We spend a bit of time looking closely at the Nabeshima pots on display, and it is true that there is very little texture in the pale blue gosu, natural cobalt ore, background pigment.
We make our way back down the mountain past the noborigama kilns and other pottery workshops and display rooms. As it has been raining for a day or two, the stream is running quite noisily. Our guide, Tsuru san is very knowledgeable about the ceramic history of this area. Born and bred here, she knows more than we can take in.
The water driven clay crushing hammers are working hard, unattended, pounding the soft porcelain stone to powder all through the day and night without a power bill.
The fish seem unperturbed.
From Okawachi, we drive to another interesting site of early Arita porcelain development. We go to visit the re-constructed Korean climbing that is said to be the one used by the originator of the porcelain industry here, Li Sampei or Ri Sam Pei.
Its a magnificent kiln stretching all the way to the top of the hill, with a slight bend in it to suit the lay of the land form, just as the original one did, as excavated by the archeologists.
On our way home, we call in to visit the Rice Field Potters Kiln. Unsurprisingly, it is set in the middle of some rice fields on a gentle side slope. It has also been reconstructed recently from the information gleaned from an archeological dig on the site. This kiln dates from the time when potters didn’t work full time, but fitted their firings into the rhythm of the season along with rice and vegetable farming. They were the original self-reliant potters.
I really love the way that this old kiln wriggles and snakes its way up the slope. If I were a self-reliant, wood-firing gardener/potter, I’d love to own a kiln like this one. Come to think of it. I am, and I do!
Both of these kilns were built with dog-legs in them to follow the natural surface contours of the local terrain. They are both used intermittently by the local potters groups to keep them working and alive.
It’s been a long day and we have just enough energy left to visit the local sake brewery for a tasting. I can’t decide which one is best, so I am forced to taste them all before I can decide. A total lack of knowledge about sake can be an advantage sometimes?
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