Japanese Culture seen in Kanazawa
Welcome to Japan. The site Japanese Culture Seen in Kanazawa is a wonderful site for anyone with an interest in Japanese culture and holds a particular interest for lovers and practitioners of ceramics with its pages on Japanese ceramics and tea ceremony.
The introduction informs us of what lies ahead: "Cultural and art forms in Japan are stylised and highly refined, emphasising simplicity, elegance and grace; these include theatrical performances, textiles, ceramic ware and 'the Way', which includes the tea ceremony. Each section offers three opportunities to branch off: 'What is It?', 'The Beauty of It' and 'Let's Try It'. Let's have a look at the ceramics and tea ceremony pages, as they are of the greatest interest here.
Clicking on the Ceramics button, we are presented with a luminescent ceramics logo, which suggests the fire that transforms the clay. Below we find a map of Japan, marked with the most important ceramics manufacturing areas in the country. Further below, we are given the invitation to a tour to the Refined World of Ohi; at the time of writing the 'World of Kutani' was in preparation. On the next page, we learn that Ohi ware "was developed for use in the tea ceremony. Made of soft clay and fired at low temperatures, Ohi pieces are prized for their beautiful shapes and luster" and that they were and still are made by the Ohi Chozaemon master, whose lineage dates back to 1630.
Ohi ware is made by hand without a wheel. The glaze effects are achieved by taking the hot piece out of the kiln while the glaze is soft, then cooling it rapidly. On the What is It? page, one can view several beautiful pieces of Ohi work made by the current master Ohi-Chozaemon Toshiro (b.1927). The Beauty of It page offers a selection of images of tea bowls, water containers and ceremonial vessels by several Ohi masters.
We now go back to the homepage and click on another section of the Kanazawa site, simply titled The Way. "Michi (literally 'the Way') is a term used to denote the fundamental principle underlying a system of though or belief, an art, or a skill...The basis of Michi, the Way, resides in posture and body movement". This school of thought applies to Sado (Way of Tea).
The What is It? page gives us a short description of the basics of the Way of Tea and describes the typical tea ceremony room, manners and utensils. We learn that the tea ceremony may have originated as a way of settling feudal disputes and one entered the ceremony room through a small entrance crawling on one's knees. This is thought to instil humility in the participants or may have been a way of making sure no swords were hidden under the robes. The Beauty of It bids us to 'please enjoy the beauty of the tea ceremony' and offers thumbnails of tea bowls, whisks, scoops, kettles and more. Each image can be enlarged if wished.
The Kanazawa site is beautifully laid out and the images of Japanese culture are intriguing and visually stunning. This is a great site to learn something about Japanese culture and ceramics.