More, not less, from Japan

The Oil spot potters
We are back ‘home’ in Arita, The Lovely One, The Wafer-thin, Betty Churcher look-a-like channeling Katherine Hepburn, Buffy the Mozzie-Killer, Miss Forgetful and her New Pass Port and I. All of us, find our way with the help of our local guide Miyuri San, to the home and workshop of a potting family who specialise in the making of oil spot tenmoku glazes. We are shown into the family store room where there are hundreds of oil spot glazed pots on display, all in stages of preparation for sale. This family has been here a long time. I can’t be sure exactly how long, but we are talking to the 17th generation of the family and his mother, the wife of the 16th generation, who have been potting on this spot. It is a very nice old range of buildings set around and creating an enclosed sort of garden courtyard with fruit trees and vegetables. The roof of the old main house is still thatched and has a lot of shibui about it. The prices are quite expensive and out of our range, the work is OK, but not especially good, so we only look and admire. I’m amazed when the matriarch leaves the room and returns with a tiny 7cm. oil spot glazed bottle, and presents it too us as a gift!
Tatsuya San
We meet a local potter, Tatsuya San, we have dinner together with Miyuri and a Canadian couple Michael and Judith, who are staying in the attached Guest house, while we are sleeping up stairs in the house’s loft or attic. It’s a good time and we laugh a lot together while preparing a huge shared meal.
Tatsuya San invites us to visit his studio and we spend a bit of time with him. We have tea and he shows us some of his pot collection. He has a very nice tea bowl that he inherited from his father. It is an old Karatsu bowl that had been broken and his father had repaired it with gold in the cracks It’s a ‘cracker’ all right, a really lovely thing. Creamy yellowish and probably oxidised. I can see in his show room that he has made a few attempts to replicate some of the qualities that are apparent on this bowl. I ask if I can buy one of them. He shakes his head, with a long explanation in a regretful tone, but one that I just can’t understand. I can pick out only very few words. I think that the dialect here is different from the ‘normal’ Japanese that I’m more accustomed too. I nod and make it clear that I understand, even though I don’t. Because I think that I do. I know that feeling of wanting to keep close at hand, test pieces that I don’t fully understand as yet. Works in progress that are infuriatingly difficult to really come to grips with. I do it, why shouldn’t he.
At least I think that this is what is happening.
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We get to try some of the local porcelain body made from Amakusa stone. It is slightly plastic, but not too bad. I wedge up a lump of the stuff and it is very floppy to handle, but still hangs together. I couldn’t do this with my milled porcelain stone body. Not unless it had been laid away and aged for a few years. This clay is typically short with all the usual porcelain body characteristics. However, it is plastic enough to throw with and holds its form, but it is very sluggish on the wheel. Janine and I both have a turn at throwing with it. It’s an interesting experience, not unlike throwing my one-stone bai tunse native porcelain body after it has been aged for 5 or 6 years. The difference is that this stuff is used straight from the factory in the town with no ageing.
After we have made our work Tatsuya San demonstrates how it is really done. He’s a very good thrower and is quite used to this material. He uses a lot of different wooden profiles for throwing, as is the accepted method here. I don’t really like to use too many tools. I like the ‘feel’ the clay in my fingers, and I don’t mind the odd finger mark in the work. I’m not a ‘proper’ porcelain potter. I love the irregularity of the human touch. The imperfections of humanity expressed in my work. I’m quite imperfect, there is no point in me pretending otherwise. I feel that my work should reflect honestly who I am. What I think and what I feel. I can’t really see the point of me practicing for ten years to be able to make something almost as well as the machine can already do. I can appreciate the skill that these potters have developed, but it’s not for me. I don’t aspire to that.
I wrote about this a few years ago in an article called “Perfect is the new junk”.
We watch and learn as we are taken on a tour-de-force of Arita throwing skills.  I like Him! He’s good and I have a real respect for him and his work. It helps that he is a really nice person to boot! As we leave the workshop I see that there are loads of blossom falling from the trees next to the driveway. i also notice that he disposes of his shards in a similar way to me.
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IMG_6375Tatsuya San takes us for a coffee at the local ‘organic’ cafe, ‘Hatakenowa’. It is really very quiet and nice in its back-lane location, a lovely ambiance. The young lady who runs it has a very gentle demeanour. We like the feel of this place a lot. The lady tells us that she will be serving lunch here on Saturday. A full vegan lunch. We decide that we will go. We do and it is really good.
Tajima San – The Dusty Miller
The porcelain body that is used here is made locally in the town. We have gone past the factory a few times, as it is along the road to the supermarket. This one-stone porcelain body is made by Mr Tajima, an umpteenth generation porcelain clay body maker. We see piles of the various rocks dumped in the driveway from tipper trucks. These stones look so uncannily like the stone that I collect out in the bush where I live. It has all the same characteristics, even the black sooty mould look on the surface. It has the fracture planes, even the iron staining in the cracks, it’s amazing. I suddenly realise that I’m even a little bit shocked. The hairs on my arms are slightly raised and I have goose bumps. I didn’t expect to see this here.
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We watch as the bobcat loads the stones into the tumbler and washer to get any ‘dirt’ off the surface of the rocks. It is then transferred to the primary jaw crusher. Both of these operations are extremely noisy and I feel that I ought to be wearing ear muffs. We are escorted inside where it is quieter, but only just, as the next operation is to go through the stamping mills, where the gravel from the jaw crusher is pulverised to dust. This is so archaic! These machines must be so old. I can see that they are really worn. They have done a lot of work in their time.
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The next step in the sequence is for the powder to go into the ball mill to be ground. The ball mills are huge, almost walk-in size. It doesn’t escape my attention that there is a pallet of New Zealand China Clay, Halloysite Kaolin next to the scales besides the ball mill! There are a lot of other pallets of dry powdered materials in there too, but all the bags are labeled in Kanji, so I can’t read them. So this is how he gets a freshly crushed hard stone to be so plastic so quickly. I assume that there are bags of bentonite and felspar in there as well?
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Next, the resultant mixture is put into a series of long white troughs of cloudy slip, where the slurry is treated and flocculated, passed through electro-magnets to take out any metal fragments that have been worn off the machinery that it has passed through, then into the filter-presses. The dewatered plastic body is then vacuum pugged a couple of times and finally ends up in plastic bags of what look to be about 15 or 20 kgs.
