Robert Yellin's Japanese Pottery Blog

Greetings from Kyoto, We've just moved our gallery into a magnificent old Sukiya style home located very near the Silver Pavilion; a stunning area and setting for the inspired ceramic art we share with the world. Please visit us if ever in Kyoto or online at and

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Man Knows Something.....

About Japan; in fact he's most likely the one of the most knowledgeable folks on the planet about things Japanese; Donald Keene is his name ( and he loves ceramics. The other day my son was reading the Shizuoka Newspaper and called out that there was a brief article about Keene-sensei and it was devoted to how much he loved Japanese culture and pottery the most. In one hand he's holding a bowl and although it does not mention the name of the potter, from the glazing and design I'd place a bet on Tsuchiya Noriyasu. In the major retrospective book on the late legendary ceramic artist Tsuji Seimei, Keene wrote in the opening essay, "Some years ago I visited a museum in Australia which had a good collection of the pottery of the whole world. The European examples--especially the large Italian majolica plates--bored me and I had not the slightest desire to possess one. The Iranian pieces were more interesting, but almost every one had been patched together from fragments. The pottery of China and Korea was, of course, splendid, and I coveted much of what was on display. But I was most affected by by the works of Japan, especially the kind I disliked thirty years ago from Bizen and Shigaraki." I found this passage from the essay--where Keene also praises the works of Tsuji to no end, as he should--rather profound as it shows Keene's understanding and appreciation of worlwide ceramics (even though he only mentions a few, he has looked at all) and how his appreciation of Japanese ceramics deepened over the years; as I've written before, Japanese ceramics, such as Bizen and Shigaraki, do not jump out to the viewer with glittering beauty, it's a quiet inward dialog and one must have a mature and open-mind to even initiate the conversation. No wonder Donald Keene is such a respected authority on Japan, and beauty.


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