gallery is in the furniture showroom, which is in an older
street, quite narrow with shops selling antiques, pottery
and the occasional restaurant.
I had known
about Sanshiro's failing health and old age so it was no great
surprise when we learnt that he was too unwell to meet us.
We were extremely well looked after by his secretary Sekita
and his son and grandson. The exhibition was a great success
for two reasons. Firstly because we sold 80% of the pots and
secondly the exhibition provided an opportunity for a considerable
number of old acquaintances of Bernard to come and see us.
An old doctor phoned unable to make the trip to see us while
other people arrived with pots and a drawing seeking authentication
on the artist [this was a little tricky]. And we were able
to learn something of the mood of the time in the early 50's.
A fine old man Nittasn who runs a teashop and guesthouse '
MARUMO' just around the corner, told us of his troubles after
the Second World War. He had been badly injured and with his
sight severely impaired he wondered what to do. He felt some
comfort from listening to music but on meeting Yanagi received
this advice.' Open a teashop with good furniture, play good
music and sell Russian Cake [we never did quite get the significance
of the Russian cake!]'. The spirit of that 'kissaten' still
runs true today and it is a soothing retreat fro9m the bustle
of the outside world.
I helped to man the exhibition each day with the aid of an
interpreter. During this time Teiko Itzumi from the Folk Craft
Museum in Tokyo came out to our show to collect a coffeepot
made by my father and donated by my mother to the museum.
in Matsumoto our accommodation was a 20-minute bicycle ride
out of the city to Ichikawasan, a hot spring inn [onsen] on
the outskirts of the city. I say bike-ride because they kindly
provided us with gitensha to go in and out each day through
the paddyfields. The onsen was a quiet family affair run by
Okamisan and her pretty daughter-in-law who just treated us
so well. The hot spring literally bubbles up from the mountainside
straight into the bath in the building, and so we were able
to 'take the waters' both morning and evening--how relaxing!
Ichikawasan had been recommended by Sekita-san who said that
this water was the best in Matsumoto and should be drunk as
well as bathed in. He took me to the local public onsen next
door one evening which was a bit like being taken to the local
pub except maybe for the matter of clothing! Frannie and I
enjoyed the food so much, the style and presentation is so
different. One evening at the inn we were entertained to Sukiyaki,
when thin strips of tender beef and mushrooms and other vegetables
are cooked at the table in a light stock. This is served with
raw egg, sticky rice sour pickles and warmed sake and makes
a splendid meal.
6th the exhibition finished and was taken down and we bid
farewell to the lovely people with whom we worked. This was
not before we were paid handsomely in cash and so we had to
make a quick trip to the bank. The night before the exhibition
finished Mitsuo Ikeda and his son Moto kindly treated us to
a memorable meal in a French restaurant. They wanted to show
their appreciation for us coming; they really did not have
to. During this meal we discussed the possibility of setting
up an archive to document the history of Mingei in Matsumoto
before all the information dies away. Mitsuo said that he
would be interested when his father Sanshiro had died. Sadly
our only communication with Sanshiro was via a video camera.
took us out of Matsumoto and we spent the next night with
some potters I had met on my first visit near a town called
Ina. Shima-san has a lovely hose in the countryside against
a backdrop of high tree covered mountains. This house served
as her pottery and gallery for her work. The air was beautiful
and fresh and the rice was being harvested from the paddy
fields. The fields are a very bright lime yellow, with a tint
of orange, and they loom up brightly against the surrounding
landscape. Japanese houses are very flexible in their use.
Each room is fitted with tatami [rice straw mats] and somewhere
in the middle a small square can be lifted to reveal the ashpit
for cooking. So the room can be used as a kitchen, a living
room and as a bedroom. This particular evening was very relaxing
and we were treated to Sukiyaki again. Shimasan is a busy
person and she not only makes pots but also has two teenage
boys and runs a wholefood shop with her husband.
The next two
nights we spent at Toshio Kawate's house near Iida.Toshio
and his wife, Yoko, hosted my first exhibition in Japan two
years previously. Their home is traditional and gracious and
has been in their family since it was built. They welcomed
us in style and had invited their friend from Iida to come
and make fresh buckwheat noodles [ soba ]. These have to be
slurped or sucked loudly into the mouth-Frannie and I both
need some practice! I had my first ever Hot Spring here with
Toshio and he very typically whisked us both off to his local
where Frannie was fortunate enough to meet someone to bathe
with. Toshio is an established potter with his own woodfired-climbing
kiln. Like the world over his trade is being affected by financial
jitters. His wife goes out teaching swimming to help earn
some money. They have two daughters, one of them is called
Natsko and she was a great help with the first exhibition.
is also beautifully situated with mountains further in the
distance. In the foreground steep tree-clad hills were just
beginning to turn to the rich autumn colours. The local town
is nearly all in the older style and can boast three hairdressers.
I thought that I would be clever and buy a bottle of Sake
on the second evening. My Japanese is fairly non-existent
so when I produced this bottle that evening Toshio said 'very
healthy' repeatedly. I had managed to buy the Japanese equivalent
of Sanatogen which can only be drunk in very small quantities.
Simon had been
kind enough to drive us to Toshio's house and had been incredibly
helpful in every way. His understanding of Japanese culture
makes him a perfect diplomat since he knows the level at which
to pitch, when seeking advice and negotiating situations.
us with very heavy bags to catch a bus to Nagoya. It had been
a good visit and one day I hope that we can reciprocate their
hospitality in England. The last two nights we fended for
ourselves in Kyoto. Simon had unknowingly booked us into a
small inn [ryokan] that just happened to be 50 yards from
the main red light district. Imagine our surprise when we
stepped out at 6 p.m. almost into the arms of a geisha girl!
the home of the late Kawai Kanjiro now being curated by his
grand daughter. Rather like the St Ives Leach Pottery, Kawai's
home is almost drowned by the urban growth. The huge climbing
kiln is magnificently preserved and the house is filled with
his pots and carvings which are carefully looked after. We
spent most of the last day exploring two large Zen Buddhist
temples. They are very tranquil places even with many visitors.
Some of the walkways pass through mossy gardens and raked
gravel and everywhere you look there is something to consider.
As Frannie said you can have the feeling of being outside
when you are inside.
On our final
night we ventured into Gion [our 'Soho' district] for something
to eat. The architecture is old and all the windows have bamboo
blinds rolled down concealing the secrets of the night. We
plunged into a small restaurant which had no plastic replicas
of the meals you might receive inside displayed outside. Rice,
sashimi with soy and hot pickled radish, tempura and a small
clay pot of sake slightly warmed-perfect. That night I tried
to explain that we needed a taxi at 6 a.m. to start our trip
back home to England. We both very happy and would like to
return one day.