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Trip To Japan To Study Ceramics. Ever Done This$

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I'm a professional potter looking for a month-long, hands on experience within a Japanese tradional pottery. I want to live on-site. Guess I'm looking for a residency but if any of you have experience in this I'd like to here from you. I am particularly interested in shinoware.

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Guest JBaymore



Welcome to the forums.


I have spent a lot of time working and showing in Japan.  Cultural aspects make it hard to just "cold call" places or people there and have opportunities like this that you are looking for.  There are some ways to get "in the door",...... but they are limited.


One aspect of one of the 'Japanese cultural roadblocks' to introductions is that if a person such as myself were to recommend someone to a person over there.... I am putting MY total reputation there "on the line".  If that person screws up ....... (and that is easy to do)..... it is exactly the same as if I was the one that screwed up.  So people already "connected" in Japan are often very reluctant to recommend or introduce people that they do not know very WELL. 


Yes... it makes it hard.


There is a Japanese word/phrase that is useful to know with that thought ......... muzukashi.  (Moo zoo kah she) Literal translation is "It is difficult".  It is the Japanese polite way of saying "no" without saying "no".  When you hear that phrase.... you know that a door just closed.  Do not push on that door.  NOT pushing.... may.... open another door later.


That being said about the difficulties, there is a group that offers paid for ceramics experiences in Japan... and in particular in the Seto/Tajimi area (home of Shinowares).  They are called "Explore Japanese Ceramics".  You can find them as a group or page on Facebook.  (Tell them I sent you.  I know one of their founders a bit.  He has been to me studio.)  They do month long (or longer) "residencies" of sorts.  Prices are reasonable.  it is a start.


Once you are there and have an initial "connection", however you can arrange that situation and start to develop relationships... then more doors may open for you.  Note that the Japanese want to know you as a PERSON........ before you as a potter....... or for any kind of business venture.  Liking you goes a LONG way.


The best piece of advice I can give you if you are serious about this is to go get books on Japanese culture and study them.  There are many to choose from that are tailored for business travelers.  As a foreigner and one that is new to Japan... you will have what is known as "Gaijin License".  It means that you can screw up a little and get away with things that a Japanese person can't.  The key point is to not to have the USE that License.  The less you step into poor cultural behaviors.... the faster doors might open for you.


The next piece of advice is to start studying Japanese language now.  Get some of the CD type things and start practicing.  Rosetta Stone is fantastic.  Pimslear also offers cheaper alternatives.  Even rudimentary language skill goes a LONG way into earning trust.  Most foreigners don't even try.  That you try.... says a lot in Japan.  In Japanese they do not say, "Good Luck" when someone is about to do something.  They say, Ganbatte". (Gahn  Bat Tay)   Ganbatte means, "Do your best".  Very different way of thinking.


And the last piece of advice here is what was given to me by a dear friend and colleague who apprenticed there, on the occasion of the first time that I traveled to Japan for ceramic related stuff years and years ago.  "If a car door opens, get in.  If food is put in front of you, eat it.  Follow this and you will have experiences that you could not have dreamed of having while you are there."


Hope your interest and plans work out.  Ganbatte.





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