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NIPPONIA No.32 March 15, 2005
Pottery: Hands-on Enjoyment
Enter the world of pottery: first you will be fascinated, and then you will want to make something yourself. These pages introduce peoplefrom young women to a former prime ministerwho are following their passion for pottery.
Written by Torikai Shin-ichi, Photos by Nishida Mitsuyoshi and Kono Toshihiko
Clay and fire: Nature brings peace of mind
Hosokawa Morihiro was a politician and even served as prime minister of Japan, but when he turned 60 in 1998 he vanished from the world of politics and began living in quiet retirement, growing vegetables in Yugawara-machi, in a mountain valley in Kanagawa Prefecture. Five years ago, he increased his enjoyment of life by taking up pottery. He says, "Once I decide to start something, I keep at it. That's the way I am."
He persuaded a potter in Nara, whose work he greatly admired, to take him on as a student. He spent the next year and a half traveling back and forth to learn the basic steps, including, of course, throwing clay on the potter's wheel and firing a kiln.
"My main interest is pottery for the tea ceremony. In fact, the only thing I make is bowls used for drinking matcha green tea. Cups and bowls made in other countries are symmetric all around, but traditional Japanese tea bowls are often a little irregular in shape, and they may have scorch marks or some other 'imperfection.' It's important that each bowl have its own personality. That's what makes them fascinating."
Hosokawa is especially drawn to tea bowls from the Momoyama period (late 1500s). "That was the only time pottery had a truly natural, individualistic style. Tea bowls made in those days seem to show the spirit of the time and the emotions too, whether anger, sadness, frustration or whatever. I guess that's what I like the most about Momoyama period pottery."
When he has time he sits in front of his wheel and gets to work making pottery following the Japanese or ancient Korean traditionsmaybe in the Karatsu style, or the Ido, Kohiki or Raku style.
"I find making pottery is a bit like Zen meditation. My mind concentrates on the task at hand, although I can't say I become completely detached from everyday life. When working with forces that have always existed, like clay and fire, I feel reduced to something insignificant, and yet completely at ease with myself."
Hosokawa's atelier has four kilns, and there is always a fire going in one or more of them, producing more tea bowls. He exhibits his work several times a year, and the favorable comments he receives show his new passion has developed into more than just a hobby.