Sunday, September 13, 2009

Setomono Matsuri

Yesterday, was Sunday and I got up very early to catch a bus for a trip to the city of Seto located in the Aichi Prefecture which is about a 5 hour bus ride from Yokosuka. Each year Seto hosts the Setomono Matsuri on the second weekend in September. Potters from the area line the streets that run along a river that goes through the center of town. We were told that last year 50,000 people from all over Japan came to this 2-day festival. With my suitcase on wheels and bubble wrap, my list of what I’d like to buy, research on the different types of glazes, and Yen in my pocket I was armed and dangerous, ready to fight the masses for those special pieces of pottery out there just waiting for me!

A Little History

Seto became recognized as one of the six “Nihon Rokkoyo” (oldest pottery centers in Japan) during the Kamakura period (1158-1333), and it stood out from the other areas as it was the only area to glaze its pottery. The two particular glazes I was interested in were:

Oribe Ware (Green or Black) - A high-fired ware that originated around 1600. This ceramic style is named after tea master and warrior Furuta Oribe (1545-1615). The pieces have a dark green copper glaze, white slip, underglaze brush work, and use of clear glaze.

Ki-seto Ware (Yellow Seto) - A high-fired ware that originated around the late 1700’s. In particular I was looking for Aburage-de (deep-fried tofu) which is a matte yellow glaze that is applied thickly to a crinkled or semi-rough surface.

Artists and Goodies

Like the other 2 festivals that I have already attended this one was packed. Some booths it was hard to even get up to see what was being sold. I made the circuit once and tried to take note of where the potters were that I liked their wares – but the first thing I realized was that I did not bring enough Yen. Not nearly enough. I was going to have to stick to my list and try to bargain with the artists in order to make my money go as far as possible. I had read in one of the blogs I ran across that you needed to be careful which stalls you bought from – some are nothing more than commercial manufacturers selling their wares, there is no quality control over who gets a stall. Since I have a personal affinity towards supporting fellow artists I was trying to search out those potters that I could clearly

tell were selling their own work. I really loved the pod vase that I purchased – and no, that wasn’t on my list but I couldn’t resist it – I kept think how beautiful some orange cosmos will look coming out of the pod holes. The artist is shown here and he was so nice, spoke very little English but we made it work. His wife is also a potter and made the chopstick holders that I bought. They had 2 very cute little girls running back and forth and when I asked them if they lived in Seto he pulled out a map to show me where they live – they were so very friendly!

The little bowls I purchased for dipping Soy Sauce were from a young potter – I loved her style and wish I had had more Yen with me … she had some lovely bowls for noodles, maybe next year.

The little leaf dishes I believe are in the Ki-seto ware style – with what looks like maybe burlap pressed into the clay for texture. When we have eaten out here in Japan small dishes like this have been used to serve pickles.

The black bowls I bought (shown at the top) intending to use for rice but hope I didn’t insult the artist when I asked “rice?” When I arrived home and looked up the style of bowl I realized they were probably Matcha bowls used for tea - Oh well, no wonder he had an amused expression on his face – it’s a learning process.

For more information on Seto pottery I would recommend going to :

5 More Pottery Centers To Go

Since Seto is one of the 6 Nihon Rokkoyo, it means I have 5 more to discover before we leave Japan. Good thing I have nearly 3 years to work on that one. There is another pottery center north of Tokyo that is supposed to be fabulous – several of us from the trip yesterday are planning to make our way to that area in the near future.

Recommended Reads

I have to add this book to my list: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (He is the Booker Prize-winning author who wrote The Remains of the Day). This book takes place post WWII and is about a celebrated Japanese painter and how memories of the past and the rise of Japanese militarism continue to influence his otherwise quiet retirement. It is well written and certainly continues to expand my education on the culture of Japan.

As always, thanks for taking time out to read my blog and keep up with us on our Japanese Odyssey. Till next time, Sayonara.

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