COSMIC WONDER Free Press
“The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, is it with the people and dwellings of the world.” 1
It has been made apparent that there is indeed a beginning to our world, assumed to be 13.8 billion years ago. It all began with a large explosion, and ever since the universe has found itself in a state of cooling while simultaneously continuing to expand. The earth was born amidst this process of expansion and cooling, and life was consequently conceived. Primordial conditions were chaotic, yet differentiation occurred with the passing of time and the gradual decrease in energy, giving rise to a sense of order, and eventually arriving at a state of stability.
Tracing back, one can say that there have been various primordial beginnings throughout the course of history from the primordial beginnings of the universe, the galaxy, the sun, the earth, to that of living things. In the primordial conditions of such systems of all there is always a sense of chaos. The “Omizue” performance that took place on August 19th 2016 on the coast of Kohamacho in Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture, served to express such primordial origins by means of a physical experience. A total of approximately thirty members participated in the ceremony.
The ceremony commenced at eight o’clock in the morning. It was a ritual that borrowed from the format of the tea ceremony. August’s morning sun had begun to rise into the eastern sky, its bright light engraving deep shadows on the ocean and land. The guest moved eastwards along the shore from the waiting area, making their way to the sandy beach where the ceremony was to be held. It was a purified space on the beach, surrounded by four boulders. The boulders clearly separated the inside and outside of the space like a barrier. A wooden platform measuring two square meters on each side was installed in the rocky area along the seafront. This room of sorts was referred to as the “Omizuedo” (setting for the Omizue ceremony), and a large sheet of washi paper was laid out to cover the surface within. The ceremony was hosted by Yukinori Maeda and Sumiko Ishii. In each session there were two assistants to the hosts, and three guests. One by one, each guest would take off their shoes, and be seated. The constant crashing of waves against the rocks at times brought a light spray across my cheeks, enabling me to feel more clearly the strong winds that carried across the ocean.
One of the hosts began by explaining the purpose of the ceremony to the guests. He said, “We have prepared for you many blessings that are based on the impressions we have formed during our journeys in Iwami. We hope they will be to your liking.” This was followed by a reading of the “Yama-umi-kawa-kami” poem (p.8) that was written on washi paper. He slowly and quietly opened out the Sekishu-Washi paper that had been crumpled, folded, and placed to the side, allowing the guests to observe the entire process. The washi paper was infused with plants and seaweed native to the mountains, ocean, and rivers of Iwami. One could hear the sounds of the washi paper being unfolded. The paper, held in both hands, was then presented to the guests for a closer look. The washi paper fluttered in the gusts of wind coming in from the ocean. Thereafter, the guests received Japanese confectioneries made with salt extracted from local seawater. This was followed by the gift of water. This was spring water collected from near the source of the Takatsu River, a clear tributary that flows from the Chugoku Mountains into the Sea of Japan. The vessels for serving the water were made from Iwami’s soil. Each participant received one serving of water.
After the guests enjoyed their gift of water, they departed from the Omizuedo. During the ceremony, a dragon made of straw, that had been hanging from the side of the Omizuedo, was immersed in the ocean. The two ceremonial assistants carried the straw dragon out from the ocean and, taking firm, certain steps, walked seven and a half times in a circle. While this was happening, the hosts remained in the Omizuedo and read out a text written on the Sekishu-Washi paper. There words could not be heard, lost amidst the roaring of the sea.
From beginning to end, the surge of approaching waves came crashing in with a deafening roar and the morning light of the August sun, in its increasing brightness, illuminated all that lay beneath it. A solemn atmosphere had permeated the ceremony. A natural barrier of boulders surrounded the site. In this natural setting, a series of ceremonious acts were carried out by human hands from a heartfelt hospitality that symbolically brought together the essence of Iwami and the gift of water. A certain sense of unity between nature, the hosts, and their guests emerged from the sharing all of these elements, leaving one with a sense of awe and admiration towards God.
