Saturday, 9-27-08

Todays topic didn’t have a specific focus. It was wide ranging and included a number of side streets that were very interesting.

The main area of focus was the Goki teabowl pictured. I didn’t realize how old it was until I got back home and looked over my notes and looked up some dates. The bowl I was served tea in had some interesting points brought out regarding teabowls and usage. I asked if the Kizaemon Ido bowl had a tall  foot since a short foot is a characteristic of Ido, tall of Goki.  Of course not having a certain trait wouldn’t mean something would be excluded from a certain group but I was asked the question and thought I would ask in turn. The antique owners answer was yes it has a high foot and then with out pausing went on to say it was a tired bowl. I was with my wife and so the flow of the lecture/conversation was very different than when I go alone. The word tired in the context of an inanimate object confused me a little. Did he mean he was tired of looking at it or that it had fallen out of fashion? He, his  name is Furuya, then went on to say the skin is flaky, rough, desiccated. The Japanese word is kasakasa. He said “hifu wa kasakasa”. The word hifu is skin. Mr. Furuya then went on to say the bowl, the Kizaemon, hasn’t been used for tea for over a hundred years or so. Now, I am not from Missouri but I do have a strong DNA bias of the show me type. One thing I have learned in Japan is to not be so rejecting of the more, to show my bias, fantastic claims. Take for example bancha, the second cutting of tea that looks like cheap marijuana. I first came in contact with it about 8 years ago when we moved to our current land, land that when we bought it was a tea field. The area surrounding it is still tea fields. I would get a five kilo gift of bancha every year that I didn’t know what to do with. At the time I was heavily into coffee and was buying it from a company in California. A couple of years passed and I decided to drink what was most readily available. I had heard how healthy it is and how it is given to patients in the hospital etc etc. Well, I have only been sick once or twice since starting to drink it.

Back to the teabowl. Mr. Furuya then disappeared into the back and came back out with tea, one served  in the bowl marked the Goki #2 in the pictures. He then went on to tell how when that bowl came to him it was in very poor condition, he didn’t know what to do with it, how he could help it since the skin was in very poor condition. I would like to note how anthropomorphic the whole exchange was. The bowl wasn’t bought at an antique auction, it came to him. With legs, through the front door. He didn’t appraise its value and its worth, he asked what he could do with it, how he could help it. He went on that he had been using it for the last five years or so; the feeling I got through out is how either the bowl was being readied for re-sale or it had become an old friend. The Goki #2 is newer than Goki #1. Much cheaper too although I couldn’t ask him to put a price on his friendships.

The talk then moved to the sourthern part of Korea to a place named Koshin. Koshin is a city in the far south of Korea. It was a ceramic center from way back, at least from the Chinese Ei era. I can’t find Ei dates so can’t say much. The shards pictured are roughly from that era. It is safe to say Koshin was a ceramic center from  at least the Korai, Goryeo era, 918-1392. It is really in the country, far from any good transportation links. It is in this area that Mr. Furuya is in his element. He has spent the last 25 years or so researching in the field and in Japan trying to find kilns that made Ido bowls in this area. The area sent the ware to Seoul via ship. The finished ware would be transported straight south to the closest port and then around the coast to Seoul. This port happens to be very close to Japan. About an hour from Ikitsushima, close to  Tsushima. The village of Ikitsushima sent 50,000 goku of rice to the Bakufu government before starting to do cross straight trade with Korea. A *koku* of rice weighs about 150 kilograms (23.6
stone or 330 pounds). Many thanks to Eric Messersmith for that information.  It started trading with the village of Koshin and was able to expand its economy to 150,000 goku. That is a significant expansion.  Ikitsushima sent samurai over to buy bowls. I heard a number of 700,000 bowls for 70 years. That would equal 49 million bowls. Lets say they were not only bowls. Pottery in general and lets further guess, remember my bias, that the numbers were inflated by 100%. That still makes 24 and a half million bowls. Here is the problem. There are none of these extant.  The village went broke at a later time and decided to sell the records of this trade to the central Japanese government. They got 8 million or so dollars for the records which were deemed an important cultural or national treasure.  But the pottery from the area of Koshin isn’t to be found. I haven’t read up on that aspect but if it is true I am sure there are a lot of serious hobbyists spending their summer vacations searching for troves of pottery.

The kilns in that part of Korea are somewhat different from what I had believed. They were somewhere between an anagama and a snake kiln. Kind of a shallow balloon type kiln.

Lastly the name Kato Tokuro came up. I had heard the talk of him from my teacher Naoki Kawabuchi, whose teacher was Koyama Fujio. For those who know the story I won’t go into it but I will say with friends like Kato one certainly doesn’t need enemies.

Kato Tokuro link at Yellins site.

When you finish reading the article click over to here for a lot on contemporary ceramics. This guy is a runs circles around me in his writing.


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