Ceramic Pleasures

If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics.  Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied. 

This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s.  I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics.  It was one of those aha! moments.  I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand.  I was hooked, astounded, excited.  This was new territory for me.

I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist.  How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign.  Follow your bliss, if you remember that!  I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college.  I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances.  End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair. Continue reading “Ceramic Pleasures”

Traveling with Robert

There’s always something wonderful waiting at the end of the drive when you’re lucky enough to join Robert Yellin on a visit to a few potters.

buddies!

I met Robert many years ago when he helped to guide tour groups to ceramic areas. We’ve remained friends, and each time we visit Kyoto,I look forward to meeting up with Robert. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call him one of the country’s leading authorities on contemporary Japanese ceramics. He runs a wonderful gallery in Kyoto close to the Philosophers Walk.  I believe anyone serious about contemporary Japanese ceramics should/must visit. It’s always a showcase for both established and emerging potters. Robert easily shares his passion and seemingly limitless knowledge of ceramics with his visitors.

This visit, he drove us to the ancient pottery area of Tamba. The potters he visits are overjoyed to see him and that is part of the fun. I enjoy seeing the work of each potter in her/his own gallery, as they chose to display it. There are always an abundance of riches to savor, admire  (and occasionally purchase!) Continue reading “Traveling with Robert”

The Foodie’s Heaven

Almost from the moment we set foot in Kyoto, my foodie husband is scouting for new restaurants in our neighborhood that have opened in our absence.  As hyped as I am to be sure to see the most intriguing gardens, sublime temples, cool museums and Japanese design shops, he’s on the edge of his seat to reconnect with the wonders and satisfaction of eating Japanese cuisine. He’s always on alert for the next culinary attraction. It could be a new sake bar, french bakery, izakaya, ramen, soba, steak place or hamburger spot. As long as it looks promising, my husband is eager to try it.  We have our food work cut out for us, and I’ve learned not to resist.  I simply try them all and go along for the great ride he pulls together and congratulate him on his finds.

If the place looks complicated, he likes to see if they have an English menu available. Given one, he’ll then bemoan the fact that not all of the items available in the restaurant are represented on the English menu. I remind him that there’s no way he could eat all the items even if they were listed, but he always want to see what he might be missing.  I’m always eager to follow along with his trailblazing food-related energy.  By myself, I’d never put in the effort he does.

Restaurants in Japan tend to be smaller than Americans are used to.  Reservations are a must, so the chef knows how much food to buy each day.  Once you understand their system, you respect it.  If you rely on a last minute casual walk up, you’re going to be out of luck for most serious restaurants in Japan.  And it’s remarkable how many restaurants are SERIOUS!  By serious, I mean chefs and underlings studying and honing their specific skills for years, always delivering to the best of their ability, constantly striving for perfection.

Tourists tend to strive to score a rez at a Michelin starred venue, but there’s really no need if it’s just a fine restaurant you want and not another notch in your belt. Continue reading “The Foodie’s Heaven”