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2002 Newsletter Archive



                   Written by Robert Yellin

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December 2002


New Book; Web Site on Tea

- A Single Shard
- Tea site and fine essay
- Kakurezaki Ryuichi exhibit photos & Richard Wilson Interview
- Tim Rowan's new web site
- Haiku Wanted
- New Staff at e-y

Dear Yakimono Fans,
The first heavy snowstorm blanketed much of Japan yesterday and much of Tokyo is a white wonderland today. A bit envious I am, we're only about sixty miles from the capital, yet Mishima only got rain. What we did get, however, was a glorious view of Mt.Fuji! So pure and white in the great distance, it reminded me of a Miwa Kyusetsu Hagi chawan!

If you're looking for a good book for readers aged between 9 and 12 (as recommended on, I enjoyed the book though!) Linda Sue Park's "A Single Shard" is a fine book. It won The Newbery Medal, which honors the year's most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The medal was established in 1922 and is presented annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Reviews of the book include:

>From Publishers Weekly
Park (Seesaw Girl) molds a moving tribute to perseverance and creativity in this finely etched novel set in mid- to late 12th-century Korea. In Ch'ul'po, a potter's village, Crane-man (so called because of one shriveled leg) raises 10-year-old orphan Tree Ear (named for a mushroom that grows "without benefit of "parent-seed"). Though the pair reside under a bridge, surviving on cast-off rubbish and fallen grains of rice, they believe "stealing and begging... made a man no better than a dog." From afar, Tree Ear admires the work of the potters until he accidentally destroys a piece by Min, the most talented of the town's craftsmen, and pays his debt in servitude for nine days. Park convincingly conveys how a community of artists works (chopping wood for a communal kiln, cutting clay to be thrown, etc.) and effectively builds the relationships between characters through their actions (e.g., Tree Ear hides half his lunch each day for Crane-man, and Min's soft-hearted wife surreptitiously fills the bowl). She charts Tree Ear's transformation from apprentice to artist and portrays his selflessness during a pilgrimage to Songdo to show Min's work to the royal court he faithfully continues even after robbers shatter the work and he has only a single shard to show. Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Ages 10-14.

>From the editors of Barnes and Nobles:
A Single Shard, the winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, is a tenderly rendered tale about a 12th-century Korean boy named Tree-ear, who must overcome a host of obstacles in order to attain his life's dream. Orphaned as a toddler, Tree-ear (named after a type of mushroom that grows out of a tree without the benefit of parent seeds) has been raised by a kindly, crippled weaver named Crane-man (so named because he has only one good leg). Over the years, they have eked out a meager but relatively happy existence living under a bridge and scavenging for food, though never stealing or begging. The town they live in, Ch'ulp'o, is renowned for the many artisans who craft the area's unique clay into beautiful celadon pottery. Tree-ear has dreams of one day creating his own pottery, and for this reason, he starts spying on one of the most gifted craftsmen in town, a cranky old codger named Min. When Tree-ear accidentally breaks some of Min's work, he offers to pay for the damage by working off the debt, hoping Min will eventually offer him an apprenticeship.

Things don't go as planned, however. The curmudgeonly Min isn't an easy man to work with, and Tree-ear's dream of creating his own pottery seems more unattainable with each passing day. Things come to a head when Min is offered a shot at a royal commission and Tree-ear offers to carry samples of the artisan's work to the royal court -- a hike of many days across some of Korea's most unforgiving country. The journey is fraught with setbacks that test Tree-ear's courage and integrity, but in the end, he comes to know a triumph of heart, mind, and spirit that will leave him, and Korean history, forever changed.
This delightfully endearing tale is not only entertaining; it's inspirational and educational. Tree-ear's decisions and actions in the face of several ethical dilemmas exemplify honor, honesty, and integrity at their best, setting a fine example for young readers to follow. And Park's vivid portrayal of this era in Korean history offers a colorful introduction to a culture and an art form that might otherwise go unknown. (Beth Amos)

If there are no youngsters in your house or family tree, then you might as well buy the book for yourself. Actually, my parents gave it to me when they recently visited Japan!

