Following up from earlier comments, I went to the Mingeikan in Tokyo today (about a 10 minute walk from Komaga-Todaimae station on the Inokashira line out of Shibuya). At first I reacted more to the building and the grounds than to the crafts. Lots of old wood and crazy stone flooring (where did they get that?), plus huge pottery jars out in the garden or tucked away here and there, maybe placed strategically to collect rain? Or just to be there.
They had some pieces of pottery that I liked, particularly some Yi dynasty ware with a yellow/brown glaze, and also some tiny little tea bowls, no more than 10-12 cm across. Maybe they were for drinking soju? Or even for rice bowls for kids? Another one that I liked was in the front foyer, a square plate with what looked like a few warabi stalks as a pattern in the centre. But the high point for me (usually the low point at most museums) is that they had quite a lot of space devoted to work that was for sale, which mean I could pick things up and communicate with them.
There were three separate spaces for these. One was the regular museum shop, which was pretty much as you’d expect, with some pottery and textiles, plus books, postcards, and some other publications. Second was a larger space for “approved works,” a term that seems a little odd, but which also contained items for sale. I’m not sure what the difference is between the shop and the approved works. Maybe the latter are on consignment or something, but they all felt like modern work. Anyway lots to touch, and all very reasonably priced, maybe ¥1000-7000, so it would really be possible for an ordinary person (like me) to buy one, take it home, and use it in daily life. They were not “high art” with the attendant high prices, but arguably beautiful things made to be used, and somehow, though I didn’t feel it at the time, thinking back it seems there really is something to that. Yanagi-sensei was onto something.
The third area of things for sale was an exhibition of modern work that had been selected in a competition there this year, but these all carried modern prices, too… ¥200,000 or more for some of the textiles. Definitely not the tools of daily life for ordinary people, and the feeling was different, though I suspect it was just the atmosphere. High prices = hovering sales people.
I can’t say I really “coveted” any of the items I saw, but I did buy one inexpensive “approved” thing with the yellow/brown glaze. It’s smooth, so doesn’t have the rustic charm of the Yi dynasty ones. If it makes it back to Hokkaido in one piece it will be my new rice bowl (the old one broke a few weeks ago), and smooth bowls are easier to wash because rice grains adhere to rough spots. I also wanted to buy a small hake-style tea cup to use at the dojo, but ended up in a long conversation with one of the workers there, and forgot to buy it! Maybe next time.
By luck this was one of the days when Yanagi-sensei’s residence was also open to visitors, so I wandered around in there for a while. Cool house, with lots of hidden spaces. Kids would love playing there, but it would be a nightmare to clean. The curious thing is that, except for his study/library (and the house itself), there were almost no craft items to be seen. Maybe all of his personal things are now over in the museum, but isn’t it odd that they wouldn’t keep a few favourites as he left them? I’d like to know what he used, and how. As it is, his house was as spartan as a Zen temple. Normally I prefer that aesthetic, but this time I was curious about how a “things” guy lived. Oh, well.
I might go back next year. They rotate the exhibits and the people working there are very nice. If I’m feeling brave I’ll go with my friend the (former) curator when she visits, though that would be less worrisome if they had a cafe. I need a place where I can sit and read while she does her “thing” thing…
Also I went to Asahi Archery, this time coming back with a 6-sun nobi glass/carbon 練心 bow. This will probably be my last synthetic bow, and I’m looking forward to shooting with it. Its curves are much stronger than the bow I have now, much more like a takeyumi, so it may be helpful in many ways. I also tried some of the bamboo bows there, and yeah… maybe I have a little bit of desire there… but I’m content to be patient with this.