February 11 was National Foundation Day in Japan. I had the day off work and wandered around the small streets of Nara again. It was one of those slow, carefree days where I walked around with gratitude and no expectations of the world. The sun was shining and everyone was out. Doesn’t get much better than this. An old man feeding pigeons at Saruwaka-Ike pond. Children running, playing, laughing. Tourists with big cameras and curious eyes. A shop selling fabric and multicoloured textiles, displayed on tables made of polished wood. Sun shining through the windows and light harp music playing the background (seriously, harp). Pagodas, temples and deer in their winter coats.
Eventually, I stumbled into a small shop in Naramachi with three sections. The first outer section was holding a glass blowing workshop for two women. The second section sold art and random goodies. The third section was a little jewelry shop. All in one small space, but one of the most efficient uses of spaces I’ve seen.
I found myself mesmerized in the second section. I must have spent almost an hour, marveling at the gorgeous sketches and paintings displayed on the walls and printed postcards. I ended up buying a dozen postcards of these prints, wanting to buy the whole store if I could. In my non-existent Japanese, I tried to express to the woman at the cash register how beautiful this art was, how moved and how deeply it touched me. The intimate corners of Nara so skillfully portrayed by black ink and bold brushstrokes. The delightful colour combinations of the Buddhas and Deities – each with their own personality, emotion and meaning. I felt like part of my soul was ignited by this exploration of creativity. While we talked, a man quietly wandered in. I first thought he was another customer but she introduced him as her husband – Satoshi Tatsumi – the artist. I slowly learned that Satoshi Tatsumi is from Nara, and has exhibited his artwork in San Francisco in 2009. Every year, he showcases his artwork in their shop in Naramachi.
Eventually, we said goodbye and I promised to visit again. I went home, remembering the magic of that day, taping postcards of Tatsumi’s artwork on every corner and wall of my little dorm. The photos you see below are the postcards I bought. With permission from Tatsumi, they are shown here.
Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life“. Yes – I’d say that pretty much sums it up!