Tuesday, 5 April 2016

I have long wanted to visit the Snow Monkey Park (Jigokudani Hot Springs) in Nagano to see the Macaque monkeys. We were probably a little late in the season as there was no snow but it was an opportunity that might not arise again any time soon. So we took the Shinkansen from Tokyo, then a bus then a 45 minute walk up a muddy mountain path to reach the hot springs and the monkeys. It was worth the effort, however, because we were rewarded with scenes of these adorable animals playing together, grooming each other and soaking in the hot water.

And now for our Fukui experience. We arrived there mid morning, dropped off our luggage at the hotel and took a taxi to drive us to the Sogetsu kiln, about a 45 minutes trip.

At the kiln, we were welcomed by Masumi Kishimoto San. She asked me what kind of container I wanted to make but I only had a vague idea. So I explained using a lot of hand gestures and Kishimoto San asked me to draw my ideas. One of my designs was very geometric and required an accurate template to be made out of cardboard before cutting it out of clay.  This is where my dressmaking skills came in very handy.

My second container was less structured but I was grateful for Kishimoto san's expertise and guidance because I was too hesitant to squash my clay to achieve the desired effect.

At the kiln I felt that I was walking on Sogetsu hallowed ground.  There is a small garden, still in its winter bareness between the kiln and the residence and when I commented on how pretty it was, Kishimoto San told us that it was designed by former Iemoto Hiroshi Teshigahara. And the residence is used by current Iemoto when she visits the kiln.

The photograph below is of Hiroshi's kiln.

The bronze sculpture, below, nestled in the font garden is one of Sofu's.

Masumi Kishimoto San, who is in charge of the kiln, had been Hiroshi's assistant for 16 years and, very proudly, showed me one of his picture books. She also pointed out that the table I was working on was Hiroshi's table.

I worked happily for over three hours. I made two containers with Kishimoto San's patient and knowledgeable assistance, which made the experience a truly enjoyable one.

Once my containers have dried, they will be fired and glazed, in the Echizan style, then fired again, then sent to me. It will take about three months but I'm prepared to wait.

Sam, who waited very patiently, and I were offered tea and biscuits and left there, in the drizzling rain, feeling quite elated. I could easily have spent a week in that kiln playing with clay.

This is the last post from Japan because, sadly, we are leaving tomorrow morning for home.

Sayonara until next time,

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