My own interest in Japanese pottery has been turning to chawan these days. I've been enjoying matcha almost everyday either from a Harada Shuroku or Yoshimoto Shuho chawan; both are veteran Bizen potters. I also will be putting up a story on chawan with different aspects of them on e-y net soon. I did find a few good web sites on Tea and would like to share one of them with any other interested 'matcha-men.' Sorry.
A fine essay by Brother Joseph Keenan can be found on this HP, under Special Edition near the bottom of the page. The ending of the essay reads:

"Life is often compared to a journey. But to be exciting, that journey need not be far in space. It might only be from the kitchen to the back garden. And you don't really need much for the trip, for what you need and where you are going are already there in front of you and within you. And what is already there can flash forth its brilliant lights as you gracefully walk down a night of steps, or careful]y fold laundered clothing, or beautifully serve a cup of tea. But this flashing forth is more likely to occur in the ordinary moments of life's journey when those moments are lived with discipline, attentiveness, and a concern for beauty. In conclusion, let me say to you that whatever nation and culture you come from, and whatever traditions you embrace, I hope that your journey in life will be filled with joy. But no matter how or where you follow your path, don't forget to take the tea! "

Indeed! The site also lists a few schools around the world.

I recently went to the opening of Bizen's Kakurezaki Ryuichi's Tokyo exhibition -- it was something special. I have uploaded many photos of the exhibition at and invite you to have a look. As I have said often before, Kakurezaki is a major force in contemporary Japanese ceramics.

Also up is an interview with Japanese ceramic art scholar Dr. Richard Wilson. He is a special asset to the Japanese art world and also for any person interested in Japanese ceramics. He's written three books in English -- two on Kenzan and one on the practical side of making pottery (he is a potter as well), along with some historical perspectives. The books are introduced in the interview.

I rarely pay much attention to what goes on outside of Japan -- my own fault I know. Yet, there's so much here! One young potter who has caught my attention and who I think does some stunning work is Tim Rowan. I have only met him once, which was at the International Woodfire Conference in Iowa a few years back. I have not forgotten that meeting or his thoughtful speech, or his work. Now we can all view it on his new web site that I recently visited. It is an excellent site with his insightful words in the artist page. The url is:

Any budding Haiku poets out there? What a wonderful compact expression of the wonders that surround us. Down the street from my home is Daichu-ji. It's a Zen temple where the head monk, Shimoyama Koetsu, is very much interested in the arts. He has set up a special Plum Blossom Literary Festival that celebrates the temple's famed plum garden. There is still time to send in poems for the festival and information can be found on their web site:

Ignore the deadline of September, but make sure to submit your Haiku before the end of the year.

In closing, may I deeply thank all of you who have visited and supported us this year -- words alone cannot convey my feelings. All I can do is raise a cup to the four winds and say a silent blessing. By coincidence (?), in the last newsletter I ended with a quote from Thomas Moore. Within a few hours I received this quote from a dear friend, also by Thomas Moore -- he had not seen my newsletter.

"To deal with the powerful urges of the deep soul, a poetic attitude rather than a rational one is more effective. Wisdom rather than information guides us, providing the patience to become acquainted with the soul rather than the impatience that leads us into quick cures and explanations. The point is not to flee our depths but to reconnect with them. The arts could serve us well in this process if we made connections between our experiences of drama, literature, painting, and music and our personal conflicts and challenges. The arts meet us at the point of imagination, which is a blending of reason and mystery in images. In the arts we contemplate our world and have the chance no longer to be strangers to the deep self that is as opaque to reason as it is transparent to the imagination. In a time of emotional struggle, it might be better to listen to a special piece of music than to consult an expert, and better to draw a picture of the situation than to try to figure it out. Reason is distant and has its own limited requirements for an ordered life, while the arts are intimate and can hold almost any conceivable human predicament."

For me it is the meeting in clay and spirit.

Happy Holidays from Mishima.



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