February, 2008

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by Harumi Okochi.
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Pottery of Sorrow

 In the suburbs of Karatsu, there is a small town called Nagoya. This is the fort and the port from which Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent out his lords and worriers to invade China and Korea in the 16th century.
As for this war, the Wikipedia tells us as below:

Two Japanese invasions of Korea and subsequent battles on the Korean peninsula took place during the years 1592-1598. Toyotomi Hideyoshi led the newly unified Japan into the first invasion (1592-1593) with the professed goal of conquering Korea, the Jurchens, Ming Dynasty China, and India. The second invasion (1594-1596) had no lofty goal of world conquest and was aimed rather solely as a retaliatory offensive against the Koreans. The invasions are also known as Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea, the Seven Year War (in reference to its span) and the Imjin War (in reference to the "Imjin" year of the sexagenary cycle in Korean). The Japanese name of the war means, "Joseon Campaign"; and the Chinese, "the Eastern Pacification".

The seven years of the war wasted the land of Korea. Human damage was so big too. Japanese lords captivated Korean potters by thousands and brought them back. It was pottery's dawn in Japan, and it meant also pottery's death in Korea.
Here in Karatsu, and in Kagoshima (Satsuma), Fukuoka (Takatori), Yamaguchi (Hagi) and some other places, the captured Korean potters made pots for the feudal lords.
From Karatsu, some potters including Yi Sam-Pyong moved to Arita and Imari later.
Here again, please read the explanation of Wikipedia.

The first production of porcelain (Arita) in Japan began in 1616 at the town of Imari when a Korean potter called Yi Sam-pyong discovered kaolin-rich clay. As Korean pottery was highly prized in Japan, many Japanese lords established pottery-producing kilns with the captured Korean potters in Kyushu and other parts of Japan, and these communities were forced to maintain their Korean traditions and to keep away from the rest of the society.

In Arita, Korean potters together with Japanese potters produced new porcelain, and the beauty quickly overwhelmed the former pottery including Karatsu. Saga Lord made much money by selling these products.
Potters were segregated, because the secrets of the porcelain-making might be stolen by the spies from other districts, or, the potters might flee from the place.

In Imari City, there is a mountain called Okawachi-Yama. Here lived the potters, strictly watched and guarded, who made beautiful porcelain.
The porcelain they made was beautiful, because it was born from the sorrow of the people who lost their homeland.

In January, 2008, I took a short trip to this Okawachi-Yama, almost an hour's drive frpom Karatsu.
This district has flourished for 400 years and still is an authentic pottery village.
I hope you will visit this place on my web-page.

Viewing the tombs of the potter's families.
The bridge, crossing it, you wander into the old pottery village.
A small park over the bridge
Tomb-stones of the unknown Korean potters
The explanation for the above
Our Korean friends went together.
A kiln site
Water is used to pound the clay.
Wind-bells ring to tell the guests are visiting.
Small river through the village
One of the big kilns
Shops are on the both sides of the slope
Plate made in Okawachi-Yama

Wars always destroy human welfare. They also crush down the long-cherished culture and art. But still, from the bottom of the despair, a strong will makes its way to the surface, and blooms like a lotus flower, so pure and heavenly, above the muddy water. The pottery of sorrow blooms here.

Thank you so much for your company on my trip to Okawachi-Yama.
I hope I will see you next month again.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

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