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Art is Life

Author Sanae Ishida, right, with book-talk facilitator and Discover Nikkei writer Tamiko Nimura. Photos by Gwen Shigihara

By David Yamaguchi

The North American Post

Regarding handicrafts such as knitting, sewing, and the like, it seems to me that there are two schools of thought among Nikkei. The first is that crafts are an incredible waste of time. This view was offered by a young Kimi Sanbo [aka Monica (Itoi) Sone] when she was institutionalized for tuberculosis in Betty MacDonald’s autobiographical “The Plague and I” (1948).

“Having never seen Kimi engaged in any form of occupational therapy other than the simple crocheted chain, I was suspicious when she produced, from time to time, exquisite, finished products of embroidery, cross-stitching, knitting, and crocheting. I asked her about this one evening…”

She said, “Well I used to have my mother buy the material and bring them to me. Now I have her buy the material and bring me the finished product because after all, as I am well-adjusted and she is not, she should be the one to engage in occupational therapy.”

The second viewpoint is that espoused by Sanae Ishida in her new book, “Sewing Happiness.” It is that incorporating sewing into our lives—and by extension, writing, drawing, photography, and other creative endeavors—can help relieve the stresses of life and add purpose to our days. (Full disclosure: while I have not read “Sewing Happiness,” I believe I deserve at least some credit for being one of only two men in her June book-talk audience!)

Since attending Ms. Ishida’s talk, I have observed a third, ordinary person who puts Ms. Ishida’s words into daily practice. It is Sarah Sato, the 91-year-old wife of “The Last Real Man” (June 16 issue).

Mrs. Sato has been busy knitting a sweater for her grandson Drew Beland, who will be starting UW graduate school in the fall. She is partway through making similar gifts for all of her grandchildren, “so they will have something to remember her by.”

Between the two perspectives, it seems to me that the beaming faces of all those pictured lean heavily toward the positive benefits of art.

What art, have you, dear reader, produced this week?

[left] Sarah Sato. Photos by Gwen Shigihara
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David Yamaguchi is a third-generation Japanese American [Sansei]. He has written for the Post since 2006, at first as a volunteer, later as a paid freelancer. He joined the paper's staff in May 2020, when he began learning how articles flow from Word files through layout to social media.