During the two years my wife Kayo and I spent in Kameoka with the former OSU-K program, many of our colleagues went regularly to the monthly flea markets at Toji and Kitano Tenmangu Temples in Kyoto. Quite often after those trips I remember hearing someone say “Look what I found at the flea market! I know the perfect place for it when I go home.”
Fairly often I thought to myself “We have something very similar in a box in the attic at home. We need to get those things out and display then.” When we came home with many things which we too had found at the flea markets, as well as many boxes in the attic, we set about doing just that and with three sons about to move out on their own we had ample space to so.
We set aside one room which we call our Japanese Room and started making it look like a Japanese room. It has woven reed mats on the floor, sliding rice paper covers over the window, a tokonoma along one wall and several hundred items from Japan displayed in the room.
After filling several display cabinets, and covering most of the wall space, I made some additional space by making a narrow shelf or ledge along the wall about 18 inches below the ceiling and around most of the perimeter of the room. Displayed along this narrow shelf are nearly forty rectangular decorative art boards called shikishi. Roughly translated, this means Japanese art calligraphy board, but they’re used for many other kinds of art.
Several of ours have really nice and very artistic calligraphy. One has the signature of former New York Yankee Hideki Matsui and his uniform number 55. Kayo purchased it in the Hideki Matsui Museum in Kanazawa, Japan which is Hideki’s hometown. One has the team name “Yomiuri Giants”, the team logo, and the name of the team members given to us by Kayo’s brother who played baseball in Japan.
Several have origami artwork attached to the shikishi. One has orgami, calligraphy and a letter from the parents and grandparents of one of the former OSU students from Kameoka thanking Kayo for looking after her during her time at OSU.
One has a painting by a well-known artist from Kameoka who gave a piece of his work to each member of a Stillwater delegation that visited Kameoka some years ago. One has a very pretty gray and white painting of a temple and garden after a heavy snow. The woman who painted it “traded” me for a shishiki on which I had given by best effort to write my name in Japanese with a calligraphy brush. I’ve always viewed it as a gift since mine was of little to no value.
Several have paintings of geisha, koi, bamboo, flowers and other things. Several, including one by the late Yoshihisa Taniguchi, former mayor of Kameoka, are calligraphy with beautiful bold strokes of kanji characters expressing friendship, happiness, longevity and other similar expressions.
There are a lot of good memories associated with our collection of shikishi, but one of my favorites is one of calligraphy done by a 16-year-old high school student who came to Stillwater in 2010 as a member of a Wings of Rotary delegation.
Kayo and I hosted her and a friend during their time in Stillwater. After they returned to Japan she sent us a shishiki with calligraphy artwork expressing her appreciation for us hosting her and her friend. The two girls were from the Sendai area which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. After the tragedy we tried without success to contact her. We can only hope and pray that she and her family were safe.
Larry Jones is a member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council.