Hagi is just one of a number of sites we will introduce you to on our ‘DELICATE CLAY’ Ceramics Tour.  Below is a personal account from Mr. Dagher-Margosian’s research in the city. 

In Japan, the land of bowing, modesty, and talking toilets more polite than most English Butlers, it’s easy to get overly wrapped up in formality. So, in a country where if you do business you’ll be spending most of your time in suits, there is no greater relief than experiences that allow you to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. When it comes to  Art, there is no better way to get your hands dirty than ceramics, and there is no better place for ceramics in Japan, than Hagi.

A beautiful and historic seaside city in western Honshu, despite its wealth of UNESCO world heritage sites Hagi is still relatively unknown by Western travelers.  But to the Japanese, it is one of the most famed cities in the country for the “Choshu 5”, the group of 5 young men who defied the aging and failing Tokugawa Shogunate and left to study in the West.  These 5 men, (inspired by their teacher Yoshida Shoin), secretly left Japan to study science and politics in the west. Upon their return, they used this technology and way of thinking, to defeat the Shogunate and bring about the Meiji Restoration, ushering Japan into the Modern Era, with Japan’s first prime minister, a Choshu 5 member to lead a brand new nation, spearheaded by a philosophy of “Eastern Ethics and Western Science”

If the Choshu 5 helped modernize Japan, than Hagi-Yaki, the stunning pottery of our tour[jp1] , helped create a timeless art-form. Hagi-Yaki pottery was introduced in 1692 when Korean Potters were brought back to Japan after a failed expansion. The pottery they created became sought after for its usage in tea ceremonies and for the qualities of Wabi-Sabi given to pieces by the uneven heating from Hagi-Yaki’s unique climbing kilns. This art, like western science, was adopted, making Hagi doubly blessed for what it borrowed from both the  West and East.

While how we view art evolves as we do, Hagi Yaki pottery is unique in that it evolves along with its owner. The glaze in Hagi-Yaki, will soften and deepen in different ways, depending on what liquid is placed inside, acquiring aji:  Richness of texture and color that comes with experience.  Making Hagi-Yaki one of the more dynamic and unique gifts one can take from Japan. Not to mention the fun you can have making your own! Several master families, knowing this was a stolen gift, choose to teach Hagi-Yaki to guests visiting Japan, we’ll be happy to introduce you!

Hagi is an incredible city on its own, and ASIA ART TOURS looks forward to introducing you to this city, and several others on our DELICATE CLAY TOUR. Here we will be introducing you to masters of pottery, tea ceremony, mask-makers, Wabi-Sabi and all those willing to get their hands dirty in the clay to make something beautiful.  There will be strict interpretations of traditional art forms like Hagi-Yaki, and those who, like Wabi-Sabi follow the beat of their own drum to make something incredibly beautiful, unique and uncharted.

Author Matt Dagher-margosian

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