The table which is covered with the lacquer is used to the plum blossom.
The walls of the main dining room, Orchid Room, of the lobby are not made of ordinary stone. It is Tako ishi found at Tako, Gumma Prefecture. Notice the brownish creases which at times look like dark flows such as in Chinese painting.
There is nothing of that hard grey look of ordinary stone.
During the Heian period, the Imperial Palace in Kyoto held on the third day of March each year a festival (of dolls) called the Banquet of the Winding River.
Men of letters stood on the banks of a winding stream. As sake cups floated down-stream, each man was expected to compose a poem before he picked up a cup to drink from it. This was the game played at the banquet. Our roof garden is a replica of the ancient Winding River Garden.
Put six equilateral triangles together to form a hexagon, and you have a perfect hemp leaf pattern. We use it on transom windows and sliding doors. You may see dyed hemp leaves on ladies’ handbags and other personal articles. The usage of the pattern is very wide, hence its great importance.
This pattern is feminine. It is often used on obi, juban (kimono undergarment) and kimono. We associate Asanoha-mon with Omiwa and Yaoya Oshichi, favorite Kabuki heroines. It also reminds us of Ukiyoe yukata (informal summer kimono).
Chashitsu could be a room or an independent house. It was at the beginning of the Muromachi Period that detached tea-ceremony houses began to be built.
Originally, the tea room was designed much like a drawing room, but as the cult developed, the furnishings took on a more suitable look. At present the different schools of tea-ceremony have their own architectural specifications.
Myoki-an, tea house and Jo-an, tea house, both built during the Momoyama period, are well known national treasures.
The poems of thirty-six famous poets, such as Hitomaro and Tsurayuki, of the Nara period through the Heian period, were put together in thirty-seven volumes, and the poems were copied by such skilled artists of calligraphy of the Heian period as Sadanobu Fujiwara and others.
What is remarkable about these volumes, from our standpoint, is the fact that each sheet of paper received utmost attention in the esthetic sense. Each sheet was made by pasting Chinese paper, colored paper and dyed paper together in such a way that one on top of the other would recede slightly, or that it would seem as if the sheet had been torn, resulting in a most fantastic design, and over this were scattered gold and silver foil pieces of different sizes, and then rivers, mountains and flowers were printed or drawn (by brush) over them.
The bamboo grows in such abundance and great variety in Asia that its graceful figure has been completely integrated into our daily life. This is to say that the plant serves as excellent building material. We use it to build our houses, make fences and all sorts of household articles.
On a moon-lit night bamboo trees in the garden cast exotic shadows on the paper sliding doors, giving the illusion of a Sumie, a brush and black ink drawing.
Times change and people come and go, but our love of flowers remains unchanged.
Flowers bring peace and comfort to you, and to the Okura. In the center of the lobby (the fifth floor), expertly arranged flowers greet you. And on the wall of the lobby, there is a brocade of four-petal flowers in the form of connected screens, designed by the late Kenkichi Tomimoto, great master of ceramic painting.
The art of adopting nature flourished first mostly in paintings, but from the Muromachi period, it found its new expression in architecture. In the side-alcove of an orthodox Japanese room you may see two shelves stretching at different levels from either side and overlapping each other in the corner. A pair of such shelves is called Chigaidana.
In spite of a decorative piece of furniture, it also serves to hold one’s personal trinkets. The overlapping shelves suggest to us layers of fog seen from a distance. The Chigaidana in the dressing room, called Nakano-chaya, of Shugakuin Detached Palace is considered the greatest masterpiece in this category.
In ancient Kyoto the festival of Wisteria was held each year at the Fujitsubo House (House of Wisteria) within the Imperial Court. The flower that has graced the landscape every early summer has been transferred by the artists on to handicraft pieces and dyed fabrics.