Swanica explores Japan

Friday, April 28, 2006

Harajuku is a well known art and design and fashion center of Tokyo. The main boulevard, Omote-sando, is lined with elegant shops and haute couture.

One of the side streets, the notably Takeshita-dori I walk through every time to go to the Nippon Tougei Club, teem with teenagers on the hunt for the next big thing.

Also, high school girls and boys walk around gazing at the outfits, and wishing they were (perhaps) wearing something else? The boys wear suits with sneakers and the girls really short skirts.

Japenese people are very funny with english and can make the weirdest mistakes in english words and sayings. It just makes you smile. Like a girl wearing a saying on the front of her
t-shirt high up on the right spot:"My is always fresh!"

There are lots of little restaurants, hamburger places (of course Mac Donald's) and sweet pancake corner shops.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

On Saturday, we went with friends to the "Daibutsu", a colossal bronze statue of Amida, the pride and glory of Kamakura at the Kotoku-in temple, (which was swept away by a tidle wave).
It is situated in a sequestered grove.

You enter through a roofed gate, on either side of which the threatening figures of the Nio, or two Diva Kings, keep guard against demons and enemies of this sacred spot.

The bronze statue of Amida Buddha was cast in 1252 A.D. by the sculptors Ono-Goroemon and Tanji-Hisatomo at the request of Miss Inadano-Tsubone and Priest Joko.
The temple, covering this valuable statue, must have been a structure of great beauty and elaboration and suitable proportions; its mighty roof being supported by sixty-three massive pillars of which fifty of the circular stone bases still remain in evidence. In 1498, a tidal wave swept away the great Kotoku-in temple of the Buddha.

The mighty figure has reigned in solitary majesty over the little valley for more than 700 years; where it has successfully resisted the havoc of storms and floods, and through the succeeding centuries has been the object of worship and admiration to countless streams of pilgrims and visitors from all corners of the world.

The statue is 13.35 meters tall/50 feet, and weighs 121 tons.
The face is over 8 feet in lenght. Upon the head are 656 curls, a traditional characteristic of Amida.
The atmosphere around the Daibutsu accentuates its austere majesty and utter aloofness from the unrest and turbulence of this human earth-life. He is a symbol of repose and absolute detachment from the world.

Before the deity is an incense burner and two tall bronze lotus flowers, fifteen feet in height.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Friday night, Adriaan and me, went to the Kabuki-za Theatre in Tokyo.

This is Japanese theatre where the masculine "rough style" is typified by exaggerated movement, makeup, costume and diction. During the Edo Period Kabuki came into existence and reached its peak. The Edo Period (1603 - 1868) was an era of peace and of isolation from the rest of the world. The latter the policy of the ruling Tokuwaga family which provided fifteen generations of shoguns or military dictators. Tokugawa officials banned women from the stage in 1629. Since that time, kabuki has been performed exclusively by men, giving rise to the institution of "onnagata/oyama" male actors who specialise in female roles.

The popular themes are about famous historical accounts and stories of love-suicide. The acting is a combination of dancing and speaking in conventionalised intonation patterns ( sometimes so high-pitched). Kabuki actors are born to the art form, and training begins in childhood.

We saw the "Ise ondo koi no netaba" (the killings at Ise). This play is famous for its classical depiction of a woman who must pretend to reject her lover for his sake and for the beautiful and gruesome dance-like killing scene with a famous sword at the end.
So, you can imagine what love story this is. Then they use also this Japanese string instrument, "Koto", playing one note at a time and tap with blocks during the play when there is tension (or perhaps to wake up the viewers).

The decor was also beautiful and they wore wonderful colorful clothes.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

During the week I go to the Nippon Tougei Club, a pottery school in Harajuku in Tokyo.
I bike to the Kamakura station and then take the train. Last time, it only took me 55 minutes to arrive in Harajuku. There are so many people taking the train. I'm still amazed about the masses of people walking in the stations from one train to another. They walk everywhere, but they wait in neat lines for the trains and step politely aside to first let the people out and then everybody goes in and push and push so everybody fits. Funny contrasts.

I work in 2 different groups and started to make "tebineri", hand pinched "Chawan", teabowls for the "Chaji", tea ceremony.

