Monday, January 25, 2010


Amuse Museum in Asakusa is six slender stories of good stuff. I cottoned on to this place when Kim recommended, nay insisted, that I see the Boro exhibit.
I'm so glad I went. Boro loosely means rags, and this exhibit features old patchwork kimono, mats, and other clothing made from piecing together every little scrap of fabric the makers could find.The pieces were collected by ethnologist and archaeologist Chuzaburo Tanaka, who found most of these articles in Aomori prefecture in the '60s. They have since been designated a national treasure. And Akira Kurosawa recruited Tanaka to provide him with authentic Tohoku costumes for the fox wedding scene in the amazing film Dreams.
(Storyboards for the film in the Dreams room.)

A big theme running through this exhibition is もったいない, mottainai, or waste. The exhibitors really want to stress the rare and priceless nature of each scrap of cloth and each needle (which explains the needle memorial day that I've mentioned before), and show sashiko kimono (made with hemp and precious little cotton) and sakiori (裂き織り), which is rags and old clothing torn into tiny strips and woven. I've been just a little obsessed with sakiori ever since my Japanese teacher showed me a piece a year or two ago. I am enthralled by the idea of cutting barely usable, tattered cloth into tiny little pieces and making something sturdy and new from it. It appeals to me immensely. So I was really excited that there was not only a sakiori display, but a demonstration room.
Called the orihime (織り姫)room, after the weaving princess in the Tanabata folktale, some lovely women dressed in kimono were doing sakiori on a 200 year old loom. I was drooling. There were even pieces they had made on sale, and they welcomed you to have tea and a chat, or even to try out the loom.

There's a Boro book out, and if you like this kind of thing, I highly recommend this exhibit. The pieces are really artfully and whimsically displayed, in a more imaginative way than is usually found in museums. There are also a few floors of ukiyoe including reproductions of the Tokaido road checkpoint pieces. All told, it was an excellent use of 1,000 yen and a few hours of my afternoon. The exhibit runs daily until the end of February.

And, won't somebody please teach me how to quilt? I'll provide hot chocolate and muffins.


  1. I had a sakiori bath mat. You could pick them up at the euro store. May I have the chocolate and muffins in exchange for something else? A manicure? Bathroom cabinet reorganisation? (thanks for Saturday BTW!)

  2. Absolutely! And for you, I'll throw in a few cat cuddles.