|This was the day we’d come to Japan for. It was Lisa’s 40th and we were heading to Mashiko. She was interested in visiting the famous pottery town that was home to some of her favorite potters. Among these was Shoji Hamada, father of the “Mingei” craft movement. I had arranged for a tour of Hamada’s compound led by his Grandson Tomoo (an famous potter himself).
We were met at Utsunomiya station by a guide named Nobuko Uzuka. We caught a bus to a post office outside Mashiko town. There we were met by Harvey Young, an American potter who’s called Japan home for about 40 years. His home, kiln and workshop were severely damaged by the Tohoku earthquake but he welcomed us to his lovely garden. We had coffee and cake with his wife and looked at whatever work hadn’t been destroyed.
Harvey agreed to join us for lunch at a nearby soba restaurant before our appointment with Hamada-san. I know Lisa was a little nervous about meeting Tomoo but Nobuko seemed even more nervous about getting us there on time.
At the Mashiko Reference Collection we were given a tour of Shoji Hamada's studio and guest house. The interior had an interesting mix of eastern and western furnishings that reflected his travels.
The compound was quite large but much of it had been damaged by the earthquake. Two of the wood fired kilns had collapsed and priceless artwork had been destroyed
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Hamada-san seemed very solemn. Nevertheless he surprised Lisa a birthday gift from his workshop.
I personally was most impressed by our next stop, the kiln of Shosaku Akashi. Nobuko had met him on several occasions and thought we might like to see his work. He had been an apprentice to Shoji Hamada but has a unique style blending several decorating techniques.
We were blown away not just by his work but by his incredible generosity. He gave Lisa some videos and catalogs and he let us each pick a cup to take home. He even drove us downtown to catch the bus home.
As it turned out we didn't end up needing the bus either. While we were waiting for it Nobuko and Lisa went to an indigo dying workshop. One of the employees offered to drive us to the train station (over an hour away)!
Special thanks to Explore Japanese Ceramics for arranging the meeting with Tomo Hamada http://www.explorejapaneseceramics.com/
To Learn more about Harvey Young's Pottery please visit http://www.harveyyoungpottery.com/english/