Dear Family and Friends,
One of my favorite persons in Sendai is Ito San, my travel agent. She has her own company now, but before that she was a tour guide. She held that job for almost twenty years. So, she knows every nook and cranny of this country. And she has an amazing memory of what she has seen and done. Plus, she knows her clients well and designs tours to suit their preferences. In other words, she is wonderful!
For years Ito San urged me to visit Mashiko Town. “It is famous for pottery. You will love it.” She always said, adding, “There is a long street lined with pottery shops. So, I know it will interest you.”
From her description, I envisioned shops, all pretty much alike, all selling the same sorts of things. I am not interested in that kind of experience while traveling, so have always politely opted out. However, when planning a recent trip for a friend and me, she slipped in Mashiko as part of the tour. I did not have the energy to resist, so went along with it.
I am glad I did.
What a euphoric surprise Mashiko was! Yes, there is a major road cutting through it, but otherwise, it is a charming town with traditional buildings, several with thatched roofs.
Everywhere the long history of pottery-making is promoted. There are posters with old photos throughout the town.
And each shop features unique, handmade pieces that can only be considered pure art. Shop after shop is a feast of artistic wonder.
Pottery masterpieces are everywhere: in restaurants, hotels, the train station, the museum, and even public toilets. It was magical to walk around the town, discovering one gorgeous item after another.
Mashiko’s pottery Master was Hamada Shoji (1894-1978). He was designated a Living National Treasure. Even today, his influence permeates every inch of Mashiko and far beyond. He is world renown.
In addition to pottery, there is one studio specializing in indigo dyeing. Everything there is natural. The building itself is traditional and all the dyes are plant-based. From beginning to end the process is done by hand. The results are gorgeous.
Our time in Mashiko was too short. There are temples and shrines still to visit. And the countryside is filled with fields and farms, so beautiful any time of the year.
When I returned to Sendai, of course, I visited Ito San. I humbly thanked her for planning a trip that included Mashiko. She smiled and said, “See, I told you!”
She knows me well. So, the next time she suggests a place, I am sure to agree right away. I know I will not be disappointed.