Spirit of Life in the North of Japan
Towada Art Center

People have always battled nature’s severity, using materials at hand to make the clothing and tools necessary for survival, which are passed down and become part of the culture and lifestyle of that people. In Aomori, at the northernmost edge of Honshu—Japan’s largest island—a wealth of techniques and tools were invented to ride out the long, harsh winters.

Spirit of Life in the North of Japan features folk tools and and clothing from the collection of ethnologist and Aomori native Chuzaburo Tanaka, who spent his life researching and documenting the culture of his home. Alongside the collection are the works of contemporary artists who have explored materials from unique perspectives.

What world lies beyond the acts of sewing, stitching, and binding? As trivial as a single stitch or patch may seem, they come together to form shapes that reflect the lives of those who made them.
 Chuzaburo Tanaka’s collection tells us that the harsher the environment and the weaker the people, the stronger these lives appear.

In an age where cheap and disposable consumption is encouraged, this is a welcome glimpse into a time when people cared for their belongings, tirelessly maintaining and repurposing them. Discover traces of their lives in handmade clothes that tell volumes about the time they were made.



Yayoi Amo
Yohei Fusegi
Testuaki Hirata
Road Izumiyama
Ruriko Murayama
Chuzaburo Tanaka
Hikari Yamashita