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I’m told that the stone being used these days no longer comes from the local Arita stone quarry, as it is fully worked out now. There is only a small amount of the white material left and it has already been bought and stock piled by a local pottery family, who make ceramics for the Imperial Family The remaining material in the pit is all iron stained. The ‘amakusa’ stone that they are using these days comes from Amakusa Island way down in the South of Kyushu. The felspar that is being used comes from an island way out in the ocean, further to the South west. It is called ‘Chouseki’, whether this is the name of the island or the stone, I’m not too sure.
It’s been a really interesting tour for me, not least because I’m weird and like this sort of thing. Who else would get so excited about seeing a pile of stones that would make your hairs stand up on end? But because, far from being just plain interesting it’s been very educational. We can’t buy that New Zealand kaolin in Australia. We used to be able to, however, the quarry was bought by a trans-national corporation and they choose not to sell it into Australia, but there it is, freely for sale in Japan. So the secret of Japanese Arita porcelain is actually Aotearoa! The land of the Long White Cloudy slip.
What I find most interesting is that the most workable blends of my bai tunse, native porcelain stone, came from blending with a local kaolin and some felspar that I extracted by froth flotation and blended with white bentonite. This is almost exactly what I have seen today. Same material, the same problems. Worlds apart, a different language, but the same solution!
Today we make the pilgrimage to Kuratsu. Kuratsu is one of those words that congers up images of exotic old tea bowls and other rustic cha-do wares. It is a place with a very long history. Regrettably, the reality is somewhat different. It’s a highly developed modern town, perhaps city is more a more appropriate description. There is a vast discrepancy between the old Karatsu wares and the new city offerings. I was particularly disappointed with the work of the local Cultural Treasure, Potter’s work. It seemed lost and desperately seeking sustenance from any and all sources. There were tenmoku pots, oxidised copper alkaline blue islamic pots, Korean slipped pots, Chinese tri-colour pots, anything but local Karatsu pots. And this was the best of it!  Very weird mixed up stuff. A total loss of identity, or so it seemed to me. Maybe there is an explanation, but none was offered, and I’m too thick to figure it out for myself.
 nice old kiln.
I eventually found a gallery that sold some lovely, simple pots as well as all the other mixed up tourist dross. I bought a very subtle tea bowl, quite small, in the lower range of sizes, in a soft, satiny dry, pink/grey subtle mat surface, quite under fired, but in a really delicate and gentle way. It has a few soft shades of black, white and grey in small highlights in places, which I decide will be the ‘face’. The clay body is yellowish with a soft sandy texture. It is really nice to the touch, in my hands. I ask who made it and the gallery owner writes it down for me on the makers card. I ask to see more from this potter, but alas there is nothing else quite like it in stock. She tells me that this is made by a student of a well known potter and shows me his work as well. I can see the references, but prefer the students tea bowl on this occasion.
I also buy a sake cup in a similar style and shades of colour, but a lot more shiny. It’s a pity that there isn’t a softer, matter one. It turns out that this cup was made by the gallery owners son. She is delighted and quite effusive in telling us this and everyone else in the shop who will listen.
So I don’t know what Karatsu is now, but the older pots in the museums are lovely, a sort of soft, grey muted celadon style. Quite dark and dirty-looking. The body appears to be a grey, vitreous stoneware with low silica content, such that the glaze is very finely and densely crazed.
No-one seems to be doing this style anymore. The modern pots that we saw in the artists studios and the centre of town galleries were so mixed and variable that I can only think that they are desperate for recognition to the extent that they will try anything and everything to stand out and get sales. I’m most likely missing the point, as I most often am. But without the guidance and council of someone more knowledgable. I’m unable to see through the dross and confusion of all the disparate styles. Anyway, whatever the reason, I think that what I have chosen to take home is a subtle example of some lovely understated qualities. Wether or not it is ‘Karatsu’ or not doesn’t matter to me all that much. It’s beautiful. I’m satisfied with that.
The next stop on our ceramic ‘Haje’, is Hagi. We travel by train from Karatsu to Imari, change systems and train to Arita. Change again from local rattler to an express and make our way back up to Hakata/Fukuoka. This is the main Station for Kyushu island and from here we transfer to the Shinkansen to go to Shin-Yamaguchi. It’s only a couple of stops on the Shinkansen express. Outside the Shin-Yamaguchi station we find the bus stop for the trip to Hagi. The bus goes directly over the mountains to Hagi station, on the other side. It takes an hour and a half or so. But is quicker than the local rattler train which goes all around the coast to get here and takes most of the day. We are already booked into the local ‘Royal Intelligence Hotel’ that is located directly at the station, so only a 30 metre walk with our luggage. We booked it before we left. They are expecting us when we arrive, which is nice. We aren’t hard to pick, as the only Gaijin here tonight.
After settling in to our room, we proceed to the tourist information office in the station, to find that the lady there speaks virtually no English, but is very keen to please and to be helpful. We point at the tourist brochures about Hagi-Yaki with some enthusiasm. She responds with a torrent of information that we can’t make head, nor tail of. We thank her and give up. All we want is a map of the town with the potteries and galleries that sell pottery indicated. As there is no-one here today who can translate for us we make our leave, with many domos, enhanced with a few arigatos and the occasional gozaimasu.
We are out on the side walk, deciding which direction to strike out in, when she comes after us, out into the street holding her mobile to her ear and asking us to wait, wait please. So we do and in a few minutes a man appears in a big black car. He is the owner of a very prestigious Tea Wares Gallery in the town centre. He speaks just a few words of English but has a fancy mobile phone with live Google translate. He speaks into the hand set and a moment or two, or three, later, the phone talks to us in English. But only in short sentences. So it takes a few minutes to discover who he is and that he will take us to visit a few of his stable of artists and then to his Gallery. OK, so we are off.
The car is large and expensive. Obviously there is money in Tea Bowls. The seats are huge and plush leather. There is even a small bar in the back for us with a selection of water or cold green tea. We visit a potters studio out on the edge of town. It is a small two story house with a very big shed out the back with a tantalising hint of a noborigama, just visible. But we are soon whisked into the Tearoom/Gallery where the potters wife duly prepares tea for us. We walk around the gallery and see that the prices are very high, to extremely high and a couple are coitusing high. Well for us they are. We can’t afford anything here, so we are a little bit embarrassed not to buy something, but we didn’t ask to be brought here. It’s all a bit of a misunderstanding. We are not well-heeled collectors. Eventually the master potter comes in and we are formally introduced with much ceremony and bowing, with many more domos, enhanced with lots of arigatos and plenty gozaimasus.
