Wednesday, 3 June 2015

One Day Trip to Karatsu (唐津日帰り旅行) Part 2

So on Monday, I blogged about the first part of my one day trip to Karatsu, the food section, before I ran out of time. My presentation was yesterday, and well, for a presentation where we changed the company about three times (we finalised on the "company" on Monday morning, so we basically did everything in a day. That's what two weeks of continual talking gets you), it was, ok I guess. Not the best, but better than I expected.

Back to Karatsu. The purpose of this trip was to look at Karatsuyaki (唐津焼), which is a style of pottery. Before the trip, I've basically only heard about Aritayaki (有田焼), which is the style from Arita in Nagasaki. A lot of the stuff they made seems to be for Tea Ceremony (which is what it's famous for, apparently), and it's really beautiful. Expensive, but beautiful.

We visited two pottery makers, and unfortunately, I have no idea how to read their names, so I can't even type it out >< I shall make it up with lots of pictures!

The first place we went to had this really pretty garden:

 This is where we met with Inifini's principal's friend, who guided us around Karatsu after that. He taught us a lot, but what made an impression was that he said Karatsuyaki is something that you grow (育つ). Basically, it's pretty as it is, but the more you use it ("growing" it), the more its character will show. We got a pamphlet that basically encouraged us to use it as we wanted - it doesn't have to be for tea, you can use it for coffee, for cakes, etc.

Pottery for sale
Everything is handmade, and even though it's simplistic, it's beautiful. These are things that you can use for years. And though I've never really understood what wabi-sabi means, when I looked at this, I started to get a sense of what the Japanese meant.

While we were here, we also got to cross this cool walkway and head into a room that showcased the masterpieces of the 13th and 14th generation of potters.

I don't know why, but I really, really like this walkway. It seems like a nice place to chill. 
Both the 13th and the 14th had really distinct styles, and I found myself drawn to the 13th's pottery. Quite a few pieces were blue, and images of fish were dominant.

but the photo I took was of a cow. 
After this, we left for the second place.

One last picture: I found this statue in the garden on the way out. 
Before we went to the second potter house, we got to visit the kiln! First, we went to this old, outdoor one.

The kiln's on the right. You can see the hole. 
Then we went to some that are newer, and still in use. These are all indoors, but surprisingly, it doesn't get that hot in summer. Looks like they manage the heat very well.

At the second pottery house, we actually got to see the potter in action! It was way cool. He had an order to make, I think 400 cups for a wedding (it's either 400 or 200 cups, but I think it's 400), and according to him, making the cups will take two days, but baking them will take a few more days (and two more people).
Making a cup. 
It's amazing how all the cups look almost identical. After they're baked, they're supposed to be white and black.

Obviously, we got to look at more pottery you can buy.

Although weirdly, when I saw the pottery sitting so prettily on the tatami shelf, what I wanted wasn't the pottery (ok, I wanted the pottery too), but the shelf next to the window thing. Can you imagine sitting on there during a rainy day with a book. The smell of tatami with the smell from the rain, and knowing you have all the time in the world to read....

I can only wish.

One very nice (and surprising) side effect of the rain was that it allowed me to take this photo:

The raindrops! Finally!
After this, we went to a small shopping district, because our tour guide owns the 一番館 (ichibankan). Over there, I actually met a couple of Singaporeans! It was such a coincidence, because Kyushu isn't really a popular place for Singaporeans to go. I was asked to help translate a bit, because while they could speak some Japanese, there were parts they didn't understand (and since they wanted to buy a lot of plates, it's not a good time to make guesses).

Turns out one of them (they two are brothers) owns NUDE seafood (link leads to their facebook page, because they don't seem to have a site) in Marina Bay Financial Centre. I've never been there, but from the photos, it looks so good! It's on the list of places to go when I return!

We had a pretty good chat, and then I left to buy 魚ロケ (geroke), which is supposed to be famous. It's actually pretty good, and really cheap - about 80 yen for one slice (and they have to flavours, salt and curry).

Our next stop was 旧高取亭 (Kyutakatoritei), and because we were running out of time, we got an extremely condensed tour. No photos allowed though, which is a pity because the inside is awesome. They even have a built in Noh stage! (Sadly no longer in use)  旧高取亭 is basically a late Meiji period house that has a lot of outside influences. There's a western room, you'll see fireplaces in the normal room, and they have wood from other parts of Asia, etc. It's pretty cool to see how they combined all the different elements to make something that still feels Japanese.

And it's next to a beach, so essentially, they made a private house with a beach too. I want!

One more cool aspect, apart from the painted cedar boards, is are the transoms. A transom is basically a plank of wood over the door. These had animal shaped holes, so on a dark rainy day like this, when the lights are on (oh yeah, the house has lots of Western-style lights), they create some incredible shadows. Another unexpected advantage of the rain, because they're not letting people in at night.

Managed to snap a pic from the outside. You can clearly see the Western room here.
I found an English link (though the description's really short), so click here if you want to read more.

Our last stop was Yoyokaku Ryokan. Surprisingly, I ran into the Singaporeans again. Small, small world we have here.

Basically, we came here to look at more pottery! They have a collection of the pottery masters works (All available for sale, of course). The ryokan itself looks pretty cool, although the prices on the Internet show it's way to expensive for a family of 6 to stay there even for one night. Maybe if it's only my mom and me or something like that.

These cups are really pretty!
It was pretty fun wandering around the place.

Picture of the Ryokan's garden (one of the two I saw, anyway)
Our last stop was supposed to be at a hotel, where we'd have tea while enjoying the ocean view. But it was raining, so instead, we returned to たまご色のケーキ屋さん (the cake shop from my previous post),  and had delicious roll-cake with tea instead!

This trip was really fun. I learnt a lot, and I had a good time chatting with the people in the group. Plus, it was a good one day break.

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