Quantcast
Latest Stories

Learning the art of giving, Japanese-style

By

In this picture taken on October 30, 2012 Japanese Soke Ogasawara (L) attends a ceremony of Origata, Japan’s art of gift wrapping during the opening of the “Miwa” pavillon in Paris. What matters at Christmas time is the spirit, right? For those yet to be convinced, a tiny Japanese pavilion in Paris offers to initiate Westerners to a 700-year-old gift-giving ritual known as Origata. AFP / JOEL SAGET

PARIS – What matters at Christmas time is the spirit, right? For those yet to be convinced, a tiny Japanese pavilion in Paris offers to initiate Westerners to a 700-year-old gift-giving ritual known as Origata.

You could hardly be further from the push and shove of the holiday shopping season: the tiny wood-panelled cubicle in the city’s Latin Quarter is like a hybrid of concept store, art gallery and miniature temple.

Opened this month by Japanese businessman Takeshi Sato together with a young Frenchman, Joan Larroumec, the Miwa pavilion is billed as an exclusive members’ club, offering a gateway to Japanese high culture.

“It’s a business venture, but one that also aims to spread knowledge of traditional Japanese culture,” explained Larroumec. “It’s a window onto a side of Japan that is inaccessible to most people.”

Chief among these customs is the Origata gift ritual, rooted in traditional Shinto culture, which has been practised primarily for the Japanese imperial family since the 14th century.

“It all starts with a tea ceremony, using water exported from Japan,” Larroumec said.

“We listen to the person, to the meaning they want their gift to have, how they want the recipient to feel, and then there are a whole set of codes that determine the way we wrap it, the different paper, knots and folds.”

“The aim is to put meaning back into the art of giving.”

Except for the word “ori”, meaning to fold, Origata bears no relation to the paper-folding craft of origami.

Since the 14th century, Keishosai Ogasawara’s family have held the keys to the art as chiefs of protocol for the imperial family, handing down its codes generation to generation and – in recent years – sharing them with the public.

She travelled from Tokyo to witness the opening of the pavilion, which was ceremonially inaugurated by two Shinto priests.

-          ‘Exact opposite of email’ –

“Origata is about putting your feelings into an object,” she explained, softly-spoken and clothed in a pale pink kimono. “The knot represents the bond between two people.”

“In a world of email and instant communication, this is the exact opposite,” added Larroumec.

In Japan, Sato’s firm Rightning specialises in running craft-based projects for the likes of Louis Vuitton, or telecoms giant Docomo, for whom he created a phone made of Japanese cypress, or hinoki, the wood used for temple-building.

For the Miwa project he drew on his contacts in traditional craft circles, from Ogasawara herself, to the artisans who built it from hinoki.

Ogasawara trained the two mistresses of ceremonies who will officiate at the pavilion — a basic three-week course, they admit, compared with the three to five years needed to perfect the art.

The organic washi paper used for the ceremony comes from a craftsman with the honorific Japanese title of “Living National treasure”, bestowed on one member of a generation for any given field.

The room’s central counter is made from a single slab of 300-year-old hinoki, without a single knot – “which means 16 generations of gardeners took turns to remove the young shoot from the tree,” said Larroumec.

A gift display table was recreated using plans salvaged from centuries-old Origata manuscripts.

A tiny steel and hinoki paper knife was made by a centuries-old samurai sword manufacturer.

The wood-panelled walls are covered with tiny cubicles concealing ritual objects or ones for sale.

“It all stems from the Japanese notion that perfection requires hundreds of imperceptible details,” said Larroumec.

Such refinement comes with a hefty price tag, though.

For an annual fee of 1,000 euros, members can book an Origata ceremony any time they like.

They can also purchase artefacts rarely seen outside Japan, from 3,000-year-old Jomon vases, to 19th-century kimonos worth up to 80,000 euros.

A fortnight after its launch, Miwa had signed up two dozen Japanese members, and a dozen French ones, all recruited in exclusive French-Japanese cultural circles in Paris. It aims for 100 members within a year.

“The membership fee might seem steep, but not when you consider people are getting access to collectors’ objects worth 20,000 to 80,000 euros,” explained Larroumec.

Among the Japanophiles Larroumec has approached is former president Jacques Chirac – a well-known admirer of the culture. He has yet to respond.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Culture , holidays , Origata , Paris



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  5. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  6. This is not just a farm
  7. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Wildlife bureau chief recommends returning large croc to wild
  • Nueva Vizcaya town gets irrigation systems
  • Napoles ‘not fit’ to be state witness – Luy’s lawyer
  • DOH releases names of Etihad passengers yet to be tested for MERS-CoV
  • Sayyaf man linked to Sipadan kidnapping falls
  • Sports

  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Pacers rally past Hawks 101-85 to even series
  • David Moyes out as Manchester United manager
  • Nadal to face fellow Spaniard at Barcelona Open
  • Lifestyle

  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Sweet party for Andi Manzano
  • Entertainment

  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Summer movie preview: Bay reboots ‘Transformers’
  • Business

  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • $103M Vista Land bonds tendered for redemption
  • Oil slips to $102 as US crude supplies seen rising
  • SC stops Meralco power rate hike anew
  • Technology

  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law
  • New York police Twitter campaign backfires badly
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Cha cha train to follow Obama visit?
  • No word yet on inking of US-PH defense pact during Obama visit
  • Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  • China, rivals sign pact to ease maritime tensions
  • Visa-free US trip? Do not believe it, says consulate
    Marketplace