What is “Mitate”

mitate, ikebana

When I saw this object at Kyoto Art and Antiques warehouse sale, the tag attached to it said “Sake Bottle.” Why would you need such an elegant design for a mere container for sake, I wondered.

I had no interest in storing any alcohol, but I bought the bottle anyway.  I was patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it at home…. till the right moment. For me, this bottle looked nothing but a beautiful flower vase, that would go very well with the hydrangea and spirea in my backyard.

The verb “mitateru” means to use or regard something for a different purpose from its original use.  In the case of the photo below, I have “mitate”d this sake bottle for a flower container.

Tea masters in early days “mitate”d a pill case from China for a matcha tea container.  The sand of the Japanese rock garden was a “mitate” for the sea, and the huge rock in the garden was a “mitate” for an island in the sea.  As such, the concept of “mitate” is everywhere in our daily lives.  We can say “mitate” is manifestation of creativity, can’t we?

Let’s do more of “mitate,” shall we?


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