There is some small talk amongst themselves. I suppose that they are trying to figure us out. Mr Gallery translates through his phone and we all get a good laugh out of this. Especially as the software suddenly changes into German mode without telling us. We can’t understand any of the words in the Japanese or German part. We look very confused and at a loss to know what to say. I open with “I think that the translation sounds like it is in German” Mr Gallery looks at his handset, does a double take at the screen and looks again. Then he pushes his spectacles up onto his forehead and looks very intently at the screen again. Finally he passes the phone to me to read the text. I confirm that it looks and reads like German text as well. Well, to the best of my ability to tell. He fiddles with the phone and presses a few buttons and suddenly laughs. Yes, of course it is! How did that happen? Or words to that effect. We all laugh and the situation is greatly diffused.
We start again and all goes well this time. He asks if I am a famous potter in Australia. I tell him No. I’m not. Do I know the lady magazine publisher from Australia? I think that he means Janet Mansfield, and I say yes to that, if that is who he means. He nods, it is. She came here and visited him apparently, a few years ago.
We say that she has died recently, and he already knows this. We ask if he knows Paul Davis who worked here a couple of decades ago. He thinks about this a long time. Paul San? From Australia? In Hagi? Yes, Maybe!  A long time ago. He is totally non-committal on this. I feel that there is something that is being left unsaid here, so leave it at that.
As it is obvious that we are not going to buy anything, we are politely ushered out and into the car. We end up at the gallery, where the prices are even higher. I apologize to him for not buying anything, we didn’t expect the prices to be so very high. He very patiently and carefully explains the meaning of the Tea Ceremony in Japanese society and how this is the cream of the cream of Hagi pottery on show here. There are several bowls by National Treasure potters. It is a well known fact that Hagi is number one for tea bowls in Japan, then Raku and third is Karatsu. All the others don’t rate a mention.
It’s a funny thing, but in Kyoto, Raku is well known to be number one, with Hagi second and Karatsu third. But when we were in Karatsu just recently, they told us that Karatsu was clearly the number one choice for tea bowls, with Raku being number two and Hagi only just trailing along at the rear in number three place.
Well I don’t know and I can’t say, but Kato San in Shigaraki conferred with Sagara San and they both agreed that Sen No Rikyu, the first and greatest tea master had set down the order of best tea wares as No1 Raku, No2 Hagi and No3 Karatsu. Shigaraki didn’t get a mention in their version of the story. So I believe them, because they left themselves out. The three on the list all agree on the content of the list, but each of them change the order, putting them selves first. Not a usual Japanese trait, I wouldn’t have thought.
We spend the next day just walking by ourselves around the town. It turns out that there are any number of pottery shops in and around the tourist sector of the town, we visit the castle ruins, the temples and shrines, at least 30 shops. We even buy a few small pots. Not made by famous artists, but lowly local potters with no reputation to uphold, students or beginners perhaps, but they are all very competently thrown and turned and have some nice qualities. I limit my self to paying $30 max, so this limits what I can choose from.
I don’t need an amazingly good Hagi tea bowl, because I already own one, back in Australia. I’m really here to see a few different examples of what ‘Hagi’ has to offer. The Hagi style?, the pink blush style, the white crystal style, the blue/white opalescent blush with yellow highlights, the ‘spotted dog’ style etc. I find all of these in different places and at different times throughout the day. Eventually I find a very nice and simple fairly plain white glazed bowl with a hint of a pink blush, but it is $50, so I am forced to extend my budget just a bit. I also buy a spotted dog sake cup for $10. The nicer tea bowls are $2700 or there abouts. So they stay on the shelf.
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We visit the old castle ruins. The stonework is amazing. There is a very cute tea house in the grounds. It’s a lovely walk, we are out from early till very late. In fact it’s well after dark, by the time we find our way back to the hotel. We walked home via the sea shore to photograph the sun set over the water, only to find that it doesn’t set over the water, it sets over the island, but the ocean is very calm and the fading light illuminates it beautifully.
We have the same dinner in the same restaurant as last night, because we enjoyed it so much. Sashimi, sushi, tempura, miso, pickles, all the usual culprits and quite affordable. So, fortunately the food in Hagi isn’t rated the same as the pots. So we can at least afford to eat here. Because we return to the same restaurant, for the 2nd night, they remember us and are extra attentive. We get an extra serving each of Sashimi with this meal. It’s unnecessary and greatly appreciated by us. A lovely gesture.
This place appears to be a very prosperous town. I doubt that it is a ceramic tea wares led economic recovery, maybe its because it’s a small fishing port? What ever the reason, it’s nice to see a place doing well. Even if it means that we can’t afford any of the better work here. Never mind, I don’t need the best, what I want is to see, experience, feel, taste, hear all the interesting new sensations, feelings and hopefully insights that go with a different culture, I don’t need anymore things, but I somehow seem to collect them.
From Hagi we make the return trip over the mountains and back to Shin Yamaguchi and onto the fast train to Kyoto. We arrive just after lunch time and get the same room in the Chitta inn for the same price as before. Very good value for us. We make the train trip to Nara for the afternoon. Because time is limited for us this afternoon, we don’t walk the back streets of the old town, or visit the giant Budda. We just walk the main street and arcades, where Janine buys a loose fitting summer frock, in Japanese cotton print. I buy a piece of old kimono in indigo cotton. It has been repaired in a few places, but this gives it a nice Sabi Wabi quality. I don’t want anything too perfect, because it’s just not me, and because I’ll probably want to cut it up to make patches for my shirts and pants.
Nara is a city of deep culture and very old history, but we manage to spend a shallow afternoon in frivolous shopping.
We have been in Japan for a month now and so we have been lucky enough to catch both of the Kyoto markets The first at the Toji Temple and the second at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
We go to the Toji markets. This is a famous market, held each month in and around the Toji Temple grounds. We try and go there each time we are in Japan, timing our visit to Kyoto to fit in with the market day. The Toji market is always held on the 21st. of the month, regardless of the day of the week that it falls on. It’s a really great view into Kyoto life. I love to just wander around looking, smelling, tasting, hearing everything. The Lovely One finds a very nice white shirt with a few pleats that really suits her and it fits so well. I find a couple of small pieces of old ikat woven indigo cotton cloth and a couple of fragments of patched cotton kimono cloth that is beautifully woven but also has a remnant of faded pink printing in strategic places in the pattern. They are lovely and very wabi sabi.
