COSMIC WONDER Free Press
In Japan’s mountains there had once been people known as Soma.
Soma are those who make a living by entering the mountains and cutting down trees, and further transporting the timber.
Unlike our current day that has seen the progression of mechanization, such work that dealt with confronting the harshness of nature and engaging with enormous trees purely by means of human strength, wisdom, and horsepower had once been extremely dangerous.
These however, are things that are now difficult for us even to imagine.
For such work of the Soma, there is an essential tool called a ‘Yoki.’
The tool is the same as what one would generally recognize as an axe, yet the people of the Soma refer to it as a Yoki.
A Yoki always has three lines engraved on its left side, and four lines on its right side.
A tale states that the four lines on the left side portray the four ‘Ki’ (spirits) of earth, water, fire, and wind, which itself became the origin from which the word Yoki was derived.
Furthermore, it is said that the three lines on the right side represent ‘Miki,’ or in other words, ‘Omiki’ (sacred sake).
When cutting a tree down the Yoki is first placed leaning up against the tree with the Omiki side facing the bark, and the Soma engage in a ‘Kashiwade’ (clapping of one’s hands in prayer) before commencing their work.
Some feeling of inquiry had lingered within me however.
Was this really all that there is to it? It was at such a time that I had coincidentally, and somewhat abruptly come to learn of two things.
I had learnt of a snowy village in the deep mountains of Akiayamago in the Nagano prefecture, where the Soma revere the numbers of three and four.
It is said that they never enter the mountain on the third and fourth days counting from their zodiac.
Nevertheless, the Soma themselves do not know any more than the fact that this is something that had always and naturally been practiced.
Elsewhere it is mentioned that in the way of the yin and yang, three is an odd number that signifies the yang, and four is an even number that signifies the yin.
I was therefore told that the opposing relationship of the yin and yang are present within both sides of the Yoki.
It was here that I sensed something of a connection.
Yin and yang are different things, yet are always together.
From its very nature as a tool the Yoki is something that divides one thing into two, yet by dividing it into yin and yang one could say that it serves to create a division while simultaneously forming a connection.
In terms of felling trees then, the Yoki perhaps means to form a connection between the side that is felled and becomes timber, and something (a memory of sorts) that lies within the tree trunk that has been cut.
Do the Soma not enter the mountains in reverence towards those numbers and in feeling a sense of divinity from them?
What if each and every tree that is distributed as timber still persists to be connected to the mountains?
What if these people known as Soma engage in their work under the pretext of such a wish?
One questions whether our treatment of trees should really remain as we see it now.
March 6, 2016
English translation by Kei Benger
Japan was originally attached to the eastern coast of the Eurasian continent. The Japanese islands were formed approximately twenty thousands years ago, after several large crustal movements occurring over hundreds of millions of years. As the temperature of the earth gradually warmed from the end of the last glacial age, the Jōmon period started, and continued for more than several thousands years (and in some cases cited as long as fourteen thousands years), developing its own culture, until the arrival of the culturally different Yayoi period dated 300 BC to 300 AD. The Jōmon people were in contact with people overseas. Various things were introduced from south and from north, along the chained islands dotted from the Eurasian continent.
The Jōmon people used various housewares and tools such as potteries and stone implements, as well as hand-woven baskets made of local wild plants. Such baskets were excavated from many Jōmon ruins across Japan, these becoming a clue to understand the Jōmon lifestyle. This is significant and fascinating, in that the hand-woven basket has played an important role in the human life history since the earliest time.
The vegetation of Japan differs across regions, just as the climate differs. A wide variety of plants has been used for basketwork across islands including bamboos (such as madake-bamboo, mosochiku-bamboo, nemagaritake-bamboo, suzutake bamboo), akebi-vine, Japanese wing nut, wild vine, wild cherry tree, and kudzu vine. The shape and the weaving method of basket are also uniquely diverse, reflecting different lifestyles across regions, as well as according to its intended purpose, such as rice cultivation, grain harvest, and fishing.
Blessed with nature, made by the human hand, each basket is given a life. The production process involves soulfully laborious work from extracting raw materials in steep mountains, to designing the weaving pattern to enhance the material beauty. Each basket narrates the story of craftsmanship. The human’s reverence for nature dwells in each basket. The sublime beauty of a harmonious relationship between nature and humans, or the Japanese aesthetics, dwells in them. The art of traditional handcrafting celebrates the long history of human life. It invites us to the root of our soul.
Spring equinox, 2016
English translation by Kaori Nishizawa
Let ourselves make an experiment
That does not require white coats or any tools.
All we need is our very own bodies.
