It’s Golden Week in Japan, and you see the flag displayed on the streets more than usual. Yesterday was Constitution Memorial Day, commemorating the adoption of the constitution imposed by the US occupation after World War II. Mostly I think Japanese aren’t thinking anything about the meaning of the holiday or of national identity.
Except for this senior citizen on Omotesando, the Sunday of the Rainbow Parade last week. Maybe a reader knows which national sports uniform he’s wearing? The giraffe like flag pole and the hard hat make his national pride compete with any teenage look. For the record, I don’t think he had any idea that it was Rainbow Parade day.
Lastly, I wonder what the school children think when they see senior citizens walking by in outrageous costume? Does it secretly give them hope that one day they, too, will allow their self-expression to blossom?
Over the Golden Week holiday (May 1 to May 5), I am going with the ceramics senseis and some students to a small town in Shizuoka to make bizen pottery in a wood-fired kiln that will be heated for five days. We will take turns staying up all night to keep the fire lit.
Bizen pottery is very special. It is the oldest form of Japanese pottery, and can only be done in special kilns. Bizen uses no glaze, but instead organic materials like rice straw and pine ash placed on the ceramics produce red and brown markings and spots. The effects are often unpredictable, and they are called “yohen” or kiln accidents.
Here’s two examples of fine bizen: Okayama website, the town that is its original home. And Sachiko Torok’s work, an artist in Bizen.
My first pieces include the four vases above, modeled on the one on the right. My line is still not very good, but I like the trick of turning a round shape into a twisted five-sided shape. I also made four rectangle plates, ten tiny bowls, and five vases that include ceramic lattices for arranging flowers. Two of the lattices are in the shape of steep inverted bowls that sit on top of shallow bowls; three are flat lattices that sit on cylinders and an octagon.
I am curious how they’ll turn out in the oven. We are leaving two weeks from today, and I may make a few more pieces before we go. I’ll post more pictures from the trip and the finished results.
Apparently the bizen town we are going to is super small, and I was warned that there would be no internet. Fortunately one of the students has a nation-wide mobile internet provider for his laptop. I also confirmed with the senseis that while the town is small, they are well stocked with conbinis (convenience stores).