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A Man for all Seasons

Author: Avi Landau, Issue: March 2007, Topic: Japanese Culture, Location: Tsukuba City

Traditionally, the Japanese have always felt a deep connection to the seasons. And though this might be to a highly idealized Four Seasons based upon cultural memories of a very specific geographical region within this diverse archipelago(the Kinki Region of the Heian Court), the strong connection of these Four Seasons to the sense of identity of most Japanese today is undeniable.

Manifestations of this consciousness can be seen in high art as well as daily life, whether it be in a sublime tanka poem, a mundane letter to a friend or in a the kimono chosen to wear at a relative's wedding. And though snow rarely falls these days and the cedar covered mountains do not blaze with brilliant folliage in autumn, it seems as if the age old images of the four seasons hold more power in the minds of most people here than does reality.

The brilliant tradition of Japanese craftsmanship has naturally over the centuries developed a wide array of home decorations reflecting this relationship with passage of time and the changing of the seasons. Every month of the year has its own festivities and calls for different set of decorative objects.

Thanks to the caring and efforts of Morie Nakano Sensei, the director of the Teshirogi Community Center, the residents of Matsushiro have been able to enjoy an unusually full scope of these seasonal decorations in the lobby of the center. For nearly two years Nakano Sensei has unfailingly brought out beautiful pieces from his family collection, and given locals and foreign residents of all ages the chance to appreciate the ancient customs and decorative arts of Japan as well as enjoy some very beautiful objects.

His collection is not only high quality, but vast and fascinating in its range. How could even the most jaded Nipponophile not be excited to see the Hatsu Uma horse and fox god decorations with seki ha wrapped in straw! Entering the community center, one often finds small crowds, nostalgia ridden seniors, excited toddlers, and young housewives too embarrassed to ask what a certain item is.

Nakano Sensei has been making efforts to bring his decorations to the people, since his days as a teacher and school principal when he started to realize that many tof his students lacked exposure to traditional culture, and that so much was being lost due to modernization, urbanization and changes in Japanese housing. He felt Japan was losing its heart. He made great efforts, lugging heavy boxes and setting up displays at his schools for the students to appreciate.

Nakano Sensei will be retiring next month from the public hall and March might be your last chance to enjoy a part of his collection. And though the magnificent full set of hina dolls should be put away by march 3, according to custom, to guarantee the marriage of one's daughters, he might let them stay on display for a few days longer due to popular demand.

I know that Nakano Sensei will have more time to enjoy the Tea Ceremony and his grandchildren after he retires, but the residents of Matsushiro certainly hope he keeps on doing what he has been doing!

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