A journey to Japan

Posted: March 28th, 2014 | Arts & Entertainment, Balboa Park, Featured, News | No Comments

Local collectors showcase items at Japanese Friendship Garden exhibit

By Dave Fidlin | SDUN Reporter

From a rare display of historic toy dolls to ancient styles of pottery, San Diego collectors of Japanese artifacts are displaying their items in the months ahead as part of a biannual program aimed at putting the spotlight on an eastern culture with deep roots.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is hosting it’s fourth “Collectors in San Diego” exhibition series. Marisa Takeuchi, registrar and exhibit coordinator, said nearly 40 different pieces are on display as part of this year’s program, which can be viewed with paid admission into the garden grounds at Balboa Park.

A Takedo Doll from the late Edo Period (18th – 19th centuries) from the collection of Kazuo Kuwabara (Photo by Hutton Marshall)

A Takedo Doll from the late Edo Period (18th – 19th centuries) from the collection of Kazuo Kuwabara (Photo by Hutton Marshall)

“We consider this one of our highlight shows of the year,” Takeuchi said. “The goal is to share the true diversity of Japan and give some of the local collectors an opportunity to share their belongings.”

This year’s program kicked off with a special gala on March 20, which was well attended, Takeuchi said. The exhibit will run until June 1.

The koi pond in the Japanese Friendship Garden (Photo by Hutton Marshall)

The koi pond in the Japanese Friendship Garden (Photo by Hutton Marshall)

One of the more regular exhibit participants, Gordon Brodfuehrer, serves as a member of the City’s Asian Arts Council and is a member of the board of trustees at the San Diego Museum of Art.

This year, Brodfuehrer is exhibiting his collection of Oribe ware — a form of Japanese pottery identified by a green copper glaze and bold painted designs. Some of the items can be traced back to the late 16th century when Japanese tea master Furuta Oribe, the namesake of the pottery, held Japanese tea ceremonies.

Takeuchi said a small but loyal group of art collectors interested in Asian art have been contributing to the Collectors in San Diego series. This year, the organization does have a new collector exhibiting her collection.

Joanne Watson, former chair and a current member of the Asian Arts Council, is exhibiting several pieces, including a container known as Ikenobo and a vase passed down from her parents during their travels from Japan.

(Photo by Hutton Marshall)

(Photo by Hutton Marshall)

Watson, who studied at a specialized Japan-based school known as the Ikenobo School of Ikebana, said she became interested in Japanese art during her father’s career as  commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet.

As with prior years, Takeuchi said the goal throughout this year’s exhibit is to showcase a disparate collection of artifacts. One of the more notable items this year is a rare set of dolls, on display from Kazuo Kuwabara, the owner of Oriental Treasure Box, a Japanese antique gallery.

“This is definitely a different show from any of the previous ones we’ve had,” Takeuchi said. “We have some very old and striking items, particularly the dolls.”

(Photo by Hutton Marshall)

(Photo by Hutton Marshall)

While Takeuchi readily recognizes each participant — from the avid collector to the novice — will glean something different by viewing the exhibit, she does have one common goal in mind.

“I hope it will spark an interest,” she said. “It would be wonderful if people would like to learn more about Japanese culture.”

With Balboa Park celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2015, Takeuchi said the exhibit will not be held next year. But plans are already in motion to bring a fifth installment of the exhibition series back in 2016.


WHAT: “Collectors in San Diego: Expressions of Japan’s Cultural Heritage”

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through June 1

WHERE: Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, 2215 Pan American Place

COST: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and members of the military

INFORMATION:, 619-232-2721

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