Grasses are misty
The waters silent
A tranquil evening.
Many autumns ago, our young family moved to Tokyo. The cultural depth and richness was overwhelming, and not less so for the exacting seasonality of it. Autumn was autumn, no strawberries or lilies. October brought moon viewing, tsuki-mi, with its attendant special meal, featuring chestnuts, squash or sweet potato.
Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) is the star of the current exhibit (above) at the Japan Society in New York. Hoitsu painted the first image above of “Moon with Autumn flowers”. Concurrently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Designing Nature: The Rimpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art” forms the other half of what Holland Cotter in the New York Times describes as “two shimmering fall exhibitions”.
Rimpa style was rather like the Arts & Crafts movement in the west, it influenced all aspects of design. My friend Amy Katoh, the doyenne of folk craft in Japan, in her 1993 book, “Japan Country Living: Spirit Tradition Style” (Tuttle), captures this aesthetic brilliantly in the image above. The two-paneled screen with its dark moon and grasses, the contrast of the patterned basket with the just-gathered grasses and the scattered grasses on the polished alcove floor create autumnal elegance.
This bookstand from the Tokyo National Museum appeared in The Great Japan Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Designed to be used while kneeling on tatami, it isn’t more than 23 inches high and glows with chrysanthemums and waving grasses. Nowadays would a Kindle be placed on this exquisite stand?