Amaterasu is the Shinto goddess of the sun and the universe. After clashing with her brother, the god of sea and storm, she shuts herself inside a cave of darkness. Her absence plunges the earth into chaos, and to coax her from her cave of mourning, the other gods offer three sacred objects: a 500- branch Sakaki tree, a magatama jewel, and a mirror.

Cindy Mochizuki’s The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror is a material exploration that works within this cosmology, exploring the spirits of these Japanese legends and folklore. Mochizuki crafted small figurines through intuitive and improvised assemblage, using porcelain, clay, and mixed textiles including silkworm cocoons, mohair fleece, and traditional Japanese rayon bunka thread. The figurines are raised on thin dowels and backlit, casting dramatic shadows that form a crucial part of the installation. Between the figures and the wall are a series of five moon-like, circular stretched canvases. The sparkly canvas used is intended for Bunka embroidery, a material choice through which
Mochizuki references her family heritage; Bunka embroidery was her grandmother’s own creative practice. Mochizuki created fifty of the figurines, each bearing heads, feet, and hair. Together with their shadows, one hundred enigmatic entities make up the installation.
The theatre created around these miniature puppets conjures their role as a performance objects. Quietly dormant, each tiny figure contains its own story within the greater narrative the installation tells. They are non-human, strange and yet oddly familiar, with animalistic and fantastical qualities. Perhaps they are lucky talismans, or archetypes; they call up the puppets of traditional Japanese Bunraku theatre.

Periodically throughout the installation, Mochizuki will activate these performance objects through a series of intimate performances that use the figures as a tool of divination. Participants will contemplate the objects more closely, and through careful examination uncover both their unique stories, and the cosmology they all share. The performances will create playful and mysterious interactive experience, adding to the exhibition’s atmosphere of strangeness and beauty.

The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror furthers Mochizuki’s interest in the performance and manifestation of story through material forms, and the recovery of Japanese folklore in contemporary society.


Wood carving and stands: Minoru Yamamoto

Production Assistance: Cherry Wen Wen Lu

Ceramics Assistance: Julia Chirka

Lighting Design: James Proudfoot

The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror

Cindy Mochizuki

Exhibit Dates

Jan 10 to Mar 7, 2020


Jan 10, 7-11PM

Artist Talk

Feb 15, 2PM


BAF Gallery
2-258 East 1st Ave
Vancouver, BC