Sake Cup, by Kakumi Seiho
Sake cup, by Kakumi Seiho, ca. 1983 (2-1/4" high x 2-3/8" diameter; Bizen ware pottery).
I purchased this piece in a shop in the town of Imbe (near Okayama, between Hiroshima and Kyoto), on 01 January 1984 -- during my first trip to Japan. (Imbe also has a fine pottery museum.) The town was almost deserted, due to the holiday, but the shops were open, and this was the one piece in the whole town which I wanted to buy (there were some tea caddies which were equally appealing, but they were somewhat more expensive, and, more important, I would have had no use for one).
I drink whiskey from the cup. The warm golden color of the whiskey highlights the iridescence of the bottom of the inside of the cup. Ideally, I would drink Suntory Excellence whiskey, which I had once when I got a free upgrade to First Class on JAL (Japan Air Lines) -- but the budget only permits moderate-priced single malt Scotch....
The potter, Kakumi Seiho (b. 1921), is a "second rank" officially designated important living cultural property (Shoji Hamada, e.g., was a "first rank" living national treasure). I am unsure of these facts, however, because the shop owner spoke no English (indeed, she was surprised that I was buying the piece, since it was rather expensive, and I was dressed rather sloppily -- she kept trying to convince me to buy something less expensive, in part "for my own good" and also, I think, to get this piece out of my hands before I damaged it...).... I am unsure of the facts about this piece because the shopkeeper spoke no English, and the person who interpreted for me understood English not well, and fine hand crafts not at all. Shortly after I purchased this piece, I saw a similar sake cup -- only not nearly as nice, but twice the price -- in the Ginza (Tokyo) Mitsukoshi department store.
(The photographs do not do justice to the piece, but are the best I could do with my now-obsolete Olympus D-300L digital camera. Because the sake cup has subtle shades of mostly dark colors, you may need to adjust the brightness of your computer monitor for best viewing of the pictures. My reason for choosing orange background for the photographs is that the cup came in a small wood box, wrapped in a piece of orange cloth.)
You may be interested to see pictures of wood-fired ash glaze vase by American potter who trained in Japan: Malcolm Wright; another Bizenware vase, by another Japanese-trained American potter: Michael Marcus; and hand-built vase by anonymous potter from the Rochester Folk Craft Guild. I also have a web page about some of my experiences in Japanese Buddhist temples, such as Daisen-in.Read: Criteria for judging sake cups.