January 1st, 2009


Hana Mochi and Re:Standard

Hana mochi are artificial flowers made of pulpy, glutinous, sweetened rice in pink and white. You make them at New Year. It's a tradition from up in the mountains, where there are no winter flowers. To make the New Year's celebrations festive, people organize workshops in which they press "buds" of sticky rice pulp to bare branches and twigs, making them into floral sprigs and spays.

Our small collective worked recently in a room heated by a wood-burning ceramic stove to make hana mochi, artificial rice flowers. Not only were we making artificial flowers, but we were -- some of us -- artificial Japanese people.

In order to prepare our hearts and minds better for the task of becoming Japanese-of-the-mountains, we pored over copies of Re:Standard magazine while drinking tea during our breaks. The wood crackled in the ceramic stove as we applied ourselves with dedication to our reading.

Re:Standard magazine is published by Little More, an independent Tokyo publisher and gallery. It is a magazine dedicated to the re-assessment of the normal. The first issue carried the cover story "A Life With Thermos Flasks". A Thermos flask is a simple, normal item, but it can suggest something extraordinary; a field trip with friends during which a magical moment arrives, a moment in which -- in the middle of nowhere, perhaps -- one is refreshed by hot tea.

"With your head and your instinct," say the editors of Re:Standard, "you should judge what you really need. The standard things in our daily lives, we would like to translate as futsu -- normal things. This is a magazine in which we think about normal things -- futsu -- and necessary things, neither too old nor to new. These things -- abandoned in the rush for progress -- can become our new standards."

This magazine about the normal and the not-so-new has a special interest in "slow photography" -- old cameras, old film. An analog camera, like a Thermos flask, is an under-appreciated friend, a device you take on a field trip with a small group of friends. With the right philosophy, it becomes a tool for the reassessment of "standard" things encountered on the way -- normal things which have become slightly neglected because of the arrival of new things. With the camera one records, and appreciates, them. And from the Thermos flask one swigs hot tea, admiring the hana mochi.