Before God first proclaimed “Let there be light” and brought about the existence of light, the world had been a place where “the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” 2 It was a world in which “the young land floated like a tallow on water, drifting like a jellyfish.” 3 It was an experience of delving into nature’s primordial state, which essentially exists as an indifferent entity. The mode of recognition by which words and concepts are used to classify the various elements of nature is something that has dominated our lives through the present day. Our consciousness is indeed deeply immersed in this way of perceiving the world. From mountain, ocean, river, sand, rock, grass, water, sky, cloud, light, wind, sound to scent; hadn’t these entities that were made discrete with words and concepts, been part of a single whole? Were we not ourselves once a part of this whole? And don’t such primordial forms and conditions still persist through the passage of time? This was an experience that provoked such thoughts.
From the words and objects presented in the ceremony, one could discern that this was an attempt to make a symbolic return to primordial conditions and to achieve “the unification of that which is divided.” The “Yama-umi-kawa-kami” poem that was read out at the beginning, started with the phrase “everything was together as one but over time had been divided into two,” and came to a close with, “the mountains, oceans, and rivers come together as one,” repeated by three individuals representing the elements of “yama-umi-kawa” (mountain, ocean, river).
The paper garments called “Yama-kami Kamikoromo” were made with trees and plants gathered from the local region. The “Umi-kami Kamikoromo” were made with paper infused with seaweed, and the “Kawa-kami Kamikoromo” with paper infused with water plants. The “Oto-kami (Sound Paper) / Yama-umi-kawa-kami”, that the hosts of the ceremony unfolded before our eyes, was made with all of these elements.
In addition, from the fact that the “Yama-kami Kamikoromo” was made by a papermaker who lives near the ocean, and the “Umi-kami Kamikoromo,” “Kawa-kami Kamikoromo” and “Oto-kami (Sound Paper) / Yama-umi-kawa-kami” were made by a papermaker who lives in the mountains, one can also see an intention to bring the mountains and ocean together in harmony with one another while simultaneously treating them in a contrasting way.
If we were to recognize that one of the primary functions of a ceremony is to instill us with the sensation of returning to our primordial beginnings, then the theme of the “Omizue” did indeed adhere to this concept. This was also apparent in the intuitive selection and use of the tools for this ceremony.
The Iwami region is located in the western part of Shimane Prefecture. The prefecture has a long coastline facing the Sea of Japan, and borders the Hiroshima Prefecture to its south and the Yamaguchi Prefecture to its west. As the name ‘Iwami’ (which literally means, ‘seeing rock’) suggests, the mountainous area extends quite close to the coast. There is very little flat land, and the scenes of waves crashing against the coastal cliffs is impressive. The Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape has recently been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Sekishu-Bashi: papermaking in the Iwami region has also been listed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In this sense, even from a global perspective it is a region that brims with unique features and a rich cultural environment.
Masuda City, which was the setting for the “Omizue,” is located on the western edge of the Iwami region. The city is in the downstream area of the Takatsu River, which flows from the Chugoku Mountains up north and into the Sea of Japan. It was built on Iwami’s largest plain, the Masuda Plain. Takatsu River has been proven to have the highest water quality among all domestic first-class rivers.
The water served at the “Omizue” was collected in the town of Hikimi, in the mountainous region of the Masuda area. It is a forest region surrounded by mountain ranges reaching 1000-meters in height. The Hikimi River, with its source near the bordering Hiroshima Prefecture, flows to the west side of the town, joining the aforementioned Takatsu River downstream. The gorge formed by the Hikimi River is especially known for its beautiful autumn scenery.
Against the backdrop of its historically rich natural environment, traces of human life dating back to the Paleolithic age from 12,000 to 30,000 years ago have been discovered4, as well as many ruins from the Jomon period. Beyond the river terraces that extend along the Shiso River are several important Jomon ruins such as the Ishigatsubo Ruins 5 and the Mizutanokami Ruins 6. Numerous pottery and stoneware artifacts from the middle to the late Jomon period were excavated from the Ishigatsubo Ruins along with pit-type dwellings and remains of collected stones from the time. Amongst these excavated objects, fragments of Namiki-style and Ataka-style pottery native to the Kyushu region have gained much attention as proof of the exchanges between peoples of the time.
