Noritegami: The Japanese Art of Crisp Arranging

This original artwork available for sale from this website: offers please Temple in the Mountains

Deep fried munchies sit

Upon a field of couscous

Who ate all the rest?

- haiku by Basci

Origins of Noritegami

Derived from ancient Japanese traditions formed during the Mokoi Dynasty, noritegami is the traditional Japanese art of crisp arranging. Originating and deriving much from other arts such as bonsai and ikebana, noritegami is an original expressive artform which became formalised in the late 16th century under the shogun Minicheda Noshimunche as a practical alternative to activities such as kendo, kung fu and golf.

Its origins clearly came through war. The ability to accurately throw crisps such that their spinning edges could sever the heads from unsuspecting enemies at cocktail parties was much used as a political tool, and duly evolved into noritenjutsu, a martial art rarely ever practised except among ninja clans specialising in surprise ambushes at high class buffets and children's birthday parties.

Tools of the Trade

Bonsai and noritegami share many common themes Spirit of the Bamboo Flute

Crisply fried in oil,

Dusted with salt and spices,

Hides the potato

- haiku by Slobodashi

In the modern day, crisp-oriented combat has only survived in the formalised martial art of sutekki-noritenjitsu, a ritualused form of duelling that uses the Japanese crisp crusher, more properly known as the sutekki-noriten. Many different styles and sizes of sutekki-noriten exist. The most traditional are plain and simple straight cylinders made from bishi-bashi wood, approximately 2-4cm wide and 20-30 cm in length, but there is much variation. The bo-noriten, for example, can be up to two cubits long and weigh over a ton, while the iki-biki-sutekki-noriten can be as small as 1mm thick and 3cm in length and is these days often restricted to spearing olives served in traditional Japanese cocktail bars.

Sushi Mimosa, black belt dan at sutekki-noritenjitsu, explained the basics of the sport, which has recently been proposed for consideration at the 2012 Olympic Games. "Basically," he explained, "you face off in a specially constructed arena made to look like a sushi bar and try to frighten your opponent by pulling angry facial expressions at them. After a few minutes if that doesn't work you charge and smack them on the head with a big stick."

History

buddhism has had a strong influence over noritegami styles Shrine to the Sound of Wind

Show your enemies

The sutekki-noriten

Crunchy bits remain

- haiku by Nori-san

Noritegami is a much more civilised activity, which is believed to have derived from peacetime hobbies taken up by sutekki-noritenjitsu-trained samurai warriors and sushi chefs. By the 16th century, noritegami was widely practised througout Japanese society, a trend that was encouraged by Zen Buddhism combined with heavy sake drinking.

Over subsequent years, greater contact with the west exerted its influence, and it was not long before the artform incorporated established western traditions such as the use of materials like couscous and pork scratchings, and the inclusion of formalised manoeuvres derived from western strategic texts including Machiavelli and Comfort.

Currently, noritegami is a meditative and time-consuming spiritual artform. Works can often take days or even weeks to finish. Peach Blossom Settles Upon the Incoming Tide of Dream, by Mushi, which is widely acclaimed as one of the artform's greatest ever achievements, took over fourteen years to complete, by which time almost all of the crisps used had become thoroughly soggy, and the artist had developed third degree salt & vinegar burns on his fingers and lost over five kilos in weight from chasing off hungry squirrels.

The Conventions of Noritegami

this work created by a nortitegami master only 8-years of age Map of the City of Kagoshima

I'll have a handful

Of those crunchy fried snacks.

Pass the chilli dip.

- haiku by Slobodashi

Noritegami works are structured according to many conventions that refer to or reflect physical objects, spiritual concepts, or humourously shaped vegetables. Conventions and underlying philosophies similar to those of chanoyu and go also form a crucial component of the art. It is conventional for the artist to kneel to the left of the noritegami work as it is being prepared and to keep a serious look on their face at all times. Specialist tools can be used, but crisps are always held in the left hand, between the third and fourth fingers, and individually placed into position. The right hand is reserved for crisp packet holding and formalised tasting, but is otherwise placed beneath the right knee. This complexity requires a high degree of physical and mental fitness, which is why noritegami masters are noted as being extremely adept, although very serious, players at international Twister competitions.

The crisps themselves may be folded, but cannot be broken or cut to shape. Once placed, a crisp may not be intentionally moved, although limited Wheat Crunchie rolling and certain types of couscous raking may be permitted. Even the opening of the crisp packet is governed by strict rules. The packet is laid out and turned three times before is is swiftly opened. From the 16th-18th Century, this was actually achieved with one swift strike from a samurai sword, though there is less need to do this nowadays because of modern packaging.