matohu matohu



A journey signifies going somewhere that is not here, and spending your time in an unordinary way. This is why traveling is invariably filled with feelings of freshness, of thrills mixed with a little unease or unexpected events. This is the common thread running through travel—that special enjoyment and satisfaction whether you are traveling near or far, for a long time or less than a day.
This journey we are starting now, however, is a little different, because this journey starts out—and returns to—the palm of our hand. Take another look at the palm of your hand. It may remind of a certain famous Chinese legend.

Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King, created havoc in the heaven, so Buddha offers to make him a deal. He says that if the Monkey King can escape from the palm of his hand, he will be granted the enormous powers of the Jade Emperor. Hearing this, the Monkey King leaps on his Flying Nimbus cloud and flies far away, some 300,000 kilometers. He sees five large pillars erected at the edge of the heavens, and signs his name there. When he returns to Buddha's palm, however, Buddha shows him his signature on Buddha's finger. Even though he traveled so far away, he was still only in the palm of Buddha's hand.

What can we learn from this fable? There are many things we can learn of course, but what about this interpretation?
We can depart from the palm of our hand, go as far away as we wish, and at the same time return whenever we want to the palm of our hand. Departing from the palm of our hand signifies a journey of learning what we humans have created with our hands, and rediscovering the precious handwork that we are rapidly losing. Meanwhile, returning to the palm of our hand signifies using handicrafts once again in our hands.

Humankind has used what nature and the land have provided to make tools by hand since prehistoric times. Now in the modern day, these tools have evolved into machines and information technology that we use to make our lives more convenient. Whatever the means, however, we have always and will always use our hands to create things. Even when we make elaborate craftwork, and even when we use a smartphone, the act is in the palm of our hand.

We are going to depart on a journey without an end. This is a curious journey, where we depart and stay right here at the same time. We are going to get on our own Flying Nimbus, flying back and forth as much as we want, to find handwork from Japan and around the world. We will discover and share beautiful heritage unique to its land as forms of design in the present tense. When more people rediscover the value of handwork and have fun using it in their daily lives, we will also be able to plant new seeds for the next generation.

The Mingei (literally “arts of the people") movement sought to reveal truth and beauty from among the many practical tools that ordinary folk made in the past. Late in his life, the Japanese philosopher Yanagi Muneyoshi wrote the following in Mingei yonjunen [Looking back over forty years of Mingei]. To paraphrase, he astonishingly said:

The word Mingei is nothing more than a temporary construct. Being held captive to the word's magical powers robs one of free will. More than the concept of Mingei, freedom in how one sees and thinks is much more important.

This is the word Mingei and the Mingei folk art movement that Yanagi had devoted his life to developing. But he says that if Mingei is to become codified and fixed, he would willingly throw it all away.
So then, what should this concept be called next?

Yanagi suggested the kanji character for hira 平, which when combined with the character for hand means “palm." Hira can mean flat, hence “palm," but also has the meaning of common and ordinary, and Yanagi suggested that Mingei could be called hira beauty or hira items. Let us delve into the meaning of hira a little deeper.
Hira refers to things of no consequence, things taken for granted, things of a common nature—like the earth we stand on without even thinking about it. But hira also refers to things we cannot do without, things that are basic to our survival, and things that are irreplaceable.

There is possibly no deeper concept in Eastern thought than this hira. Combined with another kanji character, hira conveys such concepts as simplicity, serenity, peace, and tranquility.
(Aratamete Mingei ni tsuite [Reconsidering Mingei])

The journey we are starting from the palm of our hand is also connected to the character hira. The handwork we will discover on this journey allow us to discover the unique beauty of the land and its people. This journey liberates us from ideology and preconceived ideas to view the world through a lens of freedom. Creating and using things allows us to lead lives of greater simplicity and serenity. In these modern times where people are surrounded by hostility and discord around the world, our journey is a powerful plea to return our hearts and minds to a place of tranquility and peace.
This is what we truly need now. And this is why this journey surely has no end.