Tea with a Ceramic master

14 03 2007

Day III- Tea with a Ceramic Master

(click on photos to see larger image)

It is Monday and we are up fairly early for another trip. Sister makes us breakfast. Her and lady Z have a western styletemple city breakfast with toast and jam it is there custom, lerned from there mothr who loves western style breakfast. Brother and I have Japanese style breakfast, fish, rice, plum, green tea.
We prepare for a cold day reported by the weather report. We load up the car and head off to the mountains. The destination is Shigaraki. We drive through some unseen parts of Japan for me. Out of the city and up through some mountain roads. Some interesting country views and winding roads. I am told we are stopping at the A World Heritage. This turns out to a 1,000 yr temple1Thousand Year old Temple “Byodoin“. Amazing to imagine a place around built a thousand years ago! It’s image is on one of the Japanese currencies. It is an eye full and I take a bunch of pictures. It is lucky that it is Monday otherwise it would have been very crowded. However the whole area would have been enhanced if the flowers were in bloom, which would have also made it a lot more crowed. So it is all a trade off. It was still a incredible place, the lake, the scale, the vibe.1,00 yr temple 2 Inside off the museum we were shown a video of what was thought to be the original colors and designs. Many of the inside carvings were placed inside behind glass in controlled space and were on display with no photos or drawings allowed. I understood the no photos but not the no drawings. Oh well. It was enough to see them, the memory (hopfully) will stay.

We walk around a bit, including past the headquarters of Shorinryu Kempo ( Shaolin kung fu ) in the Area or Osaka I’m not sure which.
It was closed so could not go inside to check out what the deal was, bummer!

green teaOff to see the ceramics. Another 45min or so puts us in the town, after driving past what I find out later are fields of green tea. The rows cover sides of hills, through most of the areas where there is no tree growth. Rows and rows of tea. It also turns out that this area is know for this special green tea. I could not figure what they were, There was not miles and miles of it like farmland here in the states, but more like little or large home gardens, but almost everywhere around each bend in the road.

We arrive at the town


We head down a few small streets and arrive at a place, a center complex that has ceramics everywhere! Large, small and everything between amazing. We wander a bit and end up a one shop and enter. It turns out it is not the starting place and we are given a map. However since were there we figure to look around a bit. The gentleman who helps us, sits down at a hanging tea kettle and starts talking. Saying he has been to S.F. and a few other places and starts dipping out hot water from this old iron pot over a old style pit fireplace and invites us to sit for tea. He serves us this very complex tasting green tea bitter but flavorful and starts telling us about himself. the master n meTurns out he is the Master of the whole complex, Sojyu Ueda Sensei. He was invited to be a judge at a Japan ceramic show. He has been on National TV many times, and is quite famous in Japan ceramic circles. If I had knew we were going to meet with the master I would have prepared some questions. shucks!
They tell him I am doing ceramics and he asks me a few questions about what I make, what type of firing I use and other things. I could not understand hardly anything, it was good the family was there to translate. He did not speak any English, and for some reason, my ears were not working well , so even words that I knew did not register. Duh!
After he asked me did I have any questions, and I finally got it ( duh) I asked,
Q; How long have you been doing this?

A: 75yrs he says. He is now 80 something. He started when he was 15.

masters work

Q: Who was your teacher?

A: He learned from his family. Just getting the basics, after that he developed his style, and he made a great of the main display pieces.

the masters work 2

Q: What type of wheel do you use?

A: These days and electric wheel. back in the day it was a manual wheel which had to be turned. It seemed like he was saying by hand.
Q: What type of firing do you do, Gas, wood, electric?

A: It is all done with wood.

He went to look for a write up in English for me and found one. We were told were to go to start the walking tour, with instructions not to speak to the workers. So we start on our way.
We walk past the largest wood ground build Kiln in Japan. We were not allowed to take pictures ( I got one before the sign was read, oops), and usually folks were not allowed to watch the loading method they used, but we were granted access even while that was happening. This Kiln was huge and had many loading doors, we walked upstairs past several doors and up several levels, think a two story building oven.


We were told the firing is done for 7 days, before the pieces are done. Following the arrows around the complex which went up and down several buildings where ceramic & clay were handled at various stages of production. After walking for some 30 minutes in and out of multiple buildings, we came to the end of the complex and saw a single smaller hole oven, built of bricks and into the ground. this was not currently being loaded, so I was able to get a picture. Although it turned out not to be a good one.

You will notice in the picture there is this weasel looking creature that there are many statues of. It is the famous badger of the area. Supposedly a creature of good luck . It is shown with a sake bottle and a note book. legend has it it begs for Sake and makes note of who it owns payment to on this book, however it pays with leaves, which it thinks is money.

LunchTime to head home. we stop at a very small noodle shop for something to eat. Inside we say the meal is good, but once in the car, Only Lady Zen says she really enjoyed hers, myself and the others say it was only a so so meal, only average.

A quick trip back to the city and we are home again for the evening another interesting and turns out special encounter with another Master.
How lucky is that!!?

Note : I will be posting more pictures of all this and other stuff , little by littel on my Flickr account if interested:

Zen photo’s




One response

14 03 2007

Fascinating place, Shigaraki. Some of the pots are huge! We were travelling through – changed from public bus to train back to Kyoto – but the person we were with had lived there for a while, and his friend was an apprentice to a master potter. He was knowledgeable about the pottery – style and method – but it was lost on me. I wouldnt have wanted to go around the tourist traps with the tanuki outside in their hundreds – but the bus turned around outside a museum cum pottery at the top of a hill outside the town. It was very quiet in November.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: