Category Archives: Japan

Japanese Stoneware, Gray Floral Motif with Speckled Glaze; The Perils of Nostalgia

For Sale: Japanese Stoneware Gray Floral Speckled Glaze Bowl Dish Pottery 7″ Wide VTG

I recall my mother having a tea cup with a similar glaze and motif in the 1970s. She may still have it.

Nobody else shopping for bowls on Ebay seems to have my exact same memories of the 1970s, because, if they did, they would be bidding on this bowl!

Lucky for me, I have two of these, and one of them is chipped so I cannot sell it. I get to keep it until I die, if I wish, and experience that feeling of nostalgia again and again, forevermore, like an undead creature caught between life and death, a ghost cursed to haunt the home where they lived.

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Lot 4 VTG Cookbooks 1950s 1960s Nordic Ware Knudsen Kelloggs Cherry Heering

For sale on Ebay: Lot 4 VTG Cookbooks 1950s 1960s Nordic Ware Knudsen Kelloggs Cherry Heering

This is pretty funny: look at the third picture in the listing. It shows a lot of recipes where one of the ingredients is monosodium glutamate.

I thought this “umami” trend was a new thing, but in the 1950s, they figured out what children wanted to eat, and it was MSG.  1/2 a teaspoon for four servings. That’s a lot.

It’s no wonder Baby Boomers were all concerned about MSG being some kind of evil chemical: they were all turned into MSG addicts by their parents. They were MSG fiends!  Looking for another sack of Doritos, or a can of stew, or gravy, to get that umami fix.

They were quick to blame it on the Chinese food. Oooh those sneaky Chinese with their exotic egg foo young and chop suey… even though it was a Japanese company, Ajinomoto, that made and spread the MSG. Blaming the Chinese restaurant was so bogus. Blame their parents!

 

Title in this lot are:

Unusual Old World and American Recipes Nordic Ware
Dishes Children Love
Kelloggs recipe card 1960
Knudsen Recipes
Entertain Differently Danish Manner Cherry Heering Booklet 1956

The Origin of “Skosh” and How It’s Pronounced

What’s it mean?

It means “a little bit”.

What language is it?

Japanese

Yes. What’s funny is that this word is supposedly most well known in the midwest, where there aren’t many Japanese people, or at least weren’t for a long time.

It came back to the US with GIs coming back from WW2 and the occupation of Japan.

It’s pronounced one way in English, and  differently in Japanese. There are accents, too. There’s a short “u” after the “s”: .

So, how did this come to be?

I think I may have part of the missing link here:

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That’s from Stars and Stripes Pacific, which was given to servicemen in the Japanese occupation.  Mr. and Mrs. Vaccari wrote the short u sound as an apostrophe, probably because Americans tend to lengthen vowels.

They did it in the article on the left as well, using the s’ at the end of words when the sound is “su”.

They didn’t remove the “i” at the end of s’koshi, though.  That’s probably because “i” a the end of words is sometimes a short “ee” sound, and when we want a long “i” sound, we sometimes write “ee”.  In Latin languages, it’s a short “ee” like “broccoli”… or “Vaccari”. There might be a bias there.  In English, an “ee” is long, like “free” or “bee”.

At least that’s what I think I found in the hoard.  These little clippings are for sale, if you want to tell this story in person using the actual newspaper as a prop!

Cheap Teacups (Yunomi)

I was thinking of putting these on Etsy, but they are not fancy enough (in a rustic, wabi-sabi way), probably not “vintage”, have no country of origin stamp, and not expensive enough. Still for sale on Ebay, though I can’t seem to get view 🙂

Yunomi cups are like the “coffee mugs” of Japan. They’re kind of lame for enjoying fine tea, but if you’re drinking some cheap tea and don’t want a fragile cup that will chip, this is what you use. The ones I’m selling are a little on the small size, so they are probably also a little on the old side, like 1980s.

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I’m assuming they are from Japan. There’s a lot of ceramic stuff from Japan in the L.A. area that doesn’t have an “made in Japan” mark, because so many people went there for vacation. There was also a huge Japanese American community that went there, and a pretty big import business where the items were marked “Made in Japan” with a little gold sticker, and sold all over.

You can also find a surprising amount of stuff from Occupied Japan in Los Angeles. (This isn’t that.) The stuff from OJ isn’t really that nice, imnsho.  It reminds me of cheap stuff from China from ten years ago, or other Asian countries around 30 to 40 years ago.  I think it has only historic value, for the most part.

The later stuff, from the late 1950s through to the 80s, is much nicer.

Likewise, stuff from Korea and Taiwan, from the late 80s on, is also nice. I have to hold back from just buying these things, because they’re pretty well made, but have little market value, as far as I know.  Do middle aged Chinese Americans want to pay $15 for an old Tatung rice bowl?  Probably not. I bet many older folks have some pieces to sell.