When we return to the original physical condition we were born with, we are in the best of our health
When our level of consciousness rises, we see only the pure consciousness of things
When we are in our own true colors, our most wonderful charm is released
Those who live only with Prana instead of food and drink, exist as Light-eaters
Strong, delicious crops can grow without plows, pesticides, and fertilizers
Ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, and all other kinds of visible light are made of love
We feel reassured when others allow us to live in our own skin
Everything is made of the same thing
These are some of the things that I have heard and have actually seen
Now is the time to experiment
To lead our lives believing in these things
Or to live in doubt about them,
Let ourselves consider which is more pleasant
Now choose from the above
Several sentences that you like
And try to savor them one by one
Believing that such world is real–
Or not believing that–
Now close your eyes…….
Engross yourself in such thoughts
Until your mind gets tranquil
Everything, there is a sense of divinity
Everything is part of a single divinity,
And one of the results of the experiment
‘Of being born from the light’
Exist within our physical experience.
(Note* Most people have in general,
Led their lives unaware of the divinity that rests within them
Yet now, we have come to recognize this divinity
And the gate of a new time has opened, allowing us to live consciously)
Both before and after the gate’s opening
COSMIC WONDER’s garments
Have held an extremely rare presence imbued with an energy
That make us aware of the sense of divinity and we make it glow,
Once we pass our arms through the sleeves of such garments
These garments are, the light.
Just as you, are the light.
Just as everything, are born from the light.
Has come the time, where the light is ubiquitous.
Passing through the gate of a new time
Soaked in the light of the water
August 6, 2015
English translation by Kei Benger
Photography by Ai Nakagawa
On that particular day when Yukinori Maeda had informed me about the ceremony, it had never occurred to me that I would be able to visit. There are no trains or buses leading to that place embedded deep in the mountains of Kyotanba. I was in Kyoto at the time on Monday, March 30th, when I was told that ‘Kamino-hikarino-awa Water Ceremony,’ was to take place in that setting as a creative gathering by Cosmic Wonder and ‘Kogei Punks Sha’ –an artistic unit by Yukinori Maeda and Sumiko Ishii whom presides over gallery Hakuden, a sanctuary of sorts for ceramics and handcraft. I had heard of this news whilst having lunch in an earthen wall room surrounded by bamboo trees, within a restaurant that served dishes reminiscent of Korean cuisine. Despite nestled in the heart of downtown Kyoto, Maeda had mentioned to me that he “felt at peace” whenever he dined there. At the time of our conversation I had gained the impression that aspects such as the specificities of the ceremony, details regarding the schedule, and measures of how to perform the ritual of the water ceremony, had only been decided upon vaguely. It was precisely four weeks later from that day, on April 27th, that Yukinori Maeda, Yuki Kato, a culinary artisan of vegan and native herbal cuisine in Kyoto, and myself, had returned to lunch at this restaurant. However on this occasion we were not alone and were in the company of Miyako Yasuda, an individual whom founded Cosmic Wonder with Maeda and currently lives in the Miyazaki prefecture, Yurie Nagashima whom had been invited from Tokyo to photograph the Water Ceremony held on the 26th, myself, and Hikotaro Kanehira whom likewise had visited from Tokyo to participate in this event, and Mitsuhiro Okada who had joined us from Kyoto. Nobuhiro Shimura whom had documented the Water Ceremony on film had already returned to attend to some work in the Yamaguchi Prefecture where he currently basis his practice, and thus had been absent from our gathering.
Each of us had spoken about the extraordinary event that had taken place the day before, as well as the various people we had encountered there. gallery Hakuden, a small exhibition space and store run by Sumiko Ishii whose husband works as a potter, was surrounded by fresh green nature, imbued with the scent of early spring. The gallery and the couple’s living space, the open space that surrounded husband Naoto Ishii’s kiln as well as the cedar forest in the mountains behind it, had all become a stage. People dressed in garments made of white paper had suddenly appeared on that particular day, and as if partaking in a childlike play, had realized a performance concerning paper, the gods, water, earth, and light, that memorably depicted the presences of beautiful elements that we engage with in our daily lives. The handmade sweets and handcrafted Japanese paper were both concerned with matter derived from the earth, and were intimately related to nature. When we were invited into the depths of the mountains and sat on a white sheet of paper to experience the dazzling course of events of the “Water Ceremony” that unraveled before our eyes, each and everyone of us had realized that these elements were not only handcrafted through the bare and honest efforts of human hands, but at the same time had existed on the very zenith of a new form of creation.
I had participated in the “Water Ceremony” in hopes to write a short text to contribute to Elein’s Les Chroniques Purple, however I was soon assured that what I had experienced was not something that I could simply describe within the confines of a few paragraphs. In contemplating on how best to convey my thoughts, I had walked the streets of Kyoto on my own before the luncheon the following day. On my stroll I observed that the city was crowded with an array of two-story Machiya (traditional town houses) that had been modernly converted into Fashion boutiques –a sight particularly distinctive to Kyoto. Small retail stores aligned the streets, presenting their respective arrangements of driftwood and Mingei (folk craft) goods in entrances and windows in an appeal to portray a harmonious relationship with nature. Amidst this fleeting moment of time before the stores opened, I imagined the vibrant bustle of the downtown district, which would soon be full of people. At the same time, my thoughts had drifted to recall the landscape of the Miyama region where Maeda anticipates of relocating to half a year later, as a place that fulfills his ideals. After the “Water Ceremony,” we drove for an hour before sunset to visit the village of Miyama that was to be the setting for Maeda’s next evolutionary step.