We decide to have okonomiyaki pancake for lunch. We just can’t walk past this stall, it smells so good. It is also a great theatrical experience to watch them making it. They are great showmen and women. It’s a very hot day and they offer a place to sit under cover of shade. They even offer a cold beer to go along with it. I’m in heaven!
No! I don’t think so. I think that I ought to call it Nirvana, seeing that we are in the Buddhist temple grounds. It’s very tasty and cheap, and so immediately fresh, it all happens before your eyes, as you wait, just like the best street food always is.
As we wander more or less aimlessly along we bump into the stall of a young man who makes and sells very delicately decorated pots. We bought one of his cups a few years ago from this stall. His style is still very similar, the work has a soft feel to it and is light to the touch. He has a very sensitive approach. I remember that we liked him as well as his work the last time we met. We buy another cup. It’s small and easy to carry with us. It will also be quite light to post back to Australia. He tells us that he is opening his own gallery/shop in a few weeks, but we will already be gone by then. Maybe next trip? We take his card, just in case we can make it there sometime in the future?
As I’m meandering between the stalls and crowds of people. This market has fallen on a  Sunday today, so it is really full. I’m walking past an antiques stall. There are lots of them in this row. Suddenly I spot an old Karatsu pot, or something that looks a lot like it ought to be an old Karatsu pot. I stop and go over to pick it up to examine it more closely. The stall holder calls out  to me “Karatsu – Old Karatsu”. “Cha Wan”! That is exactly what I was thinking that it might be. I take the time to look at it very carefully. It really looks the part. I’m suddenly full of avarice and greed.
I wants precious, must have precious!
The stall holder calls out to me again “Very old!”
Maybe it is! But what would I know. I’ve only ever seen things like this at a distance from behind glass in a museum. The only one that I have ever handled was at Tatsuya Sans workshop, and it was quite different. What I am seeing is an object that has the look of age, the body is pale grey, dense and pock marked with a few small, even tiny, burn-out craters where little bits of organic matter were embedded in the clay before firing. I turn it over in my hands. The whole pot is warped from falling over in the kiln during firing. It has a chip on the dented side where it has been removed from whatever it was stuck to. The glaze is a soft, dark apple green and is very finely, densely crazed. There is a pale yellowish haze on the inside, where there may have been a little bit of oxidation during the firing. There are a few little grains of setting sand or something similar embedded in the glaze inside the bottom.
On the whole I like what I’m seeing and handling. It feels good, it’s well balanced and it has that patina of age which gives it some sort of gravitas. The stall holder sees that I’m interested and points to the old browned, wooden box that comes with it and on which it  was sitting, upside down. Because of the warping, it doesn’t fit evenly on it’s foot ring.
The old guy repeats, “Karatsu – Old Karatsu. Very old”!
I ask “Koray-wa nan deska” – how much is this thing here (that I’m holding)?
He answers in quick Japanese that I don’t understand. I’m not that good with number words, especially big ones, I can tell that the amount is not in the single digits that I do know! That’s not surprising. I hold out my phone with the numerical key pad. He types in 48,000. Ouch! OK. That is about Au$500 and a bit, no, a lot more over my budget than I was hoping. If I was going home tomorrow I’d think very seriously about it, but I’m not. I’m here for quite a while, and then still another month and then in Taiwan afterwards. I have to be very careful not to do silly things, so that my money will last the distance.
I sadly decline, but walk away with some regret. I shouldn’t, but I do. I can’t help it. I really want it. I feel that there is something to learn from this bowl. But I’ll never know now.
Afterwards, on reflection. I think that I should have bought it and gone without eating or something. It wouldn’t hurt my ever expanding waistline. I don’t even have a photo to reflect back on, as I had decided to travel light on that day and didn’t bring my camera with me. I’m appalled at my shameless desire and sudden need to own an object. This is not the person that I want to be. I feel that I should be above such things, but I’m not. Welcome to the human race.
Kitano Markets
5 weeks later, we go to the Kitano markets. It is very similar to Toji, all the usual suspects are there, maybe more antiques and less food stalls, probably because one street that borders the market is full of restaurants? I look in vain for the antique stall that had the lovely bowl, but it isn’t there. Miss Betty/Katherine/Buffy gets a fantastic white shirt with amazing pleating. It really suits her, She of the Driven Snow looks very pure and distinguished in it, you could even go to Church in it, Betty looks even more Churcher than ever!
We are woken early by the temple bell. It is very deep, full and resounding. There are only 6 gongs, about one a minute. It’s a beautiful sound to wake up to. It’s quite a contrast from the smaller higher pitched bell in Arita that was rung about 20 times over ten minutes. That was also really nice and I looked forward to it each morning. One morning I woke and wondered what had happened to the bell. It didn’t ring yet. I looked at my clock and realised that I’d slept through it. I felt somehow a little bit cheated.
We spend the next day in Osaka. It’s only a short train journey away from Kyoto. We get a map of the city precinct and manage to navigate our way from the station to the Museum of Oriental Ceramics. It’s a pleasant half hour stroll. There is a special exhibition of Imari porcelain. It tells us the story, that we are already familiar with now, of the history of Arita and Imari as well as Nabashima ware. Its a good show and well done. There are some very impressive pieces on show here, most of them from their own collection, but a few have been lent for the show. We dine in the Museum cafe and go to the other section of the Museum, where the permanent collection is on show. Japanese, Korean and Chinese works. So many beautiful examples.
As there is still time left in the day, we work out that we can cross town and out into the suburbs to see a special traveling show of French Impressionist paintings. We think that we have figured it all out, changing stations and companies onto a different line and we manage to get off at the correct station. Success! We walk to the gallery building. The private gallery is on the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in town. It has a sky gallery for city-scape viewing. When we get to the Art Gallery level, it is closed today. Apparently for no particular reason, just closed to the public. There is some sort of promotional event happening, as people are coming and going but we can’t go in. So that is a total bummer, all that way for nothing.
