For those interested in Japanese folk craft (民芸) and history, check out this Kickstarter for the oral history project to preserve a Tohoku craft and four decades of exchange:
An oral history project aiming to create a digital archive to help place a collection of traditional Japanese folk art in a museum home
In March of 1953, only one year after the end of the US Occupation of Japan, Janell Landis, a 27 year old Pennsylvania native, traveled to Japan as a part of a three-year teaching program. Those three years turned into four decades of engagement with the local Japanese community as an English teacher at Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University and resident of Sendai, Japan. Landis spent her time there teaching English, traveling the country putting on puppet shows (a hobby close to her heart), and even recording English language television programs for her local station. Through this television connection, she serendipitously met Hiroi Michiaki, an artisan specializing in Edo-koma 江戸独楽 (Edo-style wooden spinning tops), with whom she recorded a New Year’s Day special in the winter of 1981. Over the course of the next decade, Landis was apprenticed to Hiroi (to her, Hiroi-sensei), and collected over a hundred of his handmade tops, each a remarkable testament to Japan’s traditional craft culture.
Now, at age 87, Janell is seeking a museum home for these works of art, most of which feature a unique story connected to Japanese legend and culture, so that an American audience can appreciate the beauty of traditional Japanese arts. This requires the recording of both her and her teacher’s experiences as well as the background and titles of each piece in her collection. The two of us (Malina and Paula) travelled in October of 2013 to Janell’s home and conducted oral interviews about her time in Japan, being apprenticed to Hiroi-sensei, and the collection in her possession. Recently Janell decided that she will take the last trip of her lifetime to Japan in May of 2014, and wishes for us to accompany her and interview Hiroi-sensei, providing the Japan side of this oral history and cataloguing his information on each piece in the collection (title, the story behind the top, etc.). The ultimate goal of this project will be to produce a digital archive which will raise the profile of this collection and facilitate its acceptance into a museum home. We would like to make this dream of Janell’s come true within her lifetime.
See details and back the project on Kickstarter.