Book Review – See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Then and Now

See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Then and Now
by Ivan Vartanian & Kyoko Wada
ISBN: 978-0811869577
Buy on Amazon | Buy on AbeBooks

If you’re like me and you appreciate both traditional and modern Japanese decorative arts, you need this book. It’s an incredibly well-researched and well-written exploration of how traditional motifs, styles, and techniques of Japanese traditional art have influenced modern popular art.

Whether you’re a fan of Kunisada or kawaii, temples or Transformers, this book will probably have something to show you. Often the antique and modern art are juxtaposed on the same page or facing pages, so you can see the influences and connections directly. Everything visual about this book feels deliberate and well thought-out, which is reassuring in a book about design and art. It’s a pleasure to look at, even the text-heavy pages. It’s relatively compact but densely filled with gorgeous pictures and fascinating information.

The writing is informative and clear without being overly dry or academic, which makes it an enjoyable read for people of all interest levels. It’s not a textbook and doesn’t feel like one, but I could easily see it being an excellent academic resource.

Here’s a small sampling of a few interior pages, to give you a feel for the comparisons I made above.

Also, this is a small thing but I want to thank the authors of this book for engaging in fun wordplay in the title but not going down the lazy/obvious route of calling this book Zen and Now.

I would recommend this book for:

  • Anyone interested in Japanese art
  • People studying the evolution of art styles
  • Art history students or fans

I would not recommend this book for:

  • People only looking for books about traditional art
  • Uh… people who don’t want to learn cool things, I guess?

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

Tea Time – “Matchai” Latte

Hello everyone! I was all set to change the mannequin today to feature my adorable new obi with shrimp on it and then I went and drove a utility knife into the base of my finger. Whoops! It hurts like the dickens, and I’m afraid of getting blood everywhere, so no kitsuke for a while!

Instead, I thought I would share this “recipe” for a matcha-based drink I make and enjoy when it’s hot and muggy out. I hope you try it out and like it too; it’s a nice twist on a typical matcha latte. It’s a delicious combination of earthy matcha and sweet, spicy chai. I present to you the matchai latte!

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp matcha of your choice (I’m using David’s Tea Matcha Matsu here)
  • 2 oz hot water
  • 2 cups chai (you can make your own, but I use Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai for this and it’s delicious and a lot easier)
  • Optional- If you’re not using a pre-mixed chai drink, a dash of honey or sugar can help balance out the earthiness of the matcha





Instructions

  • To make the matcha concentrate, whisk the tea and hot water vigorously or use a matcha shaker if you’re lazy like me (I like this one from David’s Teas) until your matcha and water are well-blended and form a thin paste. If you’re using a sweetener, add it here.
  • Pour your matcha concentrate into a tall glass, then add ice cubes if you like your drink really cold (personally I find the cold temperature of the chai enough to cool the drink down). If using ice, don’t pour the matcha concentrate over the ice, it tends to clump up and get stuck and not blend well.
  • Fill the glass with your chai beverage.
  • If you’re feeling fancy you can top the drink with a dollop of whipped cream or whipped coconut milk and a dusting of matcha. I think this adds a nice richness to the drink and makes it look elevated.

That’s it! You now have a delicious, refreshing, and unique drink that will rival the fanciest tea/coffee place.

(None of the links here are affiliate links, I just thought I’d share what I use!)

Tea Time – Tenmoku Tea Cup

Tenmoku (天目, also commonly referred to as Jian Zhan 建盏 in Chinese) is a stunning style of ceramic ware, created using high temperatures and glaze with a very high iron content. The end result is a variety of incredibly rich, deep, and iridescent finishes.

I received this beautiful “Jellyfish” teacup from Tenmokus.com, who provide a wide array of beautiful tenmoku cups and teapots. I was expecting it to be pretty, but nothing prepared me for how stunning it was in person. The glaze is so luxurious and layered, the shimmering rings peering through layers of translucent blues. This cup was undoubtedly named after the moon jelly, which just happens to be one of my favourite sea creatures ever.

It also feels perfect to hold. I have large hands (to go with the large rest of me, hah) and often small Asian tea cups are too small and I end up feeling clumsy and awkward holding them. This one is still delicate, but just large enough that it feels great to hold. It’s also a bit thick, which will also make it very comfortable when holding very hot tea, thicker walls mean less heat transfer.

Their cups are shipped in absolutely gorgeous presentation boxes that serve dual purpose; not only are they perfect for gifting but they’re so thick and well-padded that the cup was very well-protected during shipping.

My only “concern” with this cup, if you can even call it that, is that it’s so impossibly gorgeous that I almost don’t want to use it. But somehow just leaving it in the box or even on display feels disrespectful. This is a cup that cries out to be used and appreciated.

I highly recommend checking out Tenmokus.com if you’re in the market for a unique, stunning cup either for yourself or for a very special and unique gift.

 I purchased this item at a discounted price for honest review purposes. 

Picrew.Me Kimono Avatar Creators part 2

I know things have been rather quiet here, and I do apologise. I’ve been doing a lot of back-end work, stuff that keeps the site running efficiently, but I realise that while it’s necessary it’s also not very interesting for you guys!

One of the things I did was update last summer’s Picrew Kimono Avatars post so it was responsive and worked on mobile devices. While doing that, I realised it’s one of my most popular and most frequently revisited posts, so I thought maybe it was time to do another one! I promise, there are actual kimono coordinations and some book reviews coming up, but in the meantime I hope you have fun with this. If you’re new to Picrew.me and aren’t sure how the interface works since it’s all in Japanese, there’s an explanation and tutorial in the previous post.

