My Dinner at Mizuno-san’s

March 8, 2010

This past Friday evening marked the second “My Dinner With Mizuno-san” occasion, fortified with food and spirits from Asia, Europe and the Americas, and featuring an international group of jovial attendees. Well, let me tweak that description just a hair: had I not been present, the “international” modifier would have to be omitted, although I am sure the occasion would have been no less jovial. The get-together takes place periodically at the shop of a genial Ikebukuro antique dealer, Mizuno-san, usually in the wake of one of his mega-auctions when the store is comparatively empty of treasures from the Orient and abroad. That’s Mizuno-san, upper right:

The cast of characters reads like a Who’s Who in Tokyo: one member is a renowned research physician; another is a bronze sculptor who has done major public installations all over Japan; yet another is a high-end kaiseki restaurateur; a fourth is known far and wide as a butterfly expert and collector (and I’m just scratching the surface here…). What all have in common is an admiration for art and antiques that brought them to Mizuno-san’s door in the first place, and the appreciation of stimulating conversation and camaraderie with others of like mind.

I am a bit of a latecomer to the gathering, having attended my first one around Christmastime. At first, I thought I would feel a bit like a fish out of water in a roomful of professionals speaking in a foreign (to me) tongue, but in fact, between their often comical attempts at English (resurrected from long-ago high school classes) and my equally hilarious forays into Japanese (fortified with hand gestures and silly facial expressions, not to mention liberal doses of medicinal alcohol), we were somehow able to communicate—after a fashion. Enough so that I was invited back for an encore, at least. Also, it must be said that I had a translator in tow; Saki-chan came to my rescue in those moments where gesticulation and grimace failed. She also did a fair bit of the photography; the better pictures here are undoubtedly hers.

For this outing, we were tasked with creating a sumi-e scroll to be put on display in Mizuno-san’s shop. He provided the paper; all of us were on our own with regards to design. I drew pictures of myself, my friend Saki, and my well-loved and now departed dog, Astro, along with the Japanese kanji and kana characters for our names. Let’s just say it was not the most inspired scroll on display, and certainly not the most Asian-inflected:

The guest of honor this time around was the above-referenced sculptor, Akio Kato. You can find examples of his work all over the internet; here’s one example, “The Day When the Fish Returned to the Brook” in Ube City :

Kato-san is an affable gentleman of eighty-two, although I would say he looks younger than that by a fair bit. He is old enough to remember the bombing of Japan firsthand, and he related stories about hiding out in a gutted building as explosions went off all around him. There was no sense of drama or exaggeration; he was simply recounting one day in his life. As is the case with many artists, he seems the most animated when he is creating, irrespective of the medium, so Mizuno-san set him up with sumi ink and drawing paper, and he proceeded to crank out renderings of whatever caught his (or our) fancy. I wanted a dog, and he came up with this:

Note the anatomic correctness of the dog, after I mentioned to Kato-san that my dog was a male. 

He went on to do an octopus for fellow attendee Tako-san (tako is Japanese for octopus), a bull, a rabbit, and a pair of carp.

Oh, and one last one; you might recognize this guy…