We now have to re-navigate the subway system to return to our original starting point without having to go back the same way. We figure out the most direct route and find the station. We can’t seem to buy a ticket though, even though we ask for help. It’s blindingly obvious to everyone and well signposted in Kanji. Finally, Janine, Betty, Buffy, the Bofin figures out the sign language and how to interpret it. She leads the way and Lo. There is the ticket machine for our particular line. There are 4 different companies and lines operating out of this one station complex. It’s something of a terminal for the intersection of several lines. It all works out well and we are back into the tube system, smack in the middle of peak hour. At Osaka main terminal we change to the Kyoto line and are back ‘home’ in the dark, but we know exactly where we are going here in this part of Kyoto. We go to a local noodle bar, just 100 metres from our ryokan and have a lovely dinner of Gyoza and Kimchi with a beer – not noodles. It’s so good that we have it all a second time. Yes. It was that good!
Walking home to the ryokan we see the complete eclipse of the moon!
We pack our bags and get ready to leave for the airport very early tomorrow morning.
With fond regards from Betty and her Precious

“A Mecca called Onda” – revisited, for the first time

So here I am now in Japan, all alone. I have taken the opportunity to visit my friend in Shigaraki because it’s not that far from Singapore to Japan. Although with the cheapest Poverty Air airline tickets, they go in a round about way and take off and land at odd times. We left for Japan at 2.00 am in the morning from the old terminal. The very old terminal. Now almost ‘terminal’ and only used by paupers and back-packers. When you leave at 2.00 am, you are already knackered, never mind the cramped hard seats and no-frills service. It was quite cold over night, so I was forced to rent an acrylic ‘blanket’ , read shower curtain, for $5. I agreed, but only had Australian money or Singaporean dollars. They only accept US dollars, Malaysian Dollars, Thai Baht or Yen. Luckily I had some yen, OK. So far so good, but not in the correct denominations, unfortunately. So I have to receive my change back in Thai Baht!
To pay 5 in one currency, I handed over a 1000 note in another and get back 90 in a third? Weird. I don’t understand it. But it was only $5, so I didn’t really care at 4.00am!
I arrive not looking or feeling my best and the first thing that the very polite Japanese man wants to do at immigration, is to photograph me and take my finger prints. I knew it was a mistake to hand over the passport photo that had me looking like a criminal.
On the train from the airport, I can see that the rice harvest is in full swing, or should that be full flail? Actually  it is probably in full head, as the little mini rice harvesters are very busy heading, stooking, binding, flailing and milling all along the rows. The milled and de-husked rice comes out one end in nice neat bags and the husks are all piled up in a big heap ready to burn. The straw is all over the shop, blown out in a shredded mess on the stubble. These bigger machines, I suspect, are owned by co-ops or by contractors. I can’t see a small farmer owning such a machine to just use it for two or three days a year. When I say big, I don’t mean Australian wheat harvester ‘big’. I mean very small and compact, about the size of a two-seater ‘Smart’ car, only lower and narrower. The little harvesters here are very small and compact, as are the rice paddies.
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In the very small plots, and just to make it clear, a big plot might be half an acre, a small one just 100 sq. m. So where there are small paddies, there are men walking behind hand held, 2 wheeled harvester machines. This machine only bundles and stooks the rice so that it can be carried to the barn or work shed, whatever the Japanese equivalent word is, and inside this shed, there is another machine that separates the rice from the straw. The husk from the rice grain and blows the husks out a pipe into the field outside, where the pile is lit and it burns for hours if not days. Smoking continuously.
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In just a couple fields I saw an old couple, something like my age – old! Working the field by hand. Dressed in baggy long pants tucked into boots, long sleeved baggy shirts, wide hat with a cloth hanging down behind to protect their necks and bending using a sickle to cut the stalks, then binding them together with another piece of straw tied in a loop and standing several of the bound sheaves together into a stook. Standing and bending backwards with hands on hips to straighten up for just a moment and then back to the work. The stooks are left to dry for another day or so. Eventually to be carried to the shed and threshed. The long straw is occasionally used to make pretty little circular, pointed haystacks. At other places it is hung up-side-down on long ‘ricks’ to air dry. I wonder what use there is for long, straight hand dried straw these days? I can’t imagine that it could be much? Whatever their purpose, it is a pretty little idyl.
This scene, or other ones very similar, must have been carried out in these paddies for thousands of years, umpteen generations beyond count. I suspect that this will be the last. No one wants to work this hard if they don’t have to. I read an article in the paper here that said that the average age of the Japanese rice farmer is 76! It’s such a contrast to Singapore and the investment banker working his calculator button pressing finger to the bone!
Because the long straw is hand cut, handled carefully and is undamaged. It is suitable for secondary use. There was once a time when nothing was wasted. Everything had a second or third use. The long, straight, hand harvested, undamaged rice straw was used to make all sorts of everyday items. It was woven, plaited or spun to make such useful things as sun hats, rain cloaks, straw sandals, straw rope and roof thatching. After these uses it was used as mulch and finally as compost. Until recently, the rice husks were used to make the porous holes in cheap local fire bricks in some Asian countries and possibly still are. After all, Janine, Warren and I were making our own fire bricks just 4 weeks before I left on this trip. I used clay, coffee grounds and some saw dust. Why coffee grounds and saw dust? Because we didn’t have any rice husks! So some of these skills are still being preserved in the most unlikely of places. Like Australia! There are still just a few thatched roofed buildings left intact here, but I believe that the cost of thatching is astronomical these days, so most are or have been covered with tin or replaced with tile roofs now.
Shigaraki – Janine Arrives
Janine will arrive in Japan today. After her long flight, via Hong Kong, she has to catch 3 trains and a bus to get here. I know she will be tired, so I catch the bus down to the station at Kibukawa and sit and wait for her, she could be some hours in arriving as there are many ways to miss a train and she has 3 connections to make. We have no way of contacting each other, as our phones don’t work here in Japan and getting a new sim card here is a bit of an ordeal – Even if you can speak Japanese fluently. Anyway, I shouldn’t be too concerned. Japan is only a small country, so we are bound to bump into each other sooner or later!
Tall white cranes
in the sandy river shallows
We are both waiting.
I arrive early and sit and wait. I’m prepared to wait till 3 or 4 pm, if necessary. If she doesn’t show up. I’ll have to come again tomorrow. However, there was no need to worry. She arrives at 10.30, half an hour earlier than I was expecting and a full hour and a half earlier than my Japanese hosts thought was possible. It’s a good thing I gave myself a couple of hours grace and was prepared to sit and await if necessary before giving up.