At the Mizutanokami Ruins there are a series of rocks each approximately one meter wide grouped together in a large circle measuring seventy meters in diameter. Here, earthenware and stoneware including religious relics such as Dogu and Doban (dolls and plates made of clay) as well as jewelry like Magatama and Kudatama (comma and tube-shaped beads) have been excavated. A fragment from a bronze dagger-axe that would have been used in rituals in the Yayoi period was also unearthed from the same site. Many similar artifacts have been excavated throughout the northern Kyushu region and are thought to have been made in the Korean Peninsula during the early Yayoi period or else very early examples of objects produced in Japan 7. There is also the possibility that it was brought to Hikimi along with the introduction of rice agriculture to the east 8.
It is indeed meaningful to be able to come close to the actual lives, exchanges and spiritual activities of people from the Jomon era through such remains and relics. When one considers these historical traces, the Jomon elements among the tools used in the “Omizue” and the accompanying exhibition naturally come to rely on actual history itself, further deepening the impressions that they convey.
In addition, the dance of the straw dragon that brought the “Omizue” to a close derives from the folk beliefs of the Iwami region that have been passed down since ancient times. Following the aforementioned Takatsu River upstream, one arrives at its source in the town of Yoshika, located in the Chugoku Mountains. Here, there is a small pond known as Daijagaike (which means, ‘big snake’s pond’), and next to it stands a large Japanese cedar tree with branches stretching extraordinarily wide. Marshy grasslands extend throughout the area. Every June a Shinto ritual is held here to pray for rain. People carry a dragon or snake-like creature made of straw into the pond, submerging it in the water, making it dance up and down, and finally offer it to the cedar tree.
The Wara Ryu (straw dragon) also appears in Omoto Kagura that has been passed down throughout the Iwami region. Omoto Kagura is a Shinto theatrical dance that celebrates the “Omotoshin,” the ancestral god of each district, that has been passed down through generations in the mountainous areas of the Iwami region. In this Kagura, the Omotoshin is welcomed in the form of a straw snake referred to as the “Takutsuna,” and is placed on the altar in its spiraling state. At the end of the Kagura that takes place throughout the night, the straw snake is hung from the canopy and shaken violently. At times it experiences a divine possession, and an oracle is delivered. At dawn the straw snake is returned to the world of the gods, and comes to rest as it is wrapped around the sacred tree9. By tracing the symbolism of the straw dragon of the “Omizue” to these traditional Shinto rituals of the Iwami region, one is reminded of the ways of a world in which God and man intimately, and harmoniously coexist with one another.
The format of the tea ceremony is appropriated in order to materialize and symbolically convey the gods in the state in which they had existed prior to their personification. It is an act of communication in its most pure and hospitable form. Here, the distinction between host and guest, or subject and object is clearly apparent, and the genuine purity harbored within the act of communication becomes prominent. In the earliest primordial conditions, the gods inhabited everything that was in existence. Divinity is rooted in the land and the earth exists as an aggregate body of various regions. If one were to take the view that it is only a difference in scale, then one could say that each region, the entire earth, and even the universe are all inherently the same thing. The scale at which one looks at something can create great differences in our recognition. By changing the scale of our recognition and how we consider things in time and space, we are able to see the things that we could not see, and notice the things that we could not notice. If I were to change the way that I look at this vessel that I hold in my hand, I could see that it is the soil of Iwami, an aggregation of molecules, and furthermore, a collection of elementary particles. In this way, looking at an object as simply an object is no longer enough. The very same thing can be said for nature’s constituents such as the mountains, oceans, and rivers.
The act of serving and receiving the organic substance of spring water into the body. The spring water eventually passes through the human body into nature, and continues to circulate around the earth. Where does the water served come from, and where does it go? The water that is within our bodies for a fleeting moment in the midst of this great cycle is at the same time the water from the ocean that extends before our eyes, the clouds that hang in the vast sky, the water that flows through underground streams, and the water of the rivers that connect the mountains to the oceans. It is the rain that falls on the earth and it is the water vapor that is contained in the atmosphere.
