Omamori Series

“Omamori” are Japanese traditional amulets (charm bags) that Japanese people purchase in shrines and temples and carry in everyday life.  Omamori bags indicate a specific purpose of protection or luck and are usually closed with string and are never opened. Many omamori are specifically designed for the location in which they were made.

Omamori II

2008, Mixed Media: paper, rope, 10'x4'x1'
Omamori II photos: David Scherrer

Omamori III: Forgotten

2011, Mixed Media: discarded objects, abaca fiber, natural dyes, and rope, 10’x4’x1’
Omamori III photos: David Scherrer

My Omamori II is a large paper cast piece from my daughter’s clothes and belongings that have been protecting her physically and mentally. I never paid attention to children’s clothes before and I have been learning about different designs and materials such as the high belly band / extra belly lid on pajama pants which keeps pajama shirts tucked in. Also, it is interesting to see the different designs among various countries’ clothes. By her growth, her interest in what to wear and carry has changed and she is interested in purses and accessories now. There are some clothes that I can’t discard after she was finished with them, such as the dress our friend knitted and Japanese undergarments that my mother brought when my daughter was born, some of which I wore when I was a baby. I chose items to cast that remind me of particular times and relationships. My memories, understanding and love as a mother are transformed into the paper omamori that I also wish to protect all children in the world.


Omamori III: Forgotten is a large handmade paper relief. It is not a cast; instead, discarded objects are covered with hand dyed paper pulp. I have been thinking about the many important things and events that have been forgotten. After Japan’s earthquake/tsunami in spring of 2011, I have been concerned about the effects of radiation. Even though we learned that nuclear radiation makes a huge disaster we have forgotten, more or less. The dark dots represent the black rain contaminated by radiation after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In addition, I have great concerns that many of the old techniques of art-making have been disappearing.  I imbedded several objects that have been discarded or forgotten into the omamori form wishing that people will think of them more.  The back strap loom, lace-making bobbins, and shuttles, one side of the sandals etc. are covered by the pulp.

Omamori I

Video Installation: fabric, rope, video projector, 10’x4’x1”, 2007

I have been communicating with my daughter using baby signs that are based on American Sign Language (ASL).  It is great way to understand each other without using verbal languages.  She is learning signs from the context and my facial expressions.  It is such a basic form of human understanding.  By growing we gradually gain knowledge.  We learn how to be a good friend and how to fight each other.  As a Japanese person who has lived in the US for a long time and is married to an American, I have thought about the dual qualities of friendship and fighting in the relationship between Japan and the US.  I have also thought about how we all start as babies, unable to communicate fully, and how the fighting part of our nature has led us to develop all-powerful weapons.

My omamori is a prayer that reminds us of the basic words to connect human relationships.  The form of the prayer came from a type of charm called “omamori” that Japanese people carry in everyday life.  Omamori are usually closed with string and are never opened.  I printed a polka dot pattern on the charm bag as a way of representing Western culture.  In the video performance projected onto the omamori shape, someone is signing 28 words in ASL.  Although there is an international sign language most people use one specific to their culture.  I have learned some ASL and am interested in studying some JSL (Japanese Sign Language) as well.  I have been developing my life in the US and pursuing my own identity as a Japanese.  I expect that my daughter will find her own identity as a Nisei (second generation Japanese). Through my piece I am wishing for world peace and at the same time wishing that my daughter will find her own identity as both a Japanese and an American.

Nakami: Things Inside

2006, Video Installation; sand, rope, projector, 5’x8’

 “Nakami: Things Inside” is a video installation.  Over the years, I have collected many wishes from people.  I usually open wish ties before I use them in my art, but there are some that I have left unopened because they are beautiful or have an unusual knot.  I developed the idea for this piece during my pregnancy.  I integrated my personal experience and the wishes that hadn’t been untied.  I had been thinking a lot about the power of things inside that we can’t or choose not to see, particularly the baby I was holding in my body for nine months. The form made out of red sand on the floor is based on a type of charm called “omamori” that Japanese people carry in everyday life.  Omamori are usually closed with string and are never opened. The projected images are the wish ties that I decided not to open.