Washi Tales

Four distinguished tales of human lives from different periods of Japanese history are brought together and retold by a theatrical performance brought to life through Kyoko Ibe‘s art. These tales are prominent not only in Japanese history but also in the development of Paper making. Kyoko Ibe has had an extensive past with washi, recycling old paper by tearing at the fibers in order to reproduce them. As Kyoko says, “The harmony of old and new makes perfect new beauty. The process reminded me of the human life cycle- reincarnation as a part of the teaching of Buddha.”

The night started off with a Q and A session led by Hollis Goodall, curator of Japanese art at LACMA. An interesting topic Kyoko Ibe brings up as being a looming and increasing greater question by time, is handmade washi the best way to utilize the fibers? In her art work, she tears up handmade washi to get to it’s core fibers and on stage she uses quality machine made rolls of washi.

Here is a closer look at some of the materials on stage used for the performances:

Kozo barks were shown to compare the differences between a bark that has been stripped down to its core with one in its natural form.

The set was staged with rolls of Kyoko’s art work, which were interactive with the performances during the play.

Hoghoshi is littered over the table, prepped and ready for its major role in the performance.

Not much difference then a magic show, paper was being produced right on stage from the beginning till the very last seconds.

The Four Tales

1. Najio River

A bittersweet tale of how paper making became a tradition in the village of Najio. During the Edo era, paper making was industrious at Echizen, so a traveler from Najio, in order to support his family, came to Echizen and befriended a village woman. He took her has his wife and learned all he could before returning to Najio, and spreading the traditions of Echizen. As the story unravels, the woman from Echizen, along with their daughter, go to search for her missing husband and the truth.

2. Hogosho

Hogo paper is scrap paper used to document the people, taxes, receipts, and documents from the village. This depiction shows how it is recycled and made into new paper. It also dwells deeper into the meaning of Hogoshi as the scraps come alive with the laughter, songs, whispers, and voices of the people.

3. Sen no Rikyu

Rikyu is a man of great looks and height. He is a zen and tea master who has a tea room that upsets and defies the power of the shogun. The entrance to the room is lowered so that any man or creature who enters is of the same rank, and the grey paper on his walls tests his loyalties. When serving some officers of the shogun, he is ordered to be killed, which he takes with his own hands only after serving them tea. His legacy, bigger then before, continues to live on.

4. Fujiwara Tamiko

Fujiwara Tamiko is the lover of the 10th century Seiwa Emperor. After his death she uses his old love letters to write sutras for him and passes them out to their close friends and families. She transforms her loss into prayer through the help of washi.

The brilliant cast of Washi Tales at the end of the performance directing the applause to the a big part of the show, the washi.

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