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Pleasing Illustrations Brighten a Sock Designer's Idiosyncratic Observations of Japan
on June 29, 2006
It's actually an interesting exercise to compare this colorful journal with Karin Muller's recent "Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa". Whereas Muller approaches her sojourn as an almost anthropological expedition, author-artist Kate Williamson takes a decidedly more visual approach based on her own yearlong stay in Kyoto where she was studying, of all things, sock design. What sets apart Williamson's book are the bright watercolor illustrations that depict somewhat random aspects of Japanese life and culture. They show a sharp eye for authenticity and concurrently a sense of playfulness that reinforces the allure of Japan to the foreigner's eye.
She is fascinated by the famous wedded rocks at Meoto-Iwa, the patterns on washcloths, the colors available for backpacks, the foam cozies around apples, the difference in accessories between maiko girls and geishas, the everyday dress of sumo wrestlers, and the delicacies in a bento box. Luckily so am I. In between the pictures are brief essays that serve to provide back stories for the illustrations. Her impressions reflect an idiosyncratic eye, and her topics range from Hiroshima's one thousand paper cranes to karaoke private rooms to the details of the vegetarian cuisine of shojin-ryori to the rock n' roll-obsessed temple carpenters of the Kyoto Rockabilly Club. It is obvious her designer instincts are well stimulated by the variety of textiles, umbrellas and accessories she discovers there. Williamson is able to bring this all together thanks to her singular perspective and an eye for minutiae that can truly define a culture. Nippon-ophiles can rejoice at her graphically pleasing book.