way to sleep. And the tatami grass smells so good!

Eating in Japan is both tasty and beautiful. Here are pictures of a traditional Japanese breakfast. Yes, we can get eggs, bacon and toast. But why? We are in Japan!

I got this for the train ride to Hiroshima.

So, where do you put your shoes at the traditional hotels? In the locker, of course!

This looks important.

We usually pick up gifts for the kids at their two favorite stores; Daiso and Uni Qlo.

We try to take advantage of the view at every opportunity. But sometimes work just has to get done.

We are so fortunate we have this opportunity.
David and Martha