Anyone who has traveled understands the necessary planning that is involved especially when visiting appointments are arranged prior to the trip. Having made a number of trips to Japan during the 90's, the itinerary is almost as important as the plane tickets. For us, our plans included special landmarks, castles, temples, gardens, museums and of course pottery destinations and individual potters. Seeing Osaka castle, the Kiyomizu-dera, Daitokuji, Ryoanji and numerous other sites was woven into our plans to visit with potters from Kyoto, Shigaraki, Iga, Mino, Bizen and Hagi. Normally we would make plans to meet with 6 to 8 potters on our trek and possibly met a few others along the way by serendipity, like when I walked into an exhibit and got to meet Suzuki Osamu! Though collecting pots is wonderful, our trips were about seeing great cultural landmarks, museums, enjoying some great food and experiencing pottery at the very source. A well planned trip yields a decade's worth of experiences.
Recently, a fellow collector from New England, who I have gotten to know over the internet, made a well planned trip to Japan with the major focus of meeting with and seeing pottery in a variety of locales. His trek, almost epic in nature, was all planned with the help of a wonderful native Japanese dealer showing what can be done by a motivated collector in the internet age. Having a predilection for wood fired pottery, his trip brought him to Bizen where he meet with Isezaki Jun & Koichiro, Kaneshige Kosuke, Kaneshige Junpei and Donna Gilliss who studied with Isezaki Jun before setting up her own studio in Bizen. Along with Bizen, he made his way to visit with Shigaraki and Iga potters, which included; Kishimoto Kennin, Kanzaki Shiho, Kohyama Yasuhisa, Furutani Churoku IV, Tanimoto Kei, Okuda Eizan, Sawa Kiyotsugu and one of my personal favorites, Kojima Kenji. Aside from these wood fire locales, the stops included Hori Ichiro, Ajiki Hiro, Higashida Shigemasa, Kato Yasukage XIV, Mihara Ken and Maruyama Touri. The stay was also punctuated by visiting several exhibits including the works of Tanaka Sajiro, Inayoshi Osamu and Uchida Koichi. As you can see, he covered a lot of ground, saw a large number of pots and did it all without going on a pottery tour. Along the way, he also got to enjoy some great food and even brought home a treasure or two for all of the efforts of his well planned trip.
Illustrated is an Iga tsubo, which was collected at the studio/home of Iga veteran, Kojima Kenji. The fierce ferocity and velocity of the firing is frozen onto the surface of this tradtional, yet modern Iga tsubo and the pot can also be seen to scale in the photo of Kojima-san at his home.
(Illustrations courtesy of a private New England collector.)