I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Pottery - Mino 美濃焼

While I have many stories to tell of the winter vacation and all of my visitors––Katie, mom, and Becca all made the long journey over here for everyone's (ironically) first Japanese Christmas––I have little time at the moment so I'm just going to post a snippet of some of the new pottery I've collected during the past month.

Mino (modern day southern Gifu Prefecture) pottery came into the spotlight during the Momoyama Era (1568-1603). Oda Nobunaga, leader of the neighboring Owari Country (Province), allowed "chajin" (tea lovers) to continue their art of making ceramics to be used in tea ceremony. While wars were going on around the Mino Province Despite, especially in Nobunaga's home district of Owari, potters we protected from the fighting and threw themselves into developing some of the best chawans (tea bowls), hanaire (flower holders for ikebana, and also pivotal to tea ceremony), mizusashi (water jars) at the time. (Despite having a soft spot for the Japanese traditional arts, Nobunaga was ruthless when facing his enemies––he raged total warfare on many of his enemies, killing civilians and samurai indiscriminately, and he even torched the home of Tendai Buddhism on Mt. Hiei when he learned Tendai priests were supporting his foes, a fire that killed between 3-4,000 people.)

Mino-yaki (pottery) is well known for it's colorful variety of glazes: mainly yellow (kiseto), black (kuroseto), green and dark bronze (oribe), and white (shino). Below are the pieces I acquired on my recent trip to Tajimi (along with Toki make up the current home of Mino-yaki).

Oribe was originated by Furuta Oribe, after whom the style of Mino-yaki is named. During the Momoyama period Oribe pursued lives both as a ruling daimyo (feudal lord) and a "chajin". He was well known for his highly imaginative topsy-turvy style that broke from the traditional cannon of shapes used in tea ceremony. His creations lacked a center of gravity, balance, and a clearly defined front face (omote, which is usually important in tea bowls).

Left: an iron-glaze oribe tea bowl; Right: A green (often called simply oribe) glaze oribe tea bowl. I really liked the contrast of these two colors, so I couldn't stand to see them separated.

A black glaze oribe. You can see how the mouth of the tea bowl is distorted––a signiture of Furuta Oribe expressing playful anarchy in the company of sophisticated tea ceremony practice that has been handed down for over 1000 years in Japan.

Kiseto was thought to have been an attempt to recreate Korean celedon that went horribly right. The creation of this soft-yellow glaze became a hallmark of Mino-yaki, even though its name derives from a neighboring kiln, Seto (one of the other 6 ancient kilns of Japan along with Tanba, Shigaraki, Echizen, Tokoname, and Bizen). Seto had prospered before Mino, and would again later during the Edo period, but during the fighting of the Momoyama Era many of Seto's most prized potters took refuge just 30km over the mountains in Mino and continued to hone their skills until their were ensured safety back home.
kyusu: teapot

Shino: A white feldspar galze that turns red when fired.
This one is actually called nezumi shino––nezumi means mouse, but it doubles as a word for the color gray.


Post a Comment

<< Home