Yesterday was the Hagakure Kenkyukai tea gathering conducted by my Ocha (tea ceremony) teacher’s mother (Ogura Sensei), who is also a tea teacher. My teacher, Kawakami Sensei, is shown at left in the picture (pink kimono), sitting on the stool waiting for the tea to be prepared. She’ll then pick up the bowl and take it to a guest, and receive the bowl after the guest is finished drinking. Ogura sensei is shown on the right, in the rear, wearing a light green kimono.
This form of the tea ceremony is called ‘ryurei’, and is conducted at a table, sitting on a stool or in a chair. Much easier on the knees…
Here is my Ocha sempai, Kuroiwa san, preparing tea for guests. Here, he’s finished putting in the tea and is adding water. He will then whisk it into a froth. The tea bowl was interesting, a pink Hagi bowl incised with many designs on the outside surface, and slightly oval. I was very surprised at the mizusashi. Just looking at it, is seems to be lacquerware, but when you pick up the lid you realize it is porcelain. It had this huge flaring rim, and the lid was actually only about 4 inches across, sitting down in the center. Not my taste as far as ceramics go, but quite impressive in itself. I didn’t inquire what it was worth…
I was only able to stay for the first hour or so of the event. I had to get back home because we had a local festival happening and all the grade school kids (including mine) were participating. After that was finished we had a big yakiniku (barbeque) party for the Shorinji Kenpo group (my boys and I are members) and for the Shishimai (Chinese Lion Dance) group, which my next door neighbor runs.
And here’s where the post finally has to do with pottery: One of the guys (Izumi san) who is a musician for the lion dance group turned out to be and old friend and drinking buddy of Okamoto Sakurei, the Karatsu potter who I’ve had a chance to visit a few times recently.The funny thing is, he had no idea how famous Okamota san is as a potter. He’s one of the top Karatsu artists currently, and his ware sells for big bucks. When I told Izumi san that Okamoto san was one of my pottery ‘heroes’, he just gave me a funny ‘what the hell for?’ sort of look. I’m not surprised he didn’t know of his fame, as Okamoto san seems to be quite down to earth and doesn’t toot his own horn all that much. If time allows, I’d like to take a group of interested folks up the mountain to visit Okamoto san during our kiln building workshop next fall.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that Isumi san and I will be going out next Saturday to dig Jinenjo, which are these long thin tubers that grow up in the mountains. They are a big pain in the butt to dig up, but are really yummy. Some people are really good at finding and digging them up, and sell them. A good Jinenjo can go for $60 or $70 bucks.
Here’s a page with some pictures of Okamoto san’s work: