The hardest part of leaving Japan

I will leave Japan in a couple of weeks, and I am starting to say goodbye to friends and sensei.

For me, Japan has been a constant rollercoaster between loving it and hating it, sometimes both feelings on the same day.

But a constant has been the amount of inspiration many Japanese awoke in me through their friendship, kindness, patience and hard work.

One of those people was my pottery teacher, Imai-sensei.

As I said in this post, he was 83 years old and was still teaching pottery when I arrived at his studio, and even though I didn’t speak Japanese and he didn’t speak English, he still accepted me.

Last Saturday it was my last day after 2 years, and saying goodbye to him was profoundly moving.

He first gave me this tea bowl made following the traditional bizen technique.

Bizen yaki tea bowl

Bizen is characterized by significant hardness due to high temperature firing, its earthen-like, reddish-brown color, absence of glaze…

The nature of Bizen ware surfaces depends entirely on yohen, or “kiln effects.” The placement of the individual clay workpieces in the kiln causes them to be fired under different conditions, leading to variety.

Because of the clay composition, Bizen wares are fired slowly over a long period of time. Firings take place only once or twice a year, with the firing period lasting for 10–14 days.

The finish is determined by how the potter controls the fire.

During the firing process the potter adds firewood directly into the firebox of the kiln every 20 minutes, day and night. The temperature initially reaches 600 degrees Celsius, and it is increased only gradually in order to avoid cracking the ceramic. The pieces are left in the kiln for 10 days.

Then, it was my turn to show my appreciation.

I didn’t want to give him a piece of pottery, so I used my other artistic skill: playing Ukulele.

Together with my husband, we wrote this lyric using the melody of Pearly Shells.

Imai-sensei, thank you very much

For all the things you did for me

Though again and again I didn’t understand Japanese

You always taught me with patience

I am inspired by your kindness and hard work

I will never forget this fun time with you

And we sang it to him!

I won’t miss many things from Japan, but I will definitely miss many Japanese. Not having these people around will be for sure the hardest part of leaving Japan.

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