From one range of mountains in Kyoto to another, we drove through the lush green scenery to arrive in a village surrounded by mountains. A small cluster of thatched-roof houses were scattered throughout the village, and one could also see the flow of a clear and bubbling stream. The sun was beginning to set. The village seemingly appeared to preserve Japan’s old and traditional style of living, and it was here, in this very place, that I had contemplated Cosmic Wonder’s future way of life and production in the context of the 21st century and their courageous decision to take this step, as well as capture a glimpse of the “Punk” spirit of “Kogei Punks Sha,” that through its name illustrated an endeavor for unsurpassable beauty.
I do not think that Cosmic Wonder’s radical profundity has ever really been understood simply as it is. Not now, or ever before. The world that they pursue is one that requires hard work from both a physical and psychological perspective, and as such I know that various talented individuals whom wish to become residents of this world are present within Yukinori Maeda’s surroundings as if all belonging to a single family. I myself have been a resident of this world for over 10 years, and thus I understand most of what it entails. I appear not to comprehend, yet at the same time I understand. One thing that is certain, is that 15 years ago both them and myself had been looking to the outside of the country. Now, our eyes are shifted to look towards Japan and its origins. What leads us there above all, is the pursuit for beauty within our everyday lives. It is simply a matter of honestly following what awaits us at the cusp of our endeavor. It is the sensation of living in the current, as residents of the 21st century.
Nakako Hayashi, April 28th, 2015
English translation by Kei Benger
The original text was published on Les Chroniques Purple on June 3, 2015.
Film still by Nobuhiro Shimura
COSMIC WONDER with Kogei Punks Sha / The Kamino-hikarino-awa Water Ceremony was performed on the 26th of April, 2015 as part of the exhibition “MIERU Kami“.
I’ve never liked industrial fashion nor synthetic fabrics. I always checked the labels telling what a piece of clothing is made of. However, during the last few years, I‘ve discovered another world entirely, fabrics manufactured without chemicals: organic cotton, ecologically produced wool; but also linen, hemp and alpaca. With these materials came my curiosity about the artisans who made them, people who spin, knit, weave, dye. I read some books on vegetable dyes and had an aesthetic jolt in discovering colors I hadn’t known until then. But I didn’t like the clothing produced by ecology-minded brands that used these standards. They were badly designed and cut, and most of them were ugly. There was a conflict in my mind between a longing for beauty and a desire for these natural materials and colors.
Last year, when I became familiar with the new direction taken by Cosmic Wonder, a dream was realized―even one that I hadn’t dared to entertain. I discovered the debut collection, First Light, wonderful clothing made by Yukinori Maeda using hemp, alpaca, linen and fibers I didn’t even know existed, such as choma, abaca, kudzu; and these fabrics were dyed with the colors I’d been dreaming of (like those obtained using charimbai flower, logwood, areca catechu, or lac). It was a revelation, and I was filled with a feeling of joy I had trouble containing. I often think of the adage saying that artists must live with their time, and that’s the impression I get when I look at the first two collections First Light and Natural Breathing. They have been created with a profound understanding of the period in which we are living; the beauty of this clothing was born at the heart of a world in disintegration. Yukinori Maeda has had the honesty and the courage to step to the side and avoid the already trodden path. Moreover, as rare as it is today, he has managed to live and create in perfect harmony with his thought.
Such an approach to envisioning clothing is one part of a whole that achieves a different approach to living, eating and taking care of yourself. It is simple but requires more work and more time, as well as knowledge and a certain knowhow. Such knowhow barely exists in some cases, buried as it is by two centuries of frenetic industrialization. The traces of it have to be rediscovered. It is the object of the research that Yukinori Maeda has undertaken. His aesthetic proposals rebuild the link between Japanese crafts and the production of materials in ancient times with a great variety of fibers, which were sometimes of a sacred nature. In addition to being made by the hands of a human being, such clothing has a meaningful history. Regardless of where else, the manufacture of clothing calls to mind a real nightmare (pollution, destruction, slavery) about which we are reluctant to think; but in this case it’s a pleasure to imagine each of the steps: the harvesting of plants or shearing of animals, the spinning, weaving, dying – all of them radiant images of life.
A few days ago, spring came, and I went picking wild herbs dressed in this wonderful red ensemble woven from ramie and hemp.
Elein Fleiss, March 2015
Translated from the French by Bruce Benderson
Mountains echo with the ancient ring of breath in spring
I awake to a primeval voice released from the soil
The woods are filled with the sound of silent delight
Emerging brightly from the mud like a child of fire
A beautiful, fervent sentiment growing wild in summer
The forest cracks with the sound of silent delight
Oh, please do, breathe the form in and out of you
February 19th, 2015