Archive for 'Demonstrations'

Mochi Pounding: A Reflection

Mochi pounding 2014

I think I’ve always taken mochi for granted. Mochi: the sticky, yummy childhood treat; something that my great-aunt always has at her house for Christmas. But I’d never given much thought to actually making mochi until I heard that the museum was hosting the mochi pounding celebration to ring in the new year. When I told my parents, they started to rave about the time they pounded mochi together in Japan, so I was excited for the day. We started in Samsung Hall, Polaroid cameras ready, looking on over the crowd of people. Little children bordered the front of the crowd, eagerly straining forward towards the demonstration. The members of Kagami Kai were all dressed in colorful red and blue robes. Happy colors for a happy celebration. I felt slightly out of place in my black outfit which was too somber a color for the occasion.

The demonstration started with an artist painting an ancient character for horse in front of the crowd. Seeing this performance was fascinating as it celebrated the new year by painting an old character. At the Asian, mixing old and new seems to hold a special place.

When the members of Kagami Kai actually started pounding the mochi, the room filled with the beat of drums, the ringing of bells, the happy sounds of voices chanting along, and of course, the deliciously nutty smell of the mochi. They were so enthusiastic while pounding the mochi, it was hard not to start clapping to the beat. As audience members volunteered, I sensed such gusto in hitting a mass of glutinous rice over and over again with a wooden mallet. Kids looked hesitant when they first stepped up but soon this feeling transformed into total bliss (I guess it’s not everyday that kids actually are allowed to play with their food). At the end of the demonstration, everyone lined up to pick up some mochi to eat. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of the celebration or the mochi itself, but the result, my little mochi souvenir, tasted amazing.

Check out our video from our 2012 ceremony:

Written by Nat Gable.

Celebrate India


By Saturday, August 28th, the city’s sweltering summer heat will yield to a more accustomed winter chill, so we recommend warming up with the Asian Art Museum’s Celebration of India.

Get moving with the Chitresh Das Dance Company, flex your mind and body with yoga gallery tours, sample Indian desserts and spices, and create your own works of art.

And since no fewer than five people have asked about it today, yes, Sanjay Patel will be presenting his new book, Ramayana: Divine Loophole.  Check out his, or learn about his influences (he has excellent taste) and read an interview on Pixar’s site.

A huge new shipment of South Asian books just arrived in the Museum Store, so if the docents pique your curiosity, you can take some of the museum home with you.  Namaste!

Damage Control

There’s nothing quite like posting incorrect information in a web video to get people’s attention. No sooner had I posted the video on conserving the “green monster” than I heard from the usually-so-quiet conservators. I had misunderstood the use of a Japanese seaweed called funori. Time for this non-conservator to do some damage control in the area of information. Here’s how it really happened…
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Ikebana to Art

So I have this great idea for an exhibit. The de Young museum has their Bouquets to Art, the Asian can do an ikebana show. What is ikebana? It’s the Japanese art of flower arrangement but it’s much more than that. It’s really a disciplined art form using minimalism such that an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The container is also a key element of the composition. It is said that the samurai used ikebana along with the tea ceremony to focus their concentration and gain peace of mind before going into battle. Pair it with some artwork from the museum’s permanent collection or it can just stand on its own and I think this could be a good exhibit, plus a new flower arrangement can be setup after a week to keep it fresh. What do you think?



How much do I love Japanese cinema?  Don’t get me started.   When I lived in Los Angeles, the only person who went to more screenings of the American Cinemateque’s Japanese Outlaw Masters Series was Quentin Tarantino.  I’m not entirely sure he didn’t set up camp in the parking lot, calling out for delivery so he didn’t have to miss any of the yakuza-psychedelic-bushido bounty.

Maybe that’s a little hyperbolic, but whatever.  Anyhow, I’m working hard at re-watching as much of the samurai canon as possible in advance of finalizing our DVD orders, and I realize that somehow I haven’t seen everything.  How could that be?  Actually, I’m relieved that there are still treasures to be discovered.  And the ones I’m revisiting?  I still love my favorites and can happily find new details over which to obsess.
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tea master coming to sf

SenookuI am looking forward to seeing tea presentations by the Future Grand Master of the Mushakoji Senke tradition of tea, Sen So-oku. This gentleman is the heir apparent to one of the oldest and most important tea traditions spanning 400+ years back to Sen Rikyu. When his father, the 14th generation head, passes on or retires, he will become the 15th generation head or “iemoto” of the tradition.

Program details will be posted on the website soon, but if you wish to save the date, he will present on June 12 and June 13.

our wonderful guests

The scene:

May Target Sunday (our monthly free day) at the museum, around 4pm or so. Our very special guests, Lopen Netem and Lopen Gyem, are monks from Bhutan who have been here since February to protect the sacred artworks in The Dragon’s Gift. Throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors have been privy to their daily purification rituals for the objects, as part of our artists-in-residency program, AsiaAlive.

Here, the charming monks have attracted quite an inquisitive crowd of diverse folks, demonstrating the stirring sounds of an instrument (sorry, I don’t know its name!). The infectious energy, folks’ curiosity, and monks’ sweet smiles of sharing and pride all make for a somewhat poignant moment.

And some photos:

May / APA Target Sunday

May / APA Target Sunday

May / APA Target Sunday

If you’re around, come by and say “Kuzu zampo” (hello!) to our special guests. The show closes on May 10.

Sand mandalas at the museum

Only six days remain in the run of our exhibition The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, and I think everyone at the museum will be sorry to see it go. The visiting Bhutanese monks, Lopen Neten Dorji and Lopen Gyem Dorji, have been wonderful. Visitors can observe them performing daily purification rituals and prayers (puja) for sacred objects in the exhibition at 11:00 and 3:00 on most days. They have also created two beautiful sand mandalas. A detail from one is shown above.
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