Thursday, March 23, 2017

Japan 2017 Day 16: We meet an amazing artist!

Today we had the breakfast buffet again because, why mess with a good thing?

Yuka planned to take the day off & had given us some options for things to do. Among them was to visit the wood block printing ("hanga" in Japanese) studio of the son of her friend Ishimura-san. She said that, Yoshi-kun, the artist, is not much older than Brendan & also on the autism spectrum, so she thought we might be interested in meeting him. We were very interested, so she picked us up at the hotel at 10:00 am and were were off to Niihama, about 1 1/2 hours away north of Matsuyama.

It was fun to really catch up with Yuka while we drove. She took us by Ehime Medical University, where her husband (a cardiologist) works. She is a pediatric neurologist & among her patient population are children with autism. We talked about the differences in acceptance as well as treatment of autism between Japan & the US. Because Japan is very much focused on the well-being of the group (as opposed to the individual) people with special needs tend to fall through the cracks. Although we have a way to go in the US, we tend to have more in place (depends on where you live, of course) for kids with special needs. We agreed that we are fortunate to have had so many resources for Brendan as he's grown up.

When we got to the Ishimura's home we were greeted by father & son, & then welcomed into Yoshi-kun's workshop. Right from the first, we were amazed by the gorgeousness of his block prints.

After chatting for a short while & looking around, we got into cars & went to lunch with them at a local hotel.

Yoshi-kun is 23 years old and one of his high school teachers discovered his talent for wood block printing. She has continued to work with him since graduation, and his artwork had won art competitions in Japan and Paris. Over lunch we spoke to his dad, with Yuka & Marian interpreting, about the challenges of raising a child with autism, and he agrees with Yuka that the US has far more resources for autistic people and their families. Yoshi-kun's mother passed away from cancer a few years ago, and although he still has his dad & grandmother, his family hopes that his artwork will sustain & support him as he gets older.

After lunch we went back to the Ishimura's home to see more of Yoshi-kun's work. We also got to see him working. Part of the work is actually carving his designs into the wood, and the other part is choosing the colors the bring the black-inked wood cuts to life. His dad said that Yoshi-kun makes many colour combos & discards many before settling on the one he things is right. 
Marian, Charlie & I were very taken by the prints. We asked Yuka to ask his father if we could buy prints. They were glad to sell us some already framed & then send them to us Fed Ex. We were so happy!! We chose a print with ajisai- hydrangea in English- that also has "Tsuyu no hana ajisai" in the print. It means "rainy season no hydrangea" because that's the season when they bloom.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed back to Matsuyama to have dinner at Yuka's home, just outside town. On the way we stopped at the supermarket to buy dinner food (and we hit a couple stores to see if we could find some things we'd been looking for here, too :).

Yuka and her husband, Jun, both did medical fellowships in Rochester and returned to Japan about 10 years ago. They decided to build a house behind her grandmother's house, where she'd had a large garden. This allowed them to care for her grandmother, who lived to be over 100 years old.

We all worked together to put together a dinner of rice, soup, salad, steamed veggies, & tempura. Charlie got to use a cool (old) tool to grate daikon radish:

And then we made tempura right at the table:

I'm going to do that when I get home! So much more fun than standing around forever frying stuff & keeping it warm in the oven! So civilized & pleasant (and delicious!). The meal was also interspersed with various local sakes, which were awesome! We are interested in sake, but have no clue & never find the good stuff at home. Charlie made sure I took photos of various bottles & labels so we can do some research when we get back.

After a lovely evening, we pitched-into clean up & then Yuka called a taxi to take us in to town, as she had work the next day. We promised to come back to Matsuyama. After such an amazing day, you couldn't keep me away!

No comments:

Post a Comment