Reflections on Iga Castle

Japan is one of those places David and I had dreamed about visiting for years.  

Potent images still come right away to my mind’s eye, carefully laid tatami matts fitting so perfectly into the rooms, the wooden screens and ancient sliding doors that are still so beautiful even after however many years. There is no history here in the US that can touch these houses. I can’t even imagine all the things they’ve seen. 

In the castle at Iga, the floors are worn so soft from generations of barefoot and socked feet traveling over the wood. The texture was unforgettable, almost warm to the touch. When was the last time someone wore shoes in that house? Maybe never, they were so smoothly worn down. 

I still remember there was a chime hanging in the window of the well room, said to be an exit for the inhabitants of the castle should it ever come under siege. 

Iga Castle is a well appointed house, several stories, but the sheer weight of its location makes it seem small. The mountain and the water all around it dwarf the man-made structures. I have mostly traveled to Europe, where the castles are rarely so sparse and you can find many rooms and nooks. Iga Castle was quite different. It was essentially three rooms, a  lower room, then a ladderlike stair to the next level, and at last the top level with beautiful panel paintings on the ceiling. 

We were the only Westerners there and there were only two other visiting couples during our whole time there. The city of Iga was small and only the local trains go through it. It was clear that the bygone Ninja clan was the only attraction keeping the city on the map. 

Our train ride home was with the local school kids after dark. They poked each other and texted and did all the usual kid stuff. It really felt like the backwater train stop that is barely still on the map, like something out of Spirited Away. 

We came home from Japan with only a few items, a pair of shoes, a cup and saucer, but they are so well made, so simple and beautiful. They speak to a culture of care, acknowledging the small gods within each object. The integrity of process and design is evident in each of these items. Nothing extra, nothing needless, but enough style to show its quality and personality. Everything carefully designed and built, even demolition was done very carefully to make the least dust and noise. We aim to make our products with this integrity, nothing extra but just enough. 

The way you do anything, is the way you do everything. A zen quote that I read recently. It felt very good for Volante Design. We have said it in other terms but basically we care, about the process, about our customers, about each other. We make clothes so that you can embody your version of extraordinary. The Ninja Collection makes us proud, makes us feel extraordinary. Will you follow our way of the ninja?

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