Today I tagged along with two others to Gojozaka to visit and see Kawai Kanjiro’s restored home. Kanjiro was a famous potter and key proponent of the traditional Japanese folk art, Mingei, during the beginning to middle portion of the 20th century.
When I saw his work in person, I couldn’t help but be surprised at how unique “pottery” could be. Initially, I came with the impression that pottery could only really be one thing more than anything else–practical/functional in nature. I was truly mistaken, Kanjiro’s work leaves an absolutely unique impression on those who view it–one which is hard to mistake with any other potter’s work. So hard, in fact that Kanjiro never signed his work–He believed that his pieces themselves were his “signature” and in many ways I think he was correct.
Kanjiro’s aesthetic values were not only reflected in his works, though, but also in his very own home. Every area I entered featured a small piece of Japanese culture that I’ve observed somewhere else–ikebana, shrines, and even poetry (I found out later that he actually composed his own poetry). He was a man that respected and appreciated the “dignity of simplicity” and actually collected the works of poor craftspeople. It makes sense, therefore, that his restored home, as well as some of his own pieces echoed the aesthetic philosophy of Wabi-Sabi.
After visiting his home we also walked through a temple and the Ebisu Shrine.