matohu matohu



The year 2020 has seared itself into our memories and into the history books. The world that we had understood to be globally connected has become walled off, countries are isolated, and even domestic travel has become more fraught. The more the natural phenomenon of the virus has spread, the more people have built walls in their minds. In this time of fear of the unknown, the word “travel" in the sense of departing to an unknown land has become associated with feelings of shame.
Let's go back to the genesis of Journey from Palms of Hands, which seeks out the handiwork and cultures of various regions. This travel, that departs from the hand and returns to it, does not inherently gain prestige by virtue of the distance traveled. You can travel the farthest by spreading out your hand, and you can come back here at any time. As long as people make things using their hands, the destination of this travel is anywhere and everywhere.

Incidentally, where is a place that people do not normally travel to? It’s the place where you live. Travel implies visiting somewhere new, so there is no point in traveling to a place you have already grown accustomed to. But if you could take a trip in the palm of your hand, then “here” becomes another uncharted land.
So in that spirit, let’s travel to Tokyo. It’s a city swirling with unlimited information, where trends come and go like bubbles popping in the breeze. Most buildings with historical importance have been destroyed by earthquakes or air raids, and much handiwork has also been lost to modernization. But still, if you look carefully, the beautiful, multi-layered world of Edo (the old name for Tokyo), comes into view.

Let’s take a trip to visit two types of handiwork that were born in Edo.
The first is Edo kiriko, or cut glass. This craft was started by master glass craftsman Kagaya Kyube, who opened a glass workshop in the Odenma-cho neighborhood of Edo in 1834.

Edo kiriko is characterized by geometric lines carved into glass to create decorative patterns. The history of cut glass goes back to the 5th century Sasanian Dynasty of Persia. Cutting techniques were later developed in the West, after which Japanese people then lent their distinctive aesthetic sense to the craft with their own intricate patterns. The spirit of creating patterns on dishes that symbolize good luck and long life, both to give thanks for one’s life and offer prayers for the future, lives on today in makie, or Japanese lacquer, porcelain crafts, and in kimono. This craft tradition is also part of Edo kiriko.
The second is Edo komon dyeing. This craft got its start at the beginning of the Edo Period (1603–1867), when feudal lords were required to keep a residence in Edo and wear ceremonial kimono, which were dyed. Ostentatious displays of wealth were banned at the time, but Edo komon dyed patterns, when seen from a distance, look like plain fabric; only upon close inspection can you see that the kimono fabric is covered in an intricate pattern made from stencil dyeing. The patterns were subtle yet very fashionable. Edo komon spread to the common folk from the mid-Edo Period, when many stylish patterns were created and popularized.
What is fascinating when you take in these crafts is the small world encapsulated in the intricate designs. While elusive at a glance, upon closer look you can see the dots and lines of the designs connect with captivating vibrancy while undulating with life force. The reason why these crafts create such beauty is not unrelated to how the grinding wheel rotates infinitely, making cuts in the glass, and how the tiny stenciled komon patterns connect endlessly to each other.
Take a trip to the neighborhoods of Tokyo with the eyes of an outsider, and scenes of Edo culture begin to take on the characteristics of these crafts’ patterns. It’s a deep journey that seeks the connections of time. What you could not see from far away comes into clear focus the closer you get.