The earth is filled with the richness of water. It was in this water that living beings with organic structures were miraculously conceived. One wonders at how mankind, as one such living creature, senses beauty in the glitter of sunlight that is reflected on the surface of the ocean. And one wonders at being able to experience this sensation together with others. The reason that we find beauty in the evening sky and oceans set ablaze under the setting sun is perhaps because we, in that very moment, sense the passage of time and ephemerality. We can witness with our very own eyes that this very moment can only exist precisely at this moment in time. If we were to consider everything from this perspective, then all things are indeed precious.
The day comes to an end, and the sun rises again the following morning. Although time appears to follow a cycle, it is never the same. Knowing the process from the beginning of the universe through to our current time, it is clearly evident that time always and only progresses forward. It appears to repeat in a cycle, yet in reality it only happens once. Its everlasting providence is that it is always in flux. It is also a known fact that this planet that was born 4.6 billion years ago will come to end its existence in another 5 billion years with the extinction of the sun. Everything is part of the same universe, and everything is always changing.
Kenji Mukunoki (Shimane Art Museum)
English translation by Kei Benger
1 Kamo no Chomei, Hojoki, Iwanami Bunko
2 “The book of Genesis,” The Holy Bible, Standard English Version
3 Kojiki, Iwanami Bunko
4 Excavation Report of Shin Makihara Archaeological Site, Hikimi Town Board of Education, 1987
5 Ishigatsubo Ruins, Hikimi Town Board of Education, 1990
6 Mizutanokami A Ruin / Nagaguro Ruin / Shimomasanota Ruin, Hikimi Town Board of Education, 1991
7 Cited above in Note 6
8 The History of Shimane, Yamawaka Shuppansha Ltd., p.43, 2005
9 Kagura in Shimane: Performing Arts and Ceremonies, Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, 2010
Photography by Yurie Nagashima
This year marks 20 years since Cosmic Wonder was founded.
Yukinori Maeda who moved his studio and residence to Kyoto’s Miyama region this winter to “establish a Ryugu” within the village of thatched roof houses, mentioned how he had been rushed off his feet the day before the interview, busily engrossed in shoveling snow from morning to dusk. What I saw in the Skype screen beyond the house’s traditional sliding windows, were rows of pine trees covered in a deep veil of snow. Between the trees were the first traces of blue sky that had experienced in several days.
On the other side of the Skype screen, Maeda proceeded to speak to me about the photography book that he had taken in New York 20 years ago, his first show at Paris Fashion Week, as well as his creative activities and attempts to pursue the world of the mystic and divine. From time to time throughout our conversation I had captured glimpses of Cosmic Wonder’s sharply refined spirit that set out to open up new horizons that have never been explored before, and the fluctuating thoughts that drifted here and there between the past, the current, and that which lies beyond.
“The silent furnace of the unknown gives birth to a new light.”
N.H: Today I would like to begin by reflecting upon the first 10 years of Cosmic Wonder’s activities. You had initiated Cosmic Wonder soon after graduating from university in 1994, yet I believe its actual founding was in 1997.
Y.M: I started Cosmic Wonder with my circle of friends after graduating from an arts university with a degree in architecture. At first we were really just trying to find our way. None of us had experience of working before so we were going about doing things by our own means. By 1997 we had determined our sense of direction, and thus made it into a company.
The dress attachable a wall 1999
We don’t have need walls in our hearts anymore.
Where did the walls in our hearts go?
We attached a wall to the dress.
It’s better to attach a sorrowful wall to the dress or show.
And then be free!!*
N.H: Cosmic Wonder’s first work was a photography book entitled, “The dress attachable a wall” (published November, 1999). At the time there had only been a few people in Tokyo who were aware of Cosmic Wonder’s activities, yet I vividly remember seeing the photography book being in a large display in On Sundays. Could you please tell me how this publication had come about?
Y.M: I wanted to produce “clothing that is not clothing as we know it, but is instead an object of creation.” The intention had been to depict situations of wearing such clothing in the everyday through the context of this photography book. In making the publication I was introduced to members of a New York band called “Actress.” I asked them to wear the dresses with the attachable walls, and then photographed them in their daily lives in New York.
N.H : Four models were photographed over a period of four days?
Y.M: Yes, although the band no longer exists.