I use Shigaraki clay, a special clay from the Shiga Prefecture of Japan. Shigaraki Ware is high-fired unglazed ware famous for its ash deposits and distinctive forms. Shigaraki pottery is thought to have begun in the waning years of the Kamakura period (1192-1333). Shigaraki wares were originally daily utensils. Not until the teamasters of the Muromachi (1336-1568) and Momoyama periods (1568-1603) favored these natural wares, did they develop into one's of Japan's important ceramic styles.

The executive director is Naoko Kurihara-san. I work with her.
Their website is: www.tougei-club.com .

The potters room.

The gas and electric kilns.

There is also an authentic "Chashitsu", tearoom, where they
hold "Chaji", tea ceremonies.

Next to the teahouse is the "Tsukubai", stone basin, where the "Teishu", house master, by taking a laddle of water, purifies his hands and mouth before he welcomes his guests.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter morning and I prepared a delicious breakfast with of course some cooked eggs and raisin bread. In the afternoon we went to our friends, Juli and Stuart, where the kids colored eggs and then hid them for eachother in several turns.

It was still raining heavily, but by noon we went out anyway to go watch the "Yabusame", archery on horseback demonstration at the Tsurugoaka Hachimangu shrine and luckily the weather cleared.

The evenement started with a procession of

first the samurai archers, and

the judges with the targets.

The Shogun.

In one run the Samurai had to shoot three targets in a row along a long path.

Preparing his horse to make the run.

There were lots of people, but we were still able to see some nice shots.

The horses ran very fast.

Right on the the target!

It was a wonderful event.
On Saturday, April the 15th, Johan and Joko visited us. It was quite a nice day, but a cold wind was blowing. We had a nice stroll through Kamakura and Adriaan is intrigued by the many beautiful houses and gates.

We walked to the Zeni-arai Benten, coin-washing cavern, that has existed from ancient times. An image of the goddess Benten, encircled by a serpent, is installed within a niche; below the goddess a spring apparently wells out of the solid rock. If coins are washed in this deep pool it is an action of good omen. The cave is almost completely enclosed by rocks from which little waterfalls come down and the rocks are covered with moss and ferns.

One of the shrines of the Zeni-arai Benten.

Moss grown rock with ferns and the pond with the well- known big Japanese
karp fish at the Zeni-arai Benten.

Adriaan washing coins in the cave.

In the evening it started to rain heavily and the wind was howling around our 3rd floor room.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We returned to Japan on April the 7th. It was good to be back. The weather was nice; the beds arrived ( 1 for us and 1 for the guests); unpacked the suitcases and still arranged and fixed little things in the house like towel racks or side tables.
We just returned in time for the Kamukura festival, held 1x a year, for 2 weekends.

On Saturday there was a parade in the city in the mainstreet.
And of course we went to the beach.

We also still could enjoy the walkway, the Dankatsura, lined with cherry trees approaching the big Tsurugoaka Hachimangu shrine. The cherry, as Japanese see it, is a felicitous symbol but als a reminder of the evanescent beauty of this floating world. Few nations have extracted so much refined pleasure and sadnes from the contemplation of a flower.


I also visted the Kencho-ji Temple with a beautiful dragon painted on the ceiling of the Hatto (Dharma) hall.

Yesterday, I went to the Nippon Tougei club in Harajuku, Tokyo and can start there this Friday. I will start with the making of tea bowls with all the surrounding ceremonies. (Of course!)

Today, I went to the small Kamakura museum and the Kamakurabori museum about the famous, mainly red, lacquer ware. Beautiful and real craftmanship.

A beautiful Japanese entrance of a house

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Back again after a month.
After NCECA my youngest son, Arjan, was home for springbreak and we celebrated his birthday. I prepared the taxes and the 3D show for the Gallery House. The show will run from May 30 - June 24 (www.galleryhouse2.com).
I still have to update my website: www.swanceramics.com.

I used very coarse thermal shock resistant white clay for this work, because when the glaze firing cools down, I take it red hot out of the kiln and fume it with ferric chloride. This gives the iridescent shine.

Some pictures of my work:

Fumed "Hat Bowl", 8" x 8"

Fumed "Landscape
Impressions", 19" x 9"

Fumed "Waterfall Plate",
14" x 1"
Fumed "Long Neck Vase",
2" x 1"
Fumed "Pod Vase", 11" x 6"

See you at the next blog, about my return in Kamakura!