In Naoko Hayashi’s delicate hands, paper twine becomes flowers, butterflies, animals, birds and boats.
The art of mizuhiki goes back more than 1,400 years when the Japanese delegate to China brought back a gift box to the Japanese emperor with a red and white twine decoration symbolizing a safe journey.
This began a tradition of using the knot-like decoration on gifts. Later, samurai warriors wore top knots in their hair and umbrellas were made of mizuhiki paper because it was strong and waterproof. At first, only the royal family would practise the art form but later other craftspeople and artists used the material to make other items, including the traditional bride’s hair clip.
Hayashi, who was born in Japan, did not practise mizuhiki until she came to Canada. She was born in Fukui-ken Prefecture where her father was prominent in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism as head of a temple in Sapporo, which had 10,000 members. She attended university, then worked as a teacher during the Second World War. She then owned a women’s fashion shop where she made her own designs in Tokyo’s Ginza district. She was asked to give up the store to go to Sapporo to work on a history of the temple but important records had been destroyed and she could not do that.
At the same time, Chu Hayashi, an immigrant from Japan, was a widower bringing up his children in Thunder Bay, Ont. He had been in the internment camps in B.C. during the war, then moved to Ontario to work. He kept active in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, holding meetings in his home and sending articles to the mother temple in Kyoto, telling about what it was like to be a Buddhist in Canada.
Naoko knew nothing about Canada but she thought it would be interesting to correspond with Chu when it was suggested to her by her aunt. After two years of writing, they agreed to marry and she set out for Vancouver where Chu, who worked for the railway, was to meet her. She was 50 years old when she arrived in December 1972 and spoke no English.
They were married in Steveston, and Buddhists in Vancouver gave her a winter coat for the honeymoon winter train trip to Thunder Bay.
Naoko came from the upper classes and had never cooked a meal or done any housework but she set out to learn to cook with a cookbook in Japanese and to take care of her new family.
“Everything was so big and so cold. There were no street lights. I couldn’t see anything. But I was happy,” she said. Canadian Buddhists introduced her to the art of Mizuhiki which she embraced enthusiastically using her artistic talent.
“I love to do it. The ideas come. I started with flowers like ikebana and now I do many things.”
Mizuhiki adds a special meaning to the Japanese word “musubu,” which means connection or tying. Japanese people use mizuhiki to convey warmth, affection and togetherness.
Naoko moved to Vernon seven years ago after the death of her husband to live with her step-son, Arnie Hayashi, and his wife Debra Campbell.
“When I visit Japan, people tell me I am very lucky to live with my family because it is no longer so much that way in Japan. I am happy here,” she said.
A show and sale of her work will benefit the Buddhist Temple in Vernon and the World Buddhist Women’s conference in Calgary in 2015.
The sale includes cards, jewelry, framed pictures, wall hangings, turtles, mice, butterflies and her favourite, flowers, all made with paper and her creative imagination.
Naoko’s Hayashi’s mizuhiki show and sale takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural Centre at 4895 Bella Vista Rd.