N.H: Did you take the photographs yourself?
N.H: At the end of the book the four models are asked the question, “how was it like wearing a dress with an attachable wall?” I thought it was interesting how each one of them had responded in entirely different ways. The answers ranged from, “It was amazing! The walls were much warmer than I thought” and “They really got in the way” to “I took it off at the end of the night. It got in the way of my band practice” and “It gave me a sense of security. Before wearing it I had felt a sense of sadness, but once I tried it on, I felt amazed.” In the early years of Cosmic Wonder, you had two separate lines. There was a collection line that you presented as artwork, and there was Cosmic Wonder Jeans as an everyday wear line. I recall that “The dress attachable a wall” was part of the collection line. How were the dresses with the attachable wall actually made?
Y.M : They were created through a slightly unusual method. A piece of felt that was made to look like a wall was needled and integrated into the see-through body cloth. The body cloth had been left in its rough-hewn state, and resin was applied to the edges to prevent fraying.
N.H: I would further like to ask you about this aspect of the “wall and dress becoming attached.” In Cosmic Wonder’s early years, this idea of “something attaching itself to clothing” seems to be a recurring theme. At the time you had explained this as “combining things that don’t usually go together in a manner like white magic,” and thus attached things to clothing like walls, handkerchiefs, broken electrical and lighting appliances, curtains, and furniture such as curtains, drawers, and coat hangers. These are all familiar objects that we find in our daily lives. From there a sense of beauty with an unexpected air of tension is born, however what actually creates this scene is clothing that can be worn and is in fact more wearable than meets the eye, further instilling those who look upon it with a mysterious experience. Where did this idea of attaching surprising yet familiar objects to clothing come from?
Why had you first decided to attach a wall? Did it have anything to do with the Berlin Wall?
Y.M: First of all, the idea of attaching a wall to a dress had initially been inspired by my desire to give a sense of what’s between the body and something else, or what I may call, the existence of the aura. I wanted to channel my interest towards the spiritual world into something that I create, but I didn’t exactly know how to go about doing this. When I look back on those times, I feel that I perhaps had been making work while thinking about the relationship between the familiar things that I see in my surroundings, or in other words, the everyday, and clothing. I may have found myself envisioning something extremely vast within the context of something very small.
Aboard the steamer was a lone woman.
She had a large sharpless bag, which she carried the bag around with her.
She answered that it was her child, as well as a life preserver.
If the ship were to go down, her child would float in the water.
The other passengers thought the woman was very strange.
Did she harbor some terrible loneliness or anxiety?
But actually, the woman seemed more positive than anybody else on board.
Her comical, ridiculous appearance was her way of resolving the loneliness and anxiety occasioned by her ocean voyage.*
This collection was created by her, who is free and emotional in the truest sense. She says: “this is my marine look” *
Steamer Doll 2001
The woman from the steamer was featured in a TV documentary program. She had disembarked from the vessel and was now living in a small country village.
“I don’t like country people,” she said.
“They see me and ask what I’m carrying. They try to feel what’s in my bag, and the worst of them even try to grab it away from me.”
Yes, she was still carrying that big bag.
“But I love this landscape, and I’m fond of my good-luck charm. I feel so calm and happy, and it’s all thanks to this bag.”
A girl who had seen the woman on this program copied her by filling a plastic with air and tying it to her skirt.
Wearing a cynical smile, she murmured: “Can this really make you happy?”*
N.H: “Steamer” is a work that was presented in 2000 on the occasion of Cosmic Wonder’s first ever show at Paris Fashion Week. There were a lot of decorative elements involved and it had quite a different impression to your current works. With “Steamer” followed by “Steamer Doll,” there had been two consecutive seasons that conveyed a similar sense of direction.
Y.M: The models wore high-heels and looked like dressed up old women (laughs). They were like clothes for people who usually don’t pay attention to fashion. Back then, every time I announced a new collection it would be accompanied by a short poetic story, and at this time it had been a narrative about a ghost-like woman. She was the kind of nameless person who you’ve either met somewhere or who you may encounter in some place. I wanted to do something that you might do with found photographs, but in this case using clothing.
