Antiques 5-24-09

Mr. Kawase is the dealer I go to every week to learn about antiques. He is 86 years old. I have a picture of him in the set below.Today I heard a lot of stories about  Mr. Kawase’s father.

He, the father, was a very wealthy man. He made money in Osaka in business selling fabric. He also collected  swords of which he had roughly 700 at any time. He later traded them all for tea bowls and became a well known tea practitioner with a listing in the “Who’s Who” of tea.

He decided to build a house in Nara to practice the tea ceremony out of. At the time he was living in Osaka. He came out to Nara and retained the best of everything. Carpenters, wall plasters, roofers, gardeners, etc. He also set about getting very nice wood for trimmings. Wood from old temples etc. As he lived in Osaka he was only able to come out to check on the house every couple of weeks. He came out one time to find the carpenters warming themselves over a fire made from the wood he had paid so much for.  That house has since become an Important Cultural Property and is lived in by Mr. Kawase.

He also had a home in the Gion area of Kyoto, an area known  for “evening” entertainment. His wife wanted to stay informed of what he was doing on his outings so she paid the house keeper to tell her if he brought a geisha home. On one occasion the house keeper called to say although he had brought home a geisha there was no need to worry about him having an affair as he had come home with 15 geisha, far too many to be worried about.

The father also knew the film maker Akira Kurosawa. On the first meeting Kurosawa came to the Kawase home. Upon seeing  the father’s face he said, ‘I have found him.’ To which Mr. Kawase replied gruffly, ‘Found what?’ ‘The face of the bushi.’ or samurai. Kurosawa wanted to cast him in a movie but Mr. Kawase dismissed the idea out of hand as below him.

I have lived in Nara since I came to Japan 15 years ago. I did live for a brief time in Osaka but the rest of the time in Nara. I have always heard the Nara people are very stingy with their money. They have a lot but don’t like to spend it on frivolous things.  Compare that  to the reputation of the Japanese in Nagoya. In Nagoya the reputation is that of Japanese that like to show how much money they have by having flashy items. I have often heard the flashier the gate is in front of a Nagoya home the more rundown the inside will be. People passing by can’t see the inside so no money is spent there. In contrast in Nara the money is spent on the inside of the home.

I asked Mr. Kawase how he gets around when his wife travels.  He said by bus. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Behind the twenty or so 10,000 yen bills he proudly showed me his free bus pass. When you pass the 80 year mark Nara city lets you ride the bus for free. 70 years and you only pay 100 yen. Now this is a man that gets driven around in a Mercedes Benz and lives in a house that is an Important Cultural Property. He also showed me his card that allows him free admission to any public museum in the country. He got it because he lends so many pieces to museums in Japan. He said one museum has had a piece for about 45 years that is his.

The pictures below are of a piece that is similar to one I saw recently. It is from the late Nara period, 724-794 in the Tempyo style. It is called a jyohei. Used to hold clean water in rituals.  The “joke” is that most of these jyohei are listed as one of a kind. That is jyohei made in Japan are listed in catalogs as being the only  one of its  kind in existence. This is the second one Mr. Kawase has bought this month. That isn’t to say they aren’t rare. Just obviously not one of a kind. The Japanese modeled them after the Chinese ones they had seen.

The other pictures are of Mr. Kawase and  a newspaper. The interesting thing about the newspaper is it had a story about baseball using a word for it I have never seen. Now base ball is called ‘puro yakyu’.  In the picture is is called ‘shokugyo yakyu’.

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