BANKO archive design museum
When I gave a performance of “The Hunting Gun” in Toyohashi the other day, I took the opportunity to visit the BANKO archive design museum, which opened recently in Yokkaichi City of Mie Prefecture. This museum is located about one hour by car from Nagoya, in Yokkaichi City, and it was opened by the ceramic artist, Kouichi Uchida, who has a studio there. On display are collector’s items of old “bankoyaki,” a local industry that has thrived since the Edo Period, and the privately funded museum was opened for the future of pottery, and to contribute to the local community.
He himself is not involved in bankoyaki, but after studying porcelain-making at Seto Pottery Senior High School, he traveled all over the world, including Africa and Asia, where he lived and honed his skills making ceramics using local clays and the kilns of local villages. He made ceramics that for some reason appear new and modern, despite being primitive and nostalgic in many ways.
At a glance, Mr. Uchida seems totally uninterested in unions or politics, but for some mysterious reason he renovated an old bank building, where he has displayed his collection of items made between the Meiji and Showa Periods, which could just as easily blend into the daily lives of our modern-day world. As far as I can tell, it seems that he is trying to pass on the baton of hand-made ceramics to the next generation of potters, now that he is on the verge of fulfilling his own aspirations. He is trying to do so not by being overly authoritative, but in a fun and beautiful, or even charming way.
On display in the exhibition room are porcelain kettles and imitation enamel wash basins that were made to replace metal ones during the war, because metal could not be used. There are also porcelain Kewpie dolls that collectors from all over the world would give their right arm for, teapots that have always been popular bankoyaki items, and even urine bottles and bedpans, all displayed in a tasteful way testifying to Mr. Uchida’s refined sense of aesthetics. Numerous items made in Yokkaichi were apparently exported to the U.S. and Europe, then reimported back to Japan.
Other things worthy of note are creations by Mr. Uchida based on old designs, but placed within a modern-day context, such as a simple, board-lined tea ceremony room, and a plastered table for performing tea ceremonies while standing. There is also a café serving sweets made by his wife, Kyoko, who is also a potter, and his daughter. It too, provides a comfortable space set up with antique tables, chairs, and chairs designed by Mr. Uchida.
I actually don’t want to share this with everyone, but something else worthy of special mention is the museum shop near the entrance, where original stools and hand towels of cute designs are sold, as well as antiques that are so valuable that you wouldn’t dare touch them, let alone consider buying them in an antique shop in Kyoto or Tokyo. They include works from the Goryeo, Joseon, and Ming Dynasties, and Ko-Imari (old Imari) porcelain, which enthusiasts would drool over, all on sale at unbelievably reasonable prices. It is one of the main reasons people travel so far to visit this place. I too, actually bought a Futamono “lidded dish” woven from paper string of the Joseon Dynasty.
It made me realize that there are people all over Japan, not necessarily in cities alone, who like to live their daily lives surrounded by beautiful things that they like, and occasionally set aside time to get together with close friends to travel.
In the Friday drama series too, “Watashi Kekkon Dekinain-janakute, Shinain-desu (It’s Not that I Can’t Marry, but I Don’t Want to),” which will air at 10:00 P.M. tonight, I have used several pieces of Mr. Kouichi Uchida’s pottery to decorate the interior of the Japanese restaurant, Tokura. Keep an eye out for the delightful pieces of pottery you will see in the background.