I can see her through the window of the train as it pulls in. She is distinctive because of her new hair cut. Just before we were about to leave on this trip, The Lovely decided to go and get her hair cut. Janine left and Betty Churcher returned. (For those of you reading this who are not Australian. Betty Churcher, was the very elegant and distinguished Director of the Australian National Art Gallery for many years and had a very distinctive look.) Since Betty has spent the last 40 hours in transit across South East Asia and has not really slept, she is now morphed into a hybrid vision of Betty Churcher disguised as Katharine Hepburn, but she can’t fool me. Her silhouette is easily spotted through the windows among the other petite Japanese ladies.
Taking Tea.
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Note; the small bamboo cake knife for later on in the story.
I have a very educational week learning a lot about ‘Tea’ – Chado, and the utensils, their history, manufacture and meaning. I get to have 3 tea lessons at a tea ‘school’ in Kyoto and a long session with a tea scholar in Shigaraki. He tells me, among other things, about the weight, balance and ‘face’ of suitable bowls. How they are to be handled and why this is important. He brings out several examples to illustrate his points and gives them to me to handle. For a bowl to be considered suitable for tea, it has to have a long list of suitable criteria. There are lots of variations and ways that this set of ‘rules’ can be interpreted and in his opinion, it all comes down to personal choice. If you have a sound understanding of the way that tea is appreciated and can justify your choices, then almost any bowl can be considered a suitable candidate. It all depends on the ‘quest’ that is chosen for the theme and how you decide to make it all come together. Really, it’s a bit of an intellectual quiz for the invited guests, a test of perception and the subtleties of appreciation. It’s all very complicated and a bit of an upper middle class game for the elite at one level, but a very beautiful, minimalist experience of mindfulness on the other. I have no interest in becoming a practitioner. I haven’t got a spare 10 years to put into it. I’m a Husband, Farther and Potter first, then a gardener, green activist, teacher, kiln builder, wood worker, etc. etc. Tea comes a very late 113th on my list. I only want to learn enough to be able to understand how to make objects that are more suitable, or acceptable for use in the ceremony, if anyone should wish to use my bowls for that purpose. I have my own way of appreciating tea that suits me and my way of being who I am. Which includes my own approach to mindfulness.
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We spend a day visiting some local temples. We climb the 700 steps up to the Moro Temple. I know that in Japan ‘less is more’, but after this climb, I wish that Moro was Less!
It’s an amazing view up from up there from the top of the mountain, and the giant cedars are spectacular. I can’t help but think of the incredible amount of work it must have been to carry all those huge granite blocks all the way up there to construct the stairs! It’s an awe inspiring place. It doesn’t make me want to believe in god though, only Nature. Construction was started on the temple in 608, so that’s about 1300 years, those trees have had quite a time to get growing and they look it.
We have caught the train down to Arita on the southern Island of Kyushu. It’s a long trip with a few connections and takes most of the day. There aren’t many seats on the platform, so the ‘wafer-thin’ resourceful one improvises.
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We are currently ensconced in a little house in Arita in the Southern Island of Kyushu. The owners, Cory and Shin are not here just now. They live in Australia for part of the year. So we have rented their loft for a few days. Cory Taylor is a writer and won the commonwealth book prize 2 years ago, Shin is an artist interested in ceramics, hence our connection through pottery.
Arita was the heart of Japanese porcelain manufacture for about 400 years. However, it has recently gone into a bit of a slump in the past few decades, due to the cheap cost of manufacturing porcelain in China these days. It is almost impossible to compete. I am here, because it is the site of the earliest one-stone porcelain body ever produced in Japan, and was world renown for its purity and whiteness in its time The mine is almost mined out now, with only low grade iron stained material left in the site. What was once a mountain is now a big hole in the ground, with a few underground seams that seems to be all but worked out.
This place exists here because the War Lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi brought back captured potters from Korea who understood about the materials needed for pottery making and one in particular, Re Sam Pei, discovered this porcelain stone here and set up the first porcelain pottery on this site. The rest is history.
They were so very successful at making the translucent white ware that it soon became very famous, being traded all around the world. They guarded their secret very closely and put up guard towers and gates at either end of the road that led to the porcelain district and porcelain stone quarry, so that the secret of its manufacture would never be divulged. They even called the Arita porcelain wares by another name, so as to obscure the origin of the wares. Arita wares were exported from the sea port of Imari, as Imari ware. The name of Arita was never to be mentioned.
To this day, there is a custom of secrets here in Arita. The main families still keep their recipes and techniques pretty closely guarded. Everyone is looking to get an edge on the other. There was a constant theme in our conversations with the potters that we visited. How “it used to be better, but the market has dried up. Not so many people come to buy anymore”. I suggested that they might get together and form an alliance and put money up to hold a ceramic festival, “Back to Arita”, not unlike they did in Shigaraki. This was pretty much dismissed out of hand. “We are too individualistic here. The old ways of family secrecy and independence are still very much alive here.”
Oh well. There you go. Welcome to Arita!
We have been visiting various potteries and small workshops. Nearly all of them have abandoned throwing, then jigger-jolly, then the motor-head machines. It is all seems to be pressure cast these days. Not a single ram-press in sight. We found one pottery company that still had throwers working on the wheel. The ‘Gen-Emon’ Kiln. Here we watch the throwers working. They throw very thickly, as the clay is not at all plastic. Then they turn a lot of material away. This is exactly what I saw in Jing-de-Zhen a decade or so ago. But in Jing-de-Zhen, there was no OH&S, just dry clay dust flying everywhere.
Here they work very cleanly, with extractor fans pulling the dust away from them directly in front of the turned pot. They were so exacting and painstakingly fastidious about accuracy of form, the exact curve and precision with dimension. They get it perfect by turning both the out side and the inside of the pot. No residual finger marks here. They even weigh the finished dry pot to make sure that it is perfect!!
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Needless to say, when we made our way to the decorating rooms, we were equally amazed at the accuracy of the decorators. Men do the roughing out of the design in pencil, then, apparently, they are the only ones to use the small fine brushes, loaded with the strong cobalt pigment, setting the design out in finished detailed outlines. Finally it is the women, who use the great big fat ‘fude’ brushes loaded with the thin watery cobalt wash. They are amazing in their skill to go around the detail design with such precision, never allowing a drip from their brush, always keeping the tip of the huge fat brush moving draining the mass of coarse hair of its precious cobalt, letting it flow effortlessly and continuously in around the lines. It looks so simple! I want one! I want that skill! But I’m not prepared to work that hard for it, so it will never be. I have too many other things that I want to do even more.
