In August 2009 I bought a guinomi (ぐい吞； sake cup) in Seto, Aichi made by a local potter named Yamaguchi Masato (山口真人). Masato is the sixth generation of a family of potters. Their pottery is named Western Kiln and is located in Akazu, just outside the town of Seto. The cup, named Summer and shown in Fig. 2, below, is glazed with abstract oribe colours of green, orange and beige. The surface texture is rough and the colours are bright. It was the first in a small collection inspired by Steve Naegele. I returned in December and bought a second piece, Autumn.
The morning of December 5th was cool and cloudy as we boarded the Kintetsu train for Nagoya at Saidiaji. I enjoyed a decadent breakfast of curry donut and coffee; my treat as this was my last full day in Japan of this visit.
The train has a camera at the front and screens in the carriages so one could enjoy the views both from the front and windows at the same time. The scenery in the mountains between Yagi and Haibara was spectacular: muted autumn colours and mist-shrouded peaks.
At Nagoya I bought an umbrella for Naoko while transferring trains and we continued the journey to Seto, arriving in the early afternoon. Gone was the eye-burning sunshine of August, replaced with rain which alternated between drizzle and downpour. Calling Western Kiln we found it would be necessary to take a taxi from the train station to their studio. My plans for a photographic essay of the numerous Art Deco bridges of central Seto would have to wait until next time.
Western Kiln consists of three buildings: a cafe and showroom, a Meiji-era house used as a showroom and a studio. We were greeted by Mrs. Yamaguchi (mother of Masato) and taken into the cafe for coffee, conversation and a look at some of the wares. On a table just inside the door I saw a guinomi very similar in style and form, however much more subtly coloured to the one I had purchased last August. I instinctively knew this was the one. The notion of the artist struggling in adversity vanished in the rain as Mrs. Yamaguchi informed us that her son was in the studio watching surfing videos in preparation for an upcoming trip to Hawaii.
After viewing the entire selection, as expected, I settled on the first piece, the subtle oribe guinomi. Naoko gave it to me as a present. Mrs. Yamaguchi drove us back to the train station, showing us the clay quarry which has supplied the region’s potters for hundreds of years along the way.
It was not my intention to acquire a matching set, but when placed beside the original, one could quickly see the similarities and truly appreciate the subtle beauty of the form and colour of the new piece. The green and orange, so prominent in the first are found only in small patches close to the foot; it had captured the colours of a rainy autumn day in Japan.
Despite the differences between the cups I can attest that sake consumed from either is delicious. Kampai!