Art is an important part of our lives. Art has to do with creativity, culture and empathy. The Netherlands is known for its famous old painters, like Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh and Japan also has a rich history in the field of art. This history, however, is less well known in the Netherlands and Japanese art collector and entrepreneur Azumi Uchitani likes to change that as she spoke at TEDxAmsterdamWomen in 2010.
Who is Azumi Uchitani?
The elegant Azumi Uchitani was born in the beautiful Japanese perfecture of Wakayama in the Kansai area. It is located near large places like Osaka and Kyoto. Azumi, that “beautiful” means, grew up in a traditional Japanese family. Her flamboyant grandfather has taught her the love for art and music. Her grandmother was a kimono maker and kimono has become a second skin to her.
Azumi’s family was involved in activities of their temples and Japanese shrines and she did of course much about the well-known Japanese tea ceremonies, flower arrangements and wore kimono at occasions. Her family got their strength from Buddhism and particularly Shingon Buddhism. In this the Japanese monk Kūkai plays an important role. Kūkai, also known as Kobo Daishi, is one of the Japanese monks, who brought Buddhism from China to Japan around the year 805. Important to mention is the “Koya mountain”, since this mountain is the center of the Shingon Buddhism and an important sanctuary.
Shintoism or Shinto is the native religion of Japan. The word is a combination of two Chinese characters (神道) and means “the way of the gods”. In Shinto, Kami or nature spirits are worshipped. Some Kami are local, while others are associated with larger objects and phenomena in nature. Amaterasu, for example, is the Sun goddess.
After her high school education she went to study communication and English. She attented at Heian Jogakuin University (based in Kyoto and Osaka) where only women study. Her focus was inter-cultural communication and diversity of culture. She continued to practice Japanese traditional art.
In 1993, Azumi studied a year in Cambridge in England. She went to Summer school where she studied subjects as art history, intercultural relations and English. Azumi was so excited about this side of the world that she went to Dublin in Ireland in 1994 to work as Japanese linguist and pursued post graduate study in Business Management. The Irish Tourist Board appointed Azumi to be the guide and promotor of Ireland to Japan as link between Japan and Ireland. She was also appointed as a Business Development executive at a multinational software company for the Japanese market.
In this period, in addition to her work, Azumi started collecting art and antiques and was involved in buying and selling real estate.
In 1999 Azumi moved to Amsterdam and set up a consulting company to sell software licenses in Europe, Japan and the United States and bridge cultures in deal making. For exemple, Azumi sold the license of the software of Nijntje, who is called Miffy in Japan to SEGA Japan and co-created educational software for children who were 2 years of age.
Her interests in the Financial markets led her to work at a Japanese investment bank in Amsterdam, wich gave her good insights how the money markets work and to forsee the economic trends. Since 2006, at her own consulting company Uchitani Consultancy, she has been a trusted advisor to European and Japanese mamagement executives of finance, IT and electronic sectors. It has become her passion to bring deeper understanding of Japanese culture in Europe through trainings, public speaches and lectures across Europe. In 2009, Azumi started her Japanese Salon and she was speaker at TEDxWOMEN Amsterdam.
Azumi: “I was greatly inspired by the superb heritage, which you see often in the old Canal houses in Amsterdam. The atmosphere of these interiors immediately brought me back to the 18th century Salon setting where influential cultural gathering was happening. In a canalhouse on the Keizersgracht 606 regularly I rented and created my own Salon where I could bring people together and share the Japanese art and culture. I have had a wonderful time at that place, but I needed my own fixed place. Especially, because I needed a place where I could exhibit the works of Japanese art, give advice to art collectors as a function of gallery, but also where I could give my workshops in meditation, Japanese tea ceremonies and Japanese calligraphy and also to give master classes lectures about Japanese art and culture, a function of a Salon, but also where I could give special lectures “master class” about Japanese art and culture and also my workshops in meditation, Japanese tea ceremonies and Japanese calligraphy, a function of a Salon. A place where you can gain not only material wealth, but also “inner-wealth” to enrich your life with the essence of Japan.”
In June 2015 her dream was finally fulfilled and Azumi had started her own Japanese Salon at the Spiegelstraat 11 c in Bussum. She finally had her own “salon” and there she can entertain her clients in her own charming way in a Japanese setting.
Byobu is “The Art of Wishdom”
If you enter her Japanese Salon, you feel the gentle Japanese atmosphere. Attention grabber is her own wedding kimono and especially the beautiful old Japanese folding screens. The Japanese name for folding screen is “byobu”. Byobu means “wall wind”. Protection against the wind. The byobu’s are only made in Kyoto. The byobu’s, which are exhibited by Azumi, are coming from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. Prizes are on request.
