the japanese scarf project

When I was back in my home town in Ohio last week for Christmas, my father, who is cleaning out his desk, gave me a small box that had belonged to my grandmother.  There were some interesting keepsakes, odd little things that I will be glad to have.  Grandmother things, you know, brooches and embroidered handkerchiefs and an old gold watch.  And then there was a large silk scarf, which my father told me he had sent to his mother from Japan in 1945, when he had been serving in the Occupation.IMGP0605-crop-blogIt’s a vivid ultramarine blue, tie dyed in vermilion red-orange and another, almost turquoise, blue, and it’s a very striking thing to have found in your late grandmother’s box with quite a bit of world and family history attached.  Let’s call it the Japanese scarf.

IMGP0610-crop-blogI’ve been planning a year long, or possibly ongoing, photography project for 2015– I was going to find an object to carry around with me all year to photograph in various places and situations with whatever camera I happen to have with me.  Various small objects, coffee mugs and toy animals, suggested themselves, but none of them were quite right, not big enough or sturdy enough or packable enough to go everywhere I was hoping to go for however long the project lasts.  And, then, out of the past and from across an ocean, came a surprising Japanese scarf: big, colorful, easy to pack, and exactly, precisely, the right thing.

Here it is, on New Year’s Day, on the backyard clothes pole on a windy, snowless, winter afternoon.


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2 Responses to the japanese scarf project

  1. Wolfie says:

    That’s not a scarf, though it can be used as one. That’s called a furoshiki, and it’s an all-purpose cloth. Typical uses include tying ends together to make a bag for shopping or carrying belongings, kind of like a bindle. They’re also used to wrap items (there’s a special way to tie it for almost any cargo, including bottles and watermelons), typically for protection when transporting them or as a sort of reusable wrapping paper when taking gift items over for visits (friend keeps the gift, you keep the furoshiki). You can use it as a ground cover to sit on, wrap your lunch box in it, and, yes, even tie it around your neck like a scarf or over your hair like a bandanna. All Japanese women (and many men) used to carry one or more furoshiki with them pretty much everywhere, and many still do, though shopping bags and purses have replaced some of their functions these days. They come in various sizes and millions of patterns- yours looks like a fairly large one. It’s a very cool piece of family history.

  2. Pam Bliss says:

    And now you all know why Wolfie is our go to person for all matters Japanese. He’s kindly given me permission to rework this comment into a post, and you will find it after this one.

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