Today, the latest stuff being produced in China is pretty good, but they’re facing competition from countries where they pay even lower wages. It’s globalization all over again… if it ever stopped.

This even happened in the US.  I found this saucer, a Franciscan mark, but it was produced by Noritake in the early 1960s.

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Gladding McBean was being consolidated, outsourced the production of consumer items to overseas producers, and focused their core business on B2B, servicing the government and industry, customers that weren’t ready to stop buying when the next sale came along.

Tell me we haven’t heard this story in the 1990s, when production was being shifted to China. American companies like Corning, GE, HP, and RCA sawed off their consumer parts and focused on B2B (and GE is also a bank of some kind).  It’s the pattern.  It’s happened, and continues to happen.

Down the street, the Gibson pottery is in operation. It’s not a pottery anymore, but an office and warehouse bringing stuff over from China, to be sold at discount department stores.  It’s not horrible stuff.  It’s not super expensive, but the glaze is decent, and it’s pretty strong.  You can buy sets with plates and cups for $2 to $4 per piece.

One of these days, I’ll have to buy some Mikasa and do a side by side comparison of 1970s Mikasa with contemporary middle-range Gibson.  I suspect they’ll be pretty close, in quality.

Japan Street Scene 1930s

I found this photo. I can’t really tell when or where it was taken, but I think the guys in the front are holding a sign about Kageyama. I can’t see the last kanji too well.  The two cars on the left might be a Plymouth and an REO Flying Cloud or maybe a Nissan.  So late 1930s is my guess.

Close ups below. Any clues?

 

Shodo Bag Calligraphy Kit

This is for sale.

On spying this bag in a box of paper, I recalled calligraphy exercises and thought this had been my bag. Looking at the papers tucked into the back, I didn’t see anything familiar. It looked like owner took a class in shodo (calligraphy), but I don’t recall ever taking a class. They were all signed “Akira” (あきら), which isn’t me.

(The fact I don’t recall a class doesn’t mean I didn’t take one. Memory sucks.)

Weird. Maybe my father picked this out of the trash, because it was in pretty rough shape.

These don’t sell for very much in the US, but vintage calligraphy brushes and ink blocks sell for a lot of money on Ebay Japan.

Gate of Hell, Vagabond Theater, Los Angeles, 1954

This newspaper clipping is from The Los Angeles Examiner, Saturday, January 15, 1954.

Gate of Hell, 1954

“One of the key works of the early 1950s wave of Japanese films to first reach foreign markets, director Kinugasa’s sumptuous period drama astonished audiences with its dramatic force and spectacular colour cinematography.”

Vagabond Theater (2509 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 57) was an art house / revival theater near Macarthur Park, just southwest of the Park Plaza Hotel, and near the corner where the Otis Art Institute would be built. I guess, by the time this movie came out, the neighborhood had passed it’s prime and was in decline.

It’s now called the Hayworth Theater.

The New Follies Theater was at 548 S. Main St., which is right by Skid Row. Jennie Lee Hicks was known for having a large chest.

Dehoarding: Asia Scene: The Crimson Kimono

This item is for sale.

Asia Scene was mainly for people doing business in Japan, but this included a lot of Japanese Americans; they operated a Los Angeles bureau out of an office on 2nd St. in Little Tokyo that is no longer there (probably wiped out by 1970s redevelopment). They mixed cultural articles in with the business articles, and when Sam Fuller’s Crimson Kimono was going to be released, it was a big deal. The film wasn’t just shot in parts of Little Tokyo, but included many people from the local community. So they wrote an extensive preview/review of the movie.

It’s probably one of the few contemporary articles, because it was a “B” movie, shot on a small budget, in black and white.

 

The context is pretty hard to imagine today, particularly because the Model Minority Myth wipes out actual histories of Asian American communities, replacing them with sanitized histories — and it seems like the community pushes the positive stories. According to this found clipping, there was a crime wave by Nisei in the 1960s.

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I didn’t know about that until I found that clipping.

Likewise, it wasn’t until college when I read about gang problems in the community in the 1960s, and the wave of young people dying from drug overdoses in the late 1960s. I found out about that only because these two events happened as gangsters switched gears and joined the Civil Rights movement, and this information got recorded as history that’s archived in the Ethnic Studies library.

I don’t have a photo of it, but next to my grandparents’ and father’s grave, is a headstone for a young man, Tono, who died in 1959. A ceramic medallion on it shows that he wore a pompadour. He was only 18 years old. I’d seen this headstone all my life, but I didn’t know what happened.

I still don’t know what happened to end his life, but now, knowing some history, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was caught up in the problems of Nisei crime, the gang life, or drugs.