Sake, Clay and a Lotus Blossom

LZ and I were invited to go with our friends the Aoki to their friend’s house in Wakayama. This couple in the mountains of Wakayama are professional potters. One of the things I wanted to do here in Japan was some ceramics. Aoki Sensei had promised us to go visit this couple, finally the time arrived. There were to be I heard about 12 people there, so it was a small party.
From Osaka to the mountain house it was about a two hours ride. I was all eyes watching the countryside. We made our way through the valley and up the mountain, with a small stop at a roadside veggie stand.
Once at the home of the potters we took in the sights. There was a great view of the valley below. There were lots and lots of pots around. It reminded me of another time we visited a potter village near Kyoto. 
Anyway this home was amazing, a couple of studios, four wood burning kilns, a little outside patio. A bathhouse with a fire heated bath was being built by a guy who is traveling around Japan via motorcycle doing odd jobs.
There is also an outside kitchen.
The house itself was self-built by the owner and his friends. It was quite interesting, beams and support post where whole tree trunks and branches left intact and placed in use.
A small pond was in front of the house, with the largest lotus flower in bloom I have ever seen! I did not know they grew so big.
We walked around and took in the misc sights. A garden, plums which had been picked drying in baskets, stacks and stacks of wood, shelves and shelves of ceramics. Great vistas!
After a short while it was time for lunch. We all gather at the table. What a spread it was! Food, food, food and a large bowl of Sake that kept being refilled. We ate drank and laughed.
Afterward, Aoki Sensei made Macha. He brought his tea set along. It was quite good.
I was asked several times to play something on the piano. I was very hesitant, not feeling ready. Something small, something small pushed Misako-san, Yoh Sensei wife. Ok I finally said. I did want to play a bit on a real piano not my electric one. Played, improvised some on some blues changes. No one seem to notice, or care, they were busy talking. So I started just playing for me. It was starting to get into it as it was starting to sound to me pretty good, considering my small skills and I am a hard judge on myself. A short bit later LZ calls me to come over and get a gift from another visitor. He was from Tokyo, here on a buying trip for his new noodle restaurant. He did some painting, inks and gave out a few. He said they were nothing special, I found a couple that were appealing.
Whilst handing out the inks, he stopped and thanked me for playing and mentioned it to the others. As a Jazz lover he was really the only one I think appreciated my efforts. That helped my spirit some, still, I made a mental note not to do that again. I am pretty sensitive about performing.
After all of that was done, we were told we would go make some pottery items. Now I was really pleased. I did not expect this. We were given a block of clay and everyone did something. We did not use the wheel, that takes some skill and can be messy. Everyone did hand formed works, even LZ get in on the action. Misc items were produced. I did a couple of pinch pot designs, even though I had said I did some ceramic work in the states, most seemed surprised. 
They were really impressed when I quickly did a tori lamp. once I got started I wished I had more time to refine it. It was done very quickly after I did a couple of other things, like Incense holders. It came to me to do this lamp. It was quite rough in my eyes, but everyone was more impressed with that than my not their style piano work. I could never be a street musician playing for people that are mostly not interested.
Once everyone finished with their pieces they were left to dry. The owner will fire them at some point. I am curious how the my pieces will turn out. I am sure it will be a long while before I see the end results. The lamp is for my garden. I am redesigning a part of it. Since we have the a/c unit fan now I can not have plants or the planned Kung Fu training unit in front of the now A/C fan.
After the pottery break we did some more sight-seeing on the property. I walked around looking more at details now. The art in the garden, the pond, which had not only carp but a bunch of frogs. Soon it was time for dinner.
Once again we gathered at the table and agin the spread of food was laid out. Oishii! There were some homemade pickles from cukes and eggplant with the best flavor I had tasted! Also again more sake flowed.
After eating it was time for us to leave. The Aoki’s had decided to stay the night. The guy from Tokyo offered to gives us a ride to the train station as he and his assistant were going to stay at a local inn. That was appreciated. LZ and I both napped on the ride to the station after so much Sake. I had noted during the meal that his assistant, the driver did not drink much. A good thing as the road was quite curvy down the mountainside.
This was our first Japanese dinner party, ( full pictures can be viewed here) it was quite enjoyable to be around artsy people again. It is also interesting the difference in being around visual artist compared to musical artist. I can not explain it. Perhaps because visual artist surround the, selves more with it in their environment. Anyway, it was an enjoyable visit to the mountain. This is the couple’s website.

One thought on “Sake, Clay and a Lotus Blossom

  1. This is an excellent post! Can’t wait to share it. We went to Wakayama-ken in 2010 and really enjoyed ourselves. How cool to visit a potter and get to “throw some clay”. Sorry if your music was under-appreciated, but the joy in the playing, ne? (Well, OK, it’s definitely nice to be appreciated!)

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