Female Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/5215

This one is utterly adorable! There are lots of customisation options, different kimono and haori, and the watercolour style is so unique. It was also one of the only ones where I was able to give myself some semblance of a buzz cut, and since I like my avatars to look like me it gets extra points for that.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/110764/

A very pretty vintage-looking avatar maker. Both the style of the art and the style of the kimono give this a feeling of timeless nostalgia. There aren't too many options for the kimono; the whole ensemble (kimono, haneri, obi, accessories) are all connected so it's a bit constrained, but there's lots of customisation for the avatar itself.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/185483/

This one feels like a sort of "create your anime girlfriend" thing, to be honest. Something about the art style and expressions just gives me that impression! There are only a couple of kimono options, and you can't change their colours or accessories, but I thought it was charming enough to include it. Also I totally want a frappucino now!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/146912/

Historical-style avatars to be found here! I love the soft, demure art style of this one. There are lots of assorted Heian-style robes, junihitoe, priest's robes, etc. The layering options sometimes conflict with each other but it's worth a bit of fussing with to make something lovely.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/14538/

Another one with only a few kimono options, but the colour combos available and the art style felt unique enough to me that it was worth including it. I feel like avatars created with this one would do the "Ohohoho" noblewoman laugh in an anime XD
https://picrew.me/image_maker/268253/

This isn't a kimono-specific one but I really liked the anime style of it and there are enough kimono options to warrant including it!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/167775/

This is another one that's not kimono-specific, but it's cute! I'm starting to sound like a broken record here. But I wanted to be as thorough as possible for you guys! The face is nice and customiseable, with lots of hair colours and styles too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/133067/

This one had to be included for the sheer number of awesome oiran and tayuu hairstyle options. There's lots of colour options for the kimono as well, but the hair's really the main draw here.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/252138/

This is just a lovely, elegant lady with a variety of kimono to choose from. The base is relatively customiseable and there are lots of fun traditional accessories too.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/165093

This is a really sweet vintage-feeling full-body creator. I love that there are a bunch of options to combine kimono, obi, and hakama with western-style clothing. There are even belt and corset style options for the obi, if that's the mood you're in! Even the backgrounds have a soft, Taisho feel to them.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/4607/

This is more of a Kitsune maker and only has a few kimono-specific options, but it's so cute I had to share it. You don't need to make a Kitsune, the ears and tails are totally optional, but I couldn't resist!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/262931

Another full-body option, but this time in a much cuter and more modern style. The customisation in this one is pretty great, you can layer three different types of patterns and motifs to create a really individual kimono. Be sure to explore the "colour" options here, as each one changes the pattern, not just the colour!

Male Avatars

https://picrew.me/image_maker/225108/

This avatar creator has a bit of a spirit/fantasy vibe, but subtle. Lots of options, but the end result always feels a bit ethereal and mysterious, which is never a bad thing!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/5135/

Not sure why I made this poor guy look so sad! Maybe it's because he only has two kimono options to choose from... I just really loved the art style and the level of detail in those two available outfits so I thought it was worthwhile to include.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/51747

Oh look, another one that's not kimono-specific! But the poor dudes really don't have anywhere near as many options as the feminine avatars, so I'm including any ones I find that have even one or two kimono.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/150536/

Again, one kimono with a few colour options. However, this one's got some androgynous features and more feminine hairstyles, so if you're looking for something that feels less strictly gendered than the above male and female options, it might be a good choice for you!
https://picrew.me/image_maker/249679

Again, just one kimono, but lots of solid colour options. This one really stands out in the amount of facial customisation; there are options for shading lines around the eyes and under the mouth, different combinations of nose and nostril shapes, etc.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/80783/

This guy's got a bit of a hard-boiled detective vibe. There's a decent selection of kimono, haori, and loosely-tied yukata to play with, as well as a lot of facial customisation.
https://picrew.me/image_maker/280380

I'm including this one because I thought it might be fun for people to create an avatar and then colour/paint it digitally, allowing for basically infinite customisation!

I hope that this table setup works better on mobile devices for you, and that you have lots of fun playing with these avatars while we’re all stuck inside our homes!

H is for Hanafuda

Hanafuda, 花札, flower cards, traditional playing cards

Did you know that the Nintendo we all know and love started out as a company that made playing cards? Their original product was a set of hanafuda cards! Hanafuda are small, traditional Japanese cards featuring designs of flowers and seasonal motifs. Like our more familiar decks of playing cards, there are lots of different games and variations you can play with hanafuda.  To this day, Nintendo still makes novelty hanafuda sets. So do several other companies in Japan. You can find decks featuring Super Mario Bros, Kirby, beloved movies like Spirited Away, and even a Pokemon set!

However, if you’d like your own free set, I’m here for you. I’ve created a muted, monochrome set based on the original designs but using the colour scheme from this blog I love so much. All you need to do is print out this PDF on heavy-weight card paper (I had blue and white so I used blue for the background side but plain white works just as well). Then glue each card sheet to one background sheet with stick glue, put a heavy weight on them to dry them flat (I used books), and then cut them out after 24 hours or so.

Click here to download the PDF

For game instructions, Wikipedia has your back. Enjoy your new hanafuda deck, and have fun!