Friday, November 23rd, 2012
The children are excited, chattering noisily as we drive to Tokyo through the freezing rain. Our side of the freeway is uncrowded despite it being peak hour, as today is a national holiday; the lanes coming out of Tokyo are jammed. Sean makes up songs for the place names as we pass. It is opening day of the exhibition, the culmination of all our efforts, and it is important to me that the family all share in this event. I delivered the work to the gallery yesterday, set up the exhibition with Miyake san during the day and returned to Minakami late last night. It is a three hour drive each way. I do not know if anyone will come, but whether they come or not, this is a triumph for us, and I have done my best. It is out of my hands now, once again.
As we leave the freeway, turning onto chuo-dori, it is like coming home. I have been exhibiting at Ebiya for 19 years and Nihombashi is familiar stamping ground. I point out the landmarks to the kids; Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi Department stores where I exhibited in years past; Nihombashi, the bridge of Japan; Kappo Toyoda, where chef Hashimoto will prepare the food for the opening party; the Mandarin Hotel; and there on the corner, the Ebiya Bijutsuten. Miyake san is waiting for us when we arrive, there are hugs and tears and laughter. Yes, it is like coming home.
Miyake san gives us all "Ebiya" hanten coats to wear, a special privilege. The antiquities have been stored away, and now my work adorns the antique furniture. Miyake san comments that my work seems at home in these surroundings, at ease with furniture from any age. Not subject to the whim of fashion, not copies of ancient art, but art for the human hand and spirit, ageless.
The Gallery opens its doors, the guests begin to arrive. Friends, old and new, many of whom I have not seen since before the quake, many who have helped us through these difficult times. We embrace and smile and laugh, and yes, sometimes we cry. Sora, Canaan and Rohan offer refreshments to the guests, Sean plays with the elevator. Mika stands beside me as the clocks begin to chime midday, and as the sixtieth bell tolls, we rise for the toast. This exhibition may well be the work of my hands, but it is not mine alone. It is the result of the efforts and the support of so many of you, and I thank you all.
I stack the wood by size, some for the bath furnace, some for the main stove, some for the studio. Eventually I will find a uniform size that fits all the stoves and the kiln, but for the moment this is fine. Mika has gone to the school this morning to read to the students with some of the other mothers. I am home alone, well, alone with the cats. It is a strange contrast to last week; I must have spoken to hundreds of people in Tokyo, we were busy throughout the whole exhibition, and each day was busier than the last. There was a constant stream of visitors, and even two school groups! I even had a very special visit from a blog follower from Washington DC, a chance to meet someone from the other side of the world who has shared our journey! Some of my guests returned three or four times, and on the last day we closed late because there were still clients deciding which vessels to purchase. After we closed the doors I quietly wrapped and packed the remaining work while Miyake san did the paperwork. It was a very successful show, the return trip was much lighter. Thank you all!
During the exhibition, a film crew from TBS Television spent several hours at the gallery taking footage for a program called "Totteoki Nippon" (Special Reserve Japan), which focuses on Japanese culture through the eyes of artists like myself. They also spent a day filming here in Minakami the day after the exhibition ended! The program will go to air on Japanese national television in two parts, the first of which is tomorrow night, the 6th of December, at 8:49 pm (for five minutes, so don't blink!) , and the second part airs on the 13th of December at the same time. By what providence I do not know, but this will be a record of my first exhibition, just as the NHK world program recorded the first firing.The days are becoming shorter now, and the sun falls beyond the mountains to our west by mid afternoon, to leave us with a long extended dusk. The wood preparation is almost finished, I will put the rest away tomorrow morning. Now I need to light the bath and get the evening household chores done. The children return home from school and do their homework on the kitchen table while Mika and I prepare dinner. We have stocked the larder for winter, and today I paid the last installment on the concrete for the kiln shed. It is ours, finally!
Over the next week I will be boxing up the work for the second stage of the "Comeback" exhibitions. From Thursday, December 13th till Tuesday, December 18th, between the hours of 11:00am and 6:00pm, I will be exhibiting the rest of the work from the first firings at Gallery Ciel in Utsunomiya, in Tochigi prefecture close to Mashiko. I will be in the gallery every day.
It has been such a long journey to return to where I began. Oh, yes, there is still much to do; but that is part of the journey, too. But as I write, the wood stove crackles and our home is warm and safe, the children sleep peacefully in the next room, while Mika dozes in the armchair. The coffee is hot and fragrant as I drink from a mug with a dragon on its base and a shrimp swimming round its side. Every day is full of love and beauty, and though none of us know what tomorrow may bring, today has been peaceful and happy. Thank you all for sharing in this journey.