Azumi: “My family’s root is from Kyoto and then you’re proud of the byobu’s, all of which come from Kyoto. Especially when I came to live and work in Europe. I saw how beautiful European art is, especially was I facinated by the Art Nouveau period and from that perspective I saw how important and wonderful our own ancient Japanese art itself is and how Japanese art influenced European art. Byobu’s are my love, most profoundly. My own opinion is that the art of wisdom is portrayed on the byobu’s!”
Azumi continues: “ Byobu’s are collectors’ items among European and American art connoisseurs. This year, in 2015, the city of Kyoto is taking initiative to celebrate the 400 years anniversary of Rinpa art and many celebrative exhibitions and events are held in the museums who has collections of Rinpa. So there is much attention for Rinpa art. Many of the Japanese people want to see special Byobu’s at this occasions. Most are listed as national treasure & cultural heritage. During the promotion of 400 years anniversary of Rinpa art, it raised much attention to its “bold & sensual” style with its intimacy with the nature and season, which influenced Ukiyo-e artists as well as European artists. It will not be surprising that Japanese organisations and private collectors start buying back byobu as I do. As a result, the expectation is that the prices will rise in the future by this possible rebounding demand from Japan. In addition, despite the economic downfall in Europe, it is amazing that the demand for Japanese art, design and life style products in Europe has been increasing non stop and will continue. Byobu is versatile, displayed in different sizes, light in weight, easily transported and stored. A byobu is thereby an attractive investment.”
The function of a Japanese byobu
In the 16th-18th centuries, folding screens were often commissioned. The client wanted to express something with his byobu. It was mainly intended to show others that you did very well. It had to do with symbols of prosperity on the byobu. Often, there were images, which told a story. An entire culture is behind the byobu’s. That makes the byobu so interesting and valuable.
The byubo’s were made by different “schools”. You have the Tosa School, the Kano School and the Rinpa School. Azumi is very charmed by the Rinpa School. If you visit Azumi in her Japanese Salon she will tell you everything about her preference for the Rinpa School and she will also explain what the other schools have of beautiful elements. She is expert in this area!
In addition to the symbolism and decoration purpose a byobu had several practical functions. So they offered protection against the draft, you could hide certain things, you could dress up behind the folding screen and smaller byobu’s were used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
Japanese Salon and her services
Azumi brings quality and inspiration to your life with Japanese works of art and wisdom. Azumi’s services are quite spacious. Her salon serves as an art gallery of Japanese works of art and as well as a place to meet, experience and learn about Japan.
She has magical eyes to spot beautiful unique quality Japanese works of art and combine them seamlessly in the European interior. With her intuition, exquisite taste, knowledge, extensive network in art world, backed up with her investment background, she can quickly select, assess and offer what her clients are looking for and give sound advice to individuals to purchase Japanese art works, not only antique screens but also contemporary art such as photography.
She is a great entertainer and teaches about Japanese history, culture, art, language, philosophy in the most fascinating way, which brings us deeper understanding about Japan.
At Japanese Salon, master class, exclusive courses and one-to-one sessions will start from January 2016.
She also still works as a business consultant, enjoys giving lectures and public speeches in the Netherlands and abroad.
Charity Foundation Japanese Salon
Additional it is nice to mention that Azumi, since she was 5 years old, plays the piano and loves to play music of Chopin. Azumi has established in 2011, after Japan was hit by a massive earthquake, a charity foundation that was named after her Japanese Salon. The money was sent to Midwife association of Japan to help the mothers and babies.
The Japanese Salon inspires
The Japanese Salon is an absolute must to visit if you want to know more about Japan and its art and culture. Azumi Uchitani will welcome you in a very hospitable way and she will be happy to advise you on everything you want to know about Japan. She has beautiful old Japanese folding screens in her salon, but she has more that’s worth to look at, such as old Japanese ceramic objects and, above all, the original Japanese wedding kimono is wonderful to see.
We have attended Azumi’s Master Class about Japanese culture and art and her very nice workshop about Japanese calligraphy. You can join her workshop Japanese calligraphy on monday morning and her master classes can be joined on friday evenings. Ask Azumi for details.
Our opinion is: the Japanese Salon of Azumi Uchitani is a source of inspiration and a must to visit and like Azumi said earlier ” the Japanese Salon is a place where you can gain not only material wealth, but also “inner-wealth” to enrich our life with the essence of Japan”.
Information about the Japanese Salon
Adress: Spiegelstraat 11 c, 1405 HV Bussum
Phone: + 31-6 50 693887
Facebook: Japanese Salon by Azumi Uchitani
Monday: 09:30 – 10:30 (Japanese calligraphy)
Wednesday: 14.00 -18.00
Thursday: 14.00 – 18.00
Friday: 14.00 – 18.00 (18:00-20:00 for Master Class)
Saturday: 14.00 – 18.00
Other appointments on request
Photo credits: Amsterdam Today / Japanese Salon