Day trip to Shigaraki~!! It’s always been a little confusing for me but I think I’ve got it:
Shigaraki Town in Shiga Prefecture
Iga Town in Mie Prefecture
Mie’s to the south of Shiga which is to the west of Nagoya.
We went to both places that day. It all started out when I was asking M-san about Kohiki and if there were places in Japan particularly famous for that. She mentioned Shiga and that she would be going to attend an exhibition there on the next off day. In the end, it ended up being a day trip for all us curious students.
The exhibition was at the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, by artist Kumakura Junkichi, who had made the pieces in the exhibition inspired by his love for Jazz Music. Reminded me of Murakami the writer being influenced by Jazz as well. Unfortunately it drizzled pretty much the entire day, making it a little chilly but we thanks to the car, we managed to go to a couple of great places – the glaze shop in town where we spent ages drooling over the possibilities…(that we could not get to try out this time), a beautifully quaint cafe Awaisa where we enjoyed a delicious healthy lunch with fantastic hojicha latte…, a museum where we saw some traditional Shigaraki ware and where I saw the largest Chawan ever… (literally the size of a sofa). We even went to a couple of spots on the ceramic trail and were given a little tour of a workshop by the ceramic studio, Bungoro Kiln, run by 5th generation ceramicists. Fell in love with pretty much everything in their store. They sell the most elegant Kohiki items I’ve seen and with lots of creative design elements to everyday tableware. Almost all the plates were trimmed such that they could be used on both sides.
At the lovely Awaisa cafe, where they sell products made by local artists, all beautiful displayed.
Probably the most special part of that day’s trip though, was paying a visit to M-san’s friend, S-san. Since she lives in the neighboring prefecture, Iga, land of the Ninjas apparently, we drove over, passing by the store Gallery Yamahon , an incredible Gallery with the most exquisite curation of objects ranging from ceramics, bronzeware, rotating exhibition this time a sculptural one by a ceramic artist… It was the sister Gallery of Kyoto Yamahon, the same gallery M-san had recommended I check out when in Kyoto to see the porcelain exhibition by Taizo Kuroda. If I lived in the area, I would be going there every week. Possibly something that M-san does as well…
Breathtaking display of works at S’s house. There was a light drizzle falling into the rice fields outside. Made for the absolute perfect scene.
S-san used to work at Kasen a few years back as an apprentice, just like M-san. Her husband works as an artisan creating Nabe pots at a factory but on the side, also does lots of Kohiki works. Add a pair of incredibly energetic and adorable twin girls to the mix… I can only imagine how busy their household must be! But it was such inspiration for me. Seeing them live in the countryside in a traditional house, extensions just renovated, but with every attempt to DIY things as far as possible. A wood fired kiln in the backyard functions also as a oven for baking pizza. A gas kiln in the their studio and lots of works waiting to be fired/glazed. We sat down to a tea break – of delicious freshly brewed coffee, tea, plus home-baked fig and cheese buns. Truly a dream world. That said, what inspired me was also that ethic of diligence and perseverance. S-san mentioned that when her husband started his job at the Nabe pot factory, he was only allowed to do one thing for the first 6 months or so at the job, and that was sticking the ears of the pot on. Now he’s progressed to making the pots but it’s been a long journey. For her, she hand makes items when she has the time and they teach occasionally with the two wheels they have for students. At the end of the day, it’s always a reminder that everyone has to work to get to where they are today. There is no easy route.
The way back was a rather mad rush, with M-san getting extremely worried that we would be stuck in traffic and not be able to make it back to the rental car studio in time to return the car. Quite a bit of nerves in the car during those two hours but… in the end, we made it! I do think it was due to the luck we received from those adorable (some frightful) Tanuki (raccoon-dogs) figures of which we passed by countless of them in Shigaraki. It’s a place that’s famous for the production of Tanuki statues of all sizes and while I was probably the only fan in the group, it’s for good reason. 😉
Wrote in my journal that night:
“What a trip to shigaraki!
Learnt so much about kohiki and just in awe at its beauty
Something I want to keep pursuing this moment
My favourite red vase’s base cracked a little >< hoping the slip will work, fingers crossed.
Need to plan out the next few days well
Trimmed pieces… made new teapot body lol last one for now”