August 2006, Kamakura, Japan.
Located by the sea, not far from Tokyo, in the Shonan area, today city of artists and writers, birthplace of Zen Buddhism at the time of the Shoguns, Kamakura has been the capital of Japan from 1185 to 1333. To me more recently and for many years a refuge for the weekend.
At the centre of a city where it feels so good to walk amidst ancient trees, where the road that leads straight to the sea starts, stands the god of war. Massacres and wars, trees have seen them all, they know the relentless ferocity of men when they have resolved to kill. Paradoxically this is in Kamakura, near Tokyo, that I used to find peace.
After the experience of a first bowl made in Karatsu, I rushed to Kamakura remembering having seen a pottery workshop near the large Shinto shrine that is dedicated to Hachimangu. A very old wooden house, people looking so serious that I had always thought they were there working there for a living.
Determined to find a place where I could learn, I stayed a long time my face against the window looking inside with insistence. This lasted a long time because no one seemed to ever look in my direction. Finally, from the depths of the room a very old man came up towards me and motioned me to enter. He was tall and very thin, his arms looking like wrinkled parchment were covered with large burgundy and brown spots, his gray eyes were very soft and his face was smiling.
I slid the door and made a step forward; there was no room to go any further. Inside, the space was occupied by two large wooden tables. In Japanese the old man addressed a younger man, « she wants to learn, teach her. » That’s how I met the master and the one he had designated to guide my first steps towards this new way.
I put my bag on the floor, was given a tour, a piece of clay and a first lesson. Then they asked for my name and where I was from. No one could speak English or French.
Quickly, I got used to spend there all my weekends. The master always seemed happy to see me even if he untiringly kept asking the same questions every week. He used to sit at the back in a tatami room with his wife while we were working our master pieces. From time to time she was serving him a cup of tea and sometimes he was getting up to come and check with a firm and steady hand the bowl I was making. He was not doing this for anyone else, but I must say that I was the only beginner.