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Treasures at the Camp Zama Bazaar

June 3, 2006

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Saturday, June 3, 2006 – Woo hoo! Today was shopping day. Camp Zama holds a bi-annual bazaar with many local vendors who come in to set up booths. They have all kinds of wonderful local wares, toys, kimonos, pottery, antiques, furniture, art, you name it! Our friend Noriko had her mother in town visiting from Northern Japan. She was interested in going to the bazaar so we picked them up at home, and we all headed together over to the sale. Noriko’s mother was wonderful. We instantly liked her and felt that she was so very easy to be with. She spoke no English, but Noriko translated back and forth for us as needed. Upon meeting her, she handed us a beautifully wrapped gift box. Noriko said it was filled with crackers that are a famous snack from her home town. When we opened it later we found the most delicious peanut cookies you’ve ever tasted. They were more like cookies than crackers in my mind, but they were very crisp and the whole, roasted peanuts were baked into them. Totally yummy! I hope I can find more somewhere local.

Noriko’s mother sat next to Teagan in the car so they played together a little. It was so sweet. Three-year-old Teagan, with a little prompting, said, “Con Nichi Wa” and Mrs. Kudo laughed. I thought is was funny when she, like so many others have done, commented on how it was not fair that someone so young should know English so well, never mind that it’s her native language and she doesn’t know any different. To Kudo-san, it was like Teagan had mastered a secret language that Kudo-san wished she could speak fluently. Noriko and her mother had traveled to America together before, as well as traveled the world. It was amazing to learn about all of the places they had gone together — Egypt, Brazil, Europe, just to name a few. I asked Noriko if she felt amazed when she thought of all the places in the world she had traveled. She replied, “No, it just makes me want to see more and more!” Yes! That’s so true. I can relate. Once you get a taste for it, you just want to experience more.

When we arrived at the Bazaar, we began wandering, row by row, up and down the vendors’ booths. Oh my gosh, there were so many things I wanted to buy. There were so many beautiful Japanese treasures that we wanted to collect. We ended up buying some very beautiful artwork. This is the first time I can think of that Slade and I actually spent money on art. There were an incredible number of scenes to choose from, but we instantly fell in love with a particular style called Japanese woodblock printmaking. The most famous of this style of art is a print called, “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” by Hokusai. This picture can be seen everywhere. As we drive down the street, we will occasionally see it on the side of a building or on a billboard. We actually live in the Kanagawa Prefecture.

Three of the prints we purchased are modern-looking colored woodblock prints and look like the outside of an old Japanese building in the country. The other two are charcoal sketches, one that captures each of the seasons of Japan and the other a beautiful rolling wave. It’s hard not to just sit and stare at them. They are so orderly and uncomplicated, and yet you can look at them and get an unmistakable sense of what might be going on behind the scenes.

Another of our purchases was a small collection of Kokeshi dolls. These are the most adorable little wooden, carved dolls you’ve ever seen. There are hundreds of varieties and each one has a character that is uniquely its own. They have a cylindrical body and round head, and they are usually limbless and painted with bright floral designs, in a kimono or in other traditional patters. They originated as a child’s toy in northern Japan. Because of their adorable looks, many people have become zealous collectors of the dolls and they can be purchased all over Japan. Kokeshi is now recognized as one of the traditional folk arts in Japan.

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Our last purchase was a small ceramic Maneki Neko, or what I call the “Welcome Cat.” I think Maneki may actually mean “beckoning,” and “neko” is the word for “cat.” It’s these small things that catch our eye that we find so enchanting. The Maneki Neko can be seen in hundreds of shops and stores all around Japan. The Maneki Neko sits in the front window, on the counter or even outside the door. Many of them have moving arms that appear to wave, or beckon you into the establishment. Some are small, like the size of a thimble, and others are giant statues as big as child. At first, I had no idea what it meant, but I soon learned that it was a good luck charm for merchants. To have a Maneki Neko outside the front door of your shop or in the front window is a gesture of friendliness and welcome to the customer which, in turn, will hopefully bring the shop owner good fortune and prosperity. The one we purchased was a more stylized version of the traditional one, but that’s why we liked it so much.

Now we just sit at home and admire our new treasures!

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From → Japan

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