Of course when we get to go to the sales room. It’s a different story. Although I want to buy something. I can’t afford anything. Eventually I find a very, very, small, shot glass sized porcelain cup, decorated in 4 colours for $54. Two tones of cobalt, two colours of underglaze and a gold firing at the end to cap it off. It suddenly seems like a bargain. So much work, such detail. I love it. Having just seen all the steps that it has gone through to get here. Every step carried out by a wonderfully skilled craftsman or woman. It’s a joy to have as a reminder. Larger pieces, like a cup or a bowl soon escalated up in to the hundreds and then thousands of dollars. We want beautiful objects to remind us of our travels, but we also need to keep a very close cap on our budget if we are to manage our finances over the couple of months of this extended trip. So this is just right. It’s small and compact, easy to carry, shows all the techniques and is just affordable.
All the exquisite craftsmanship and amazing levels of skill that we have seen here rival those that we saw at Sevre in Paris last year. This family operation is very much smaller, but the quality achieved is just as great. I’m very impressed.
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The ‘Dirt Rope Kiln’ Potters
We are very lucky to get to meet an amazing couple who run the ‘Dirt Rope’ kiln pottery, It appears that this is the literal translation of the kanji for these words. However, Kanji can have several meanings depending on context. In this case, the Kanji can be roughly translated as ‘serendipity’. This couple dig their own clay, have built their own kiln and fire with wood that they collect from re-cycled or demolished buildings. They make a hybrid cross between Shigaraki and Bizen styles work. Unglazed, rough, dark, clay with plenty of small stones, showing charcoal and ash impingement on the surface. Completely out of keeping with the whiteness and purity of this areas porcelain tradition. I don’t know how they make a living here.
They live near the top of a mountain, down a long, winding, narrow, farm road, marked with a ‘No-through-road’ sign and then a dead end! Theirs is the last house. A very beautiful little hidden away spot.
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They fire a horizontal tunnel kiln, with a so-called ‘secret’ chamber at the back – that everyone knows about. I ask him if he is aware of the research of Mitchio Furutani in Iga/Shigaraki and he nods that he is. I suggest that his kiln has a few similarities. He nods. He asks me if I think that the ‘secret’ chamber is as crucially important as some claim.  I say that I can’t see why it would be and that maybe it isn’t so important. The test would be to build a kiln without one and fire it to see if it really is. He takes me outside and round the corner. There stands a smaller version of his kiln with no secrets. It is brand new and hasn’t been fired yet. So we both still don’t know. The answer is still a secret, but time will tell. Their work is very affordable and we buy a tea bowl, two sake cups and a small bottle. It’s lovely work and I’m really pleased to be able to meet this couple and see their workshop and kiln.
Later in the day we acidentally meet an old man whose family has been making and decorating porcelain in this village for hundreds of years. He lives in one of the oldest wooden houses in the village. One that survived the great typhoon of the early 1900’s. His house is full of porcelain decorated by his forebears. Every draw in the many cupboards are full of precious enameled porcelain. He tells us that whenever he digs in his vegetable garden, he comes across more old pots.
He takes the time to show us the old pattern books used by his Great Grandfather.
The next day we set off on an expedition/excursion to the little pottery making village of Onta/Onda (sp?). High up in the hills of north, central Kyushu. This is a very isolated area, or was. It now has a twice a day, bus service going up the little winding road into the hills that terminates at Onta, it’s the end of the road. The mountainous area is densely forested and this becomes quite apparent as we travel up the valley. There are 3 saw mills along the road up into the hills. There is a constant appearance of rice paddies, where ever the land is flat enough, or can be made flat in steps by building levy walls and terraces. The rice is being harvested at this time.
We watch the harvest going on as the small bus slowly winds its way up the narrow valley, following the creek. The little hamlets along the way are gorgeous, set in idyllic folds in the valley floor. Where ever there is enough flat space for a house and some paddies. We finally arrive in Onta. This is where the bus service terminates. It turns around and returns to Hita station. Although we don’t speak very much Japanese, we clearly understand from the driver that he will be back a 4.30, and that this is the only bus back down the mountain today. So we had better be here at this stop by then. The bus doesn’t wait.
The potters of Onta have been working here since the 1500’s. Originally Korean immigrant potters found the clay here and started working it. Part-time potters and part-time rice farmers. They have carved out a livelihood here from this dirt. Growing vegetables, rice and using the hard shaley clay to make their pots. The tradition continues today unbroken. The village is now internationally famous for its rough, simple farmers pots in the Mingei tradition. The dark local clay coated with white slip, ‘sgraffitoed’ or ‘chattered’, then raw glazed and wood fired in one of the 10 family run, multi-chambered, climbing kilns. They were firing a 10 chambered, climbing kiln the day that we arrived.
When I say that the village is internationally famous. It must be understood that this is among the cognoscenti of the Mingei enthused ceramic world. I first heard of the village and its potters back in 1970 from the late Denis Pile, former President of The Potters Society of Australia, who had made a visit there. I was still in High School then. I read his article in the Pottery in Australia Magazine. Vol 9/1, pp. 24-27. I just wanted to go there. The time just wasn’t right till now. So here I am. Here and Now. It’s been worth the wait!
All the materials for making the wares here are obtained locally, just as they have been for centuries. The rough, irony, hard, local shale clay is pounded in one of the many water driven clay pounding mills in the village. There isn’t a place anywhere along the 300 metres of road that the village occupies, where you can’t hear the creak, groan and thud of the water mills pounding the clay endlessly. We walk around the village at our leisure, taking our time and really enjoying the quiet ambience of the scene. The lasting memory, for me, is of the tinkle and splash of fast flowing water and the repeated creak, groan and thud of the water powered clay pounding mills. It punctuates everything, our foot steps are measured by the rhythm of the water and the pounding of the mills. It’s quite eccentric and uneven, each mill works at a different pace. The huge pine logs are mounted on wooden shafts and wooden bearing blocks, some even have square shafts, which wear down to roughly curved surfaces over time. Hence the creaking and groaning. The straining of  the wood against wood of the bearings. Punctuated by the odd rhythms of the thuds as the wooden hammer meets the shale. There are usually 2, 3, or 4 of these mills working in tandem, but at different frequencies. It’s unsettling and beautiful all at the same time. I love it! The glazes are made from the local clay, stones and wood ashes from the fires.