N.H: Confronting the abrupt encounter between heterogeneous entities?
Y.M: A sense of wholeness that evokes one to imagine the ambiguous areas.
N.H: What did it mean for you to take part in Paris Fashion Week? Until then you had centered your activities in Osaka, publishing “photography books” and presenting “photographs and video works.”
Y.M: I had decided to create a selection of new works twice every year. I think it was important for us to a have a place where we could present them.
Conversation with Electrical Appliances – Broken Radio, Worn-out TV…. 2001
Dresses for decorating broken radio or worn-out TV, giving a new value to things that have lost function and been forgotten.*
N.H: Since “Conversation with Electrical Appliances- Broken Radio, Worn-out TV…” that followed, you seemed to venture more towards an installation-based approach. I feel that “Conversation…” had indeed served as a turning point of sorts for your practice.
Y.M: Yes. From around this time I had begun to think more strongly about notions of “space” and “art.” What kind of effect does it have on the space when it is inhabited by people wearing clothes? Contemplating a cohesive sense of beauty that involves not only the clothes by also the space is something that persists to this day. At the same time, in addition to the people who come to see the presentation, it also concerns an interest towards how the people who have purchased the clothes appear to look like in the space that they are in.
N.H: I see. I recall that you have continuously engaged in the act of documenting the space in Paris where you have presented your collection, taking photographs of scenes when the model and audience are absent. In this respect, from early on you have held this awareness of “the space itself also being the work.” In retrospect it seems like a natural thing for you to do, but I feel that there must have been a strong sense of will behind the very act of taking these documents in the midst of those busy days in Paris. It was a time, in which the theme of art and fashion had been enthusiastically discussed, and thus in Paris Fashion Week many new collections were presented in the form of installations rather than fashion shows.
Y.M: That had indeed been the case, yet there were rarely any presentations that gave you the feeling of being fashion and art at the same time. My understanding was that you could not call something art simply because it embodies a visually surprising form. I indeed thought that you could create something really interesting if you could take a step further to pursue fashion in the context of its interest as art.
*The poetry texts are the concepts for each collection that were written at the time.
January 17, 2017
Nakako Hayashi and Yukinori Maeda
English translation by Kei Benger
Show at Centre Pompidou, Paris
Photography by Nakako Hayashi
In my room overlooking the lush green mountains of Gifu,
Feeling the breeze from the river gently against my cheek,
I savor the touch for example, of COSMIC WONDER’s
Organic cotton circle T-shirt.
Its round form.
Material imbued with the soft light.
Each time I pass my arms through its sleeves,
The ancient times and the future
Cross and overlap across my body,
And a “new feeling”
Enriches my mind.
COSMIC WONDER’s garments,
In their entirety,
Embody the sensations inborn but completely forgotten
That we trust and love our whole selves,
And signs of the sensations we would experience in the future.
The moment you see them, your mind gets free.
The moment you wear them, your body feels great.
Then your sense of time and space only concerns the “here and now,”
And your new self comes to emerge.
(The new self is not unknown to you,
Because She / He is your true self,
Sleeping within you ever since the ancient times.
That is the yourself in whom
The divinity continues to glow.)
The overwhelming freshness of your new self
Makes feelings of joy flow from the bottom of my heart.
The experiences of your new self,
Produce the inherent rhythm of the universe,
Like when you use an ancient calendar.
This world is discontinuous, invisible, irrational, and non-dual.
It is a dream, invisible but visible,
That we modern people almost forgot.
As soon as we know it,
As if our whole body both inside and out
Becomes filled with beautiful water,
(Actually, we have always known that sense −−)
When COSMIC WONDER’s garments
Made in a mountain village
Come to find themselves
In another little town surrounded by mountains
This World finally begins
To ascend into the next realm of consciousness.
COSMIC WONDER’s garments
Are with this new consciousness
And create a new world.
Today, now, and at this very moment.
The way the softness of the light streaming through the shoji,
Brings forth a great effect
Upon the body, mind, and soul of human beings.
We now, return to nothing.
With the particles of light serenely released from the water
August 8, 2015
English translation by Kei Benger
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