Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Today we held Ogata san's 98th birthday party at the house.

For many years I have held a weaving/indigo/shibori/stencil class at the house for Japanese on Tuesdays. Ogata san was one of the first students. She started studying 12 years ago.  (She was 87.)

We are all old friends now. It moves me to see that all these people have each other in their lives because of my scrappy Tuesday textile classes.

Who starts studying textiles when they are 87 years old?


We all love and treasure her. She has had a few falls and breaks over the years and bounces back. She still gardens. She comes on Tuesdays with something from her garden and cooks for us. She comes to the ten-day workshops in spring and autumn and makes hand made udon noodles for us. 

She has been stitching a yukata shibori piece for months. Today I spent a few hours at the indigo vat with her dyeing it. She can dye it but needs some help squeezing out the 14 meters of cloth. When we started to cut the stitches open we gulped....it looked like it had been over dyed  in the indigo and we lost all the pattern. She must have spent several hundred hours stitching and pulling and lining the folds up. (For nothing..... we thought for about 30 minutes.) She good naturally laughed it off. But once it was unstitched and opened and ran through the washing machine the excess indigo washed off and the pattern appeared. (The stitching idea was mine so the buck stopped right on me. I heaved a sigh of relief.)

Hiro baked her a cake. Yamaguchi san made candles for the cake that read, "97". She quickly corrected us and we added a single candle beside those to make it 98! 

I dyed jacket material for her with a crane and turtle motif. (Cranes live 1000 years and turtles live 10 000 years.) I worked on a few of them and she watched me out of the corner of her eye over the past few months. I finished dyeing one and the colour contrast was too strong for her skin colour and the motifs were too strong as well. I started over again and the results were ok but not that exciting. Takeshima san sewed the jacket up for her and we gave it to her this morning. She was moved and happy with it but asked me..."Where is that brighter gorgeous one you were working on????"

(I should have known better..she is a LEO!!!!!)

The yukata material turned out beautiful and she will sew the yukata over the winter months and wear it to her 99th birthday party next summer!

Aiko modelled it in a kimono shape. Looks like a masterpiece!

A beautiful water lily bloomed this morning just for Ogata san and she noticed it right as she stepped out of the van.


  1. What a wonderful post! So nice to share another milestone with this lovely lady! How lucky are all of you!

  2. thank you. i feel a bit like i know ogata-san. at 98 she is a marvel, thank you for sharing her with us. my 87 year old friend isis has found a kind of peace, in spite of her scorpio nature. these wonderful elders remind me that i have much to learn still. maybe i'll take up the flute in my 80's, if i get there that is.

  3. She is becoming more see-though over the past year. It is like light is coming through her. We are all so aware that there is such a distinct human character there. Ours have so much contemporary inflections. Hmmmm

    1. What a wondrous description of such a lovely lady. I recall fondly when Ogata-san made the noodles for us and bossed you into helping.
      I always think of her when I recall my memories of Fujino.
      Please make a post when she finishes sewing her yukata !

  4. Happy Birthday Ogata-san. I have a picture of her stitching the yukata fabric, she is an amazing inspiration.

  5. Happy birthday to Ogata-san! She is certainly an example to us all. One can only hope to stay active and keep learning, no matter what the age.

  6. A wonderful lady, and she loves you so much (no wonder why).

  7. Oh happy, happy, happy birthday to Ogata san, she is an inspiration and a treasure.

  8. Beautiful fabric Ogata san. You are such an inspiration. Many happy returns!

  9. The ever indomitable Ogata-San! Sigh...at the age where light is shining through…that, my friend, is spirit!

  10. All the best for her (a bit late) but sept 6 is on virgo and not Leo??? So beautifull fabric! can't wait to see her yukata

  11. Oh, happy 98th birthday, Ogata-san!
    I can't wait to meet her. Couldn't have imagined she only started out that recently, I've admired her works on the blog. So impressed.

  12. Beautiful post Bryan! And her fabric is gorgeous. Very happy to know about her wonderful day:)