The beautiful pond in Shofukaku Garden.
Slip through the bustle of downtown
to arrive at a small and calm Japanese garden.
There you’ll find a 300-year-old building that was
originally built as a katana (samurai sword) armory.
This is pottery studio Hokutoh.
Japanese pottery has progressed in close relation with
the tea ceremony, and each region of Japan
has its own unique pottery culture.
If you are looking for somewhere to see
the birth of ceramic art in Kanazawa, Hokutoh is it.
Francesca is making a large plate using a pottery wheel called rokuro in Japanese.
In pursuit of art and
Welcome to Kanazawa! I’m Francesca from Italy. I’ve been going to Kanazawa College of Art since January, 2010. In addition to majoring in sculpture at college, I’m attending pottery classes at the Hokutoh pottery studio. Here I would like to show you how Kanazawa is an attractive place to be, but first of all, please let me explain why I’m living in this city and what I’m doing.
I’ve been interested in art since I was a child. I went to a fine art high school to study illustration, where I took an interest in Japanese traditional culture because I happened to read a book on rakuyaki; a kind of Japanese pottery. So I went to university to study the Japanese language, getting a couple of chances to visit Kanazawa on study abroad programs. There I got to know a teacher who encouraged me to come to the Kanazawa College of Art. I would say Kanazawa is the place where my love for the art harmonized with my love for Japan.
As I told you, I'm majoring in sculpture at university, but you know people need a break now and then. So I decided to start something new outside of my studies. No sooner had I come to this classic studio and saw the smiling face of Mr. Seppo Iida, a pottery master, than I thought, “this is it!”
Samples of glazed potteryHokutoh’s kiln in the studio
Many people from young to old and men to women attend the class to master pottery techniques and make their own works under Mr. Iida, who is one of the great potters in today’s Japan. Mr. Iida was born in Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture and left his parents in order to be free to pursue a life in ikebana. After his interest expanded to avant-garde flower arrangement and modern containers, he established Hokutoh in 1974. He’s got an outstanding career, and he is really frank and cheerful to talk with.
Francesca learning how to handle clay from Mr. Iida
Pottery is a communication
between human beings and clay
Now I’ll show you some of the processes for making pottery. Today I’ll try to shape a large plate using a pottery wheel called rokuro in Japanese.
Before actually making a plate with clay, you must knead the clay until it becomes soft and pliable. Then place the clay lump onto the pottery wheel and squeeze it lightly while you add a slight amount of water and press the foot pedal to rotate the wheel. Now is the time to shape the clay. Place both thumbs into the center of the clay body as it rotates, to shape it more or less flat or round, and symmetrical. Be sure to hold your arms tightly to your sides to keep a stable posture. Yes, this takes practice! Look, I made it somehow for the first time!
Pottery is a tactile craft that requires skilled hands. “Don’t force the clay into the object that you want to shape. Touch and feel the clay, and ask it, what do you want to be? Then the forms and shapes are born.” That is what Mr. Iida always says to me. Though his technique is superb, it really doesn't seem to be a conscious work but merely a natural action. In short, the most important thing is the experience you have. For myself, I’m just learning the basic techniques step by step. The possibilities of pottery are infinite; I really cherish these handiworks.
The studio Hokutoh, quietly located in the grove
Overseas tourists sometimes visit here to find out what Japanese pottery is. Although you don’t need to know much about Japanese pottery to enjoy using it, fascinating cultural aspects and peculiar Japanese spirits are hidden behind it. Japanese pottery has developed in close relation to the tea ceremony. While Rikyu and other masters of the tea ceremony were first discovering the unique beauty of pottery, tea bowls reflecting their tastes were produced across the country. That is why I learn the tea ceremony as well. Wearing a kimono to have tea is a great enjoyment for me.
A serene retreat
in the heart of a busy city
Shofukaku Garden is just in front of Hokutoh
Hokutoh is located on the site of an old samurai residence, of which the garden (Shofukaku Teien) is designated to be one of Kanazawa City's Important Cultural Properties. The building is 300 year old, and formerly a katana armoury.
For tours of Japanese gardens in Kanazawa, Kenroku-en, Seisonkaku, and the Nishida Family Gardens are popular, but a different kind of charm is sure to be evident here at Hokutoh’s garden. It is located just behind the D.T.SUZUKI MUSEUM (only the gate next to the museum admits one to the garden). Try to find the time to enjoy a stroll and then be sure to take some pictures in front of the serene pond surrounded by trees. Hokutoh is open to visitors. You may even get a glimpse of me!
3-2-1, Hondamachi, Kanazawa
Shofukaku Garden （松風閣庭園）
*Please note to use the route as specified on the map for entering and exiting Hokutoh, including the garden! Visitors are not allowed to go through the MRO gate!