I really have been thinking about writing this for a while. Heck, I even had a really good first draft which I then promptly deleted when I closed my browser without giving a second thought to such trivial, plebeian actions as Saving Ones Documents. I repented, but it didn't help, and now I have to write it all again and somehow, SOMEHOW, convince you that I really did go to Japan and that I haven't forgotten everything, although I've been back in Norway for almost five weeks.
As usual I am infinitely more inclined to write about My Thoughts and Concerns Regarding the Topic That I Have Chosen rather than The Actual Topic, but instead of skipping that whole shebang I thought I'd just give you a sample of my Insecurities in a neat little list. In short, I have been worried about:
1. Writing about Japan before I was able to process it properly.
2. Taking too long to write about Japan so that I wouldn't remember anything.
3. Writing something really boring about technical stuff.
4. Writing something really general about Japanese textile traditions that just skims the surface.
5. Including the entire history of indigo and the cultural context, naturally with a bibliography, sources, footnotes, &c.
6. Writing nothing whatsoever about the country and culture with these amazing dyeing traditions and thus being a shallow tourist who only came to Japan for the cat cafés and school girl night clubs, I mean, I didn't even end up going to any.
So now that those are out of the way I'll just get straight to the point (haha)!
But yes, I was in Japan for one month during the end of July and most of August, and I was doing (and I LOVE to say this, even in Norwegian I use the English word) RESEARCH. Wait, let me just do that again, I was doing RESEARCH. Oh yes, oh yes. I'll just gently gloss over the fact that anybody can "do research"--all you need to do is step into a library or something--but this is part of my Self-Esteem As An Artist Building Process (which will also include English grammar at some point, but that obviously comes later).
So I went to Japan and it was splendid, really wonderful. When I say I was doing research it is actually true, if research counts as leaving your hostel/airbnb/friends' house every morning and going at random into whatever city you're in and asking around for something related to ai (indigo) or just textiles, whatever really, anything please. I don't speak Japanese and so obviously there was a lot of interpretation and gesturing and me being probably annoyingly polite and repetitive (since I only know a few ways of saying thank you and I'm sorry, although this part of my Japanese vocabulary definitely expanded 1000% during my trip), and I'm pretty amazed that people would put up with me and show me things, take me around and introduce me to their friends or take me to some old warehouse where two craftsmen were hand-weaving Noh-costumes. I'm not even bragging because there is nothing to brag about, but they really were, and I really saw it, and I don't really even know how I ended up there but probably the elderly couple that took me there felt pity for the sweaty, disheveled white girl who burst into their shop during lunch time...
Ah, and can I just say that this was exactly what I was afraid would happen? That I'd get carried away into some stupid excuse and apology which would turn into a story but leaving you, my one reader (hi mom!) without any sense of purpose or context or just, bah, the sense a good story should leave you with! Whenever I'm writing these things (which must be like, hm, the third one this year or something? Hm...) I always tell myself that I just need to get all these bothersome thoughts out of the way so I can get to the good, juicy stuff, but clearly that is what grown-ups call Wishful Thinking...
This is a start, at least, and before I end this post (because I have learned that they should not be too long nor too in-depth, yet focused yet general yet relatable yet specific BECAUSE THAT'S POSSIBLE NO IT'S NOT ACTUALLY) I thought I'd give a REALLY brief summary of what I was doing there because that'll make writing the next ones SO much easier (in my mind, but in reality...): basically I spent ten days at a workshop learning about indigo dyeing and its history and culture, as well as a LOT of other Japanese crafts (just sampling, naturally) and textile traditions, like applying gorgeously carved stencils to fabric and dyeing it, making little bags, and so on. This was all done at Bryan's place, and I don't want to write too much about this part because I know he likes to keep it a little bit secret, exactly what goes on at these workshops, though I can assure you that no virgins were sacrifices and no babies eaten at full moon either.
The next three weeks were then spent traveling to Kyoto, Tokushima, Okayama and Amami Oshima to see other parts of the indigo process and industry, check out some neat and AMAZING antique textiles, learning more about doro-zome (mud-dyeing), and obviously lots of other things which I didn't expect to see or experience, like visiting the house and studio of the last Jorori puppet master and eating natto.
I can only say that I tried, and then hope and pray that my next blog post will be a little more specific, but I highly doubt it. Stay tuned!