We take our time wandering, we enter each pottery as we come to it and examine the pots, then wander around into the workshop, we ask if it is OK and get a nod from the potter on the wheel, we watch him throw several bowls ‘off the hump’. He has one large lump of clay on the wheel. He has only ‘centred’ the top section, so that he can make a bowl from this amount of clay. He deftly cuts it from the lump with a string, and places it on the pot board along side him, next to the potters wheel. He is using a Korean style kick wheel, made from wood. His legs constantly kicking the fly-wheel below, while his body remains steady above. His hands quickly and skillfully swirl out another section of the clay lump into a perfectly even round ball, His hands lubricated with a little of the thick clayey water he keeps in a pottery bowl next to him on the wheel bench. This new wet rounded ‘ball’ of clay is soon spun out between his fingers into the same bowl shape as the last one, identical. It takes years of practice to get this kind of accuracy without measuring. This one is placed alongside all the others on the board. As soon as it is full, his wife? Or workshop helper, appears and whisks it away and it is replaced with another empty board, before the next bowl is lifted off the wheel. It’s a smooth system. These pot boards would normally be placed outside in the sun, but it is raining gently today. So the pots are placed outside under the cover of the overhanging roof.
His wife then goes back to her intermittent job of preparing the clay. The pulverised shaley clay powder is collected from the pounding mill and dissolved in water in a big trough. The clay liquid called slip, is then poured through a sieve to remove any unwanted organic matter and is left to settle in another pond or trough. When the clay has settled to the bottom, the clear water is scooped off the top and used again to dissolve more fresh powdered clay and the process is repeated.
The thick clay slurry in the settling pond is scooped out into clay dishes and placed on racks to air dry, After a week or so, depending on the weather and humidity levels. This clay has stiffened up sufficiently to be placed on top of a wood fired drying oven for the final de-watering stage. Another job for the wife to attend to is to keep a small fire burning in the clay drying oven. This provides a gentle amount of heat to rise up into the brickwork above where the clay is stacked, drying it out to the final plastic stage. It is so wet up here in these hills, that without this final forced drying stage, the clay would never really dry out in time and the potter would run out of stiff plastic clay.
When the clay is stiff enough, the potters wife brings each lump of clay into the pottery  and simply piles it up against the wall. It isn’t wrapped in plastic or even covered. It is so humid and wet here that it won’t dry out before it gets used by the potter.
We venture into every one of the many show rooms along this tiny section of road. There are only 10 families living up here. All potters, and they have established quite a name for them selves, achieving a National Cultural Intangible Asset Award for the entire village. No one signs their pots individually. Every pot is stamped with the name of the village and all the work is anonymous.
Towards the lower end of the village, there is a small noodle shop/cafe/restaurant. Built on the bend in the river with the building counter-levered out over the stream. We enter and immediately get a pot of green tea and two cups set on our table. This is a humble, simple country noodle shop. This isn’t Kyoto. The tea is served in the iconic blue tea pot that has been  made here for a very long time.
There is a menu written up on rice paper on the wall in beautiful calligraphic brush strokes. It explains everything, but the only problem is that we can’t read it. I struggle with my limited Japanese vocabulary to understand what this very charming and patient lady is offering us She is very patient, and tries several times, including a few charades. I understand ‘soba’ noodles, but can’t recognise the other words. I agree and nod, she disappears into the kitchen and soon reappears with our noodles. It is delicious. It is called something like “gobo” soba. We understand that it is some kind of root vegetable that has been deep fried and then added to the soup and noodles. Whatever it is, it is delicious.
Of course everything is served in their own pots.
We can’t help ourselves from buying half a dozen small pots. Bowls, plates, cups and a classic, pale blue, tea pot. We spend 4 ½ hours looking around and leave on the last and only bus, returning down the valley and back to the rat race of normality. We are the only two passengers on the bus.
I really loved this little village. I loved the self contained quality of it all. The self-reliant nature of the communal enterprise. Everyone in the village has a job. Everyone is employed doing something. Each at his or her own level of skill and endeavour. There is so much to do to be able to live like this. Someone has the work in the forest cutting the wood for the kiln fuel, Someone has to dig and prepare the clay, throw the pots. Make the glazes. Pack the kiln, fire it. Grow the rice and vegetables that fuels everybody. It’s a wonderful supportive system, keeping the whole community involved and employed.
If there were a place like this in Australia, I’d move there.
I am the crazy one who attempts to do all these jobs myself back home in our ordinary life. If we told anyone here what we did they’d scoff at us and call us nutters. No one can do all that and do it well. And of course they are right. I don’t do it well. We take on too much and end up being amateurs at everything that we do. I think that this is one of the things that I love about this place. The supportive nature of the community enterprise. This has been a very touching and meaningful experience for me. The pots are rough, simple, unpretentious and quite ordinary, but also quite beautiful.
Back in Arita we arrive home late and in the dark. We catch a taxi for the last 3 miles to our bed for the night. There are mosquitos in our room. They breed them really big here and they travel very fast too. It is almost impossible to catch them. I flail meaninglessly at the noise in the dark, only managing to hit myself in the head a few times. I eventually give up and offer myself up as fresh meat. I’m too tired to care or to do anything about it. But The Lovely is made of much sterner stuff. She’s had enough. She patiently waits and sets her trap. She waits until the time is ripe, and when the sound of the small chainsaw-driven tiny insect next appears in the ear drum, she springs her trap. Flipping the sheet up over her head with her arms and enveloping the annoying nightmare in the bed clothes with her. It’s huge, vicious and very tenacious. She battles with it and it is in no mood to give in and puts up a spirited defence. In fact it has the upper hand for a while, being able to function in the dark perfectly well. The commotion carries on under the bed clothes for quite some time and it’s touch and go for a while, but eventually, The Lovely re-appears, bloodied and shaken and somewhat worse for wear, but victorious!. The thing is now silent and is hopefully dead. However, The Lovely is taking no chances and proves not so lovely to the vanquished. She bites down hard on a knob of garlic and grabs a small bamboo tea ceremony cake knife and drives it down hard through its heart.
We sleep in peace for the rest of the night.
I decide that I had better keep a closer eye on this girl!
Best wishes
from the vampire-mozzie slayer and her fresh meat
Dr. Steve Harrison PhD. MA (Hons)


Potter, kiln surgeon, clay doctor, wood butcher and Post Modern Peasant.