Published in Honoho Geijutsu Issue #60, 1999
A few months ago, when I was in Shibuya, I asked a friend where I could get something to eat and he said that on the top floor of the Shibuya 109 building there were some good restaurants. Off I went.
Well, what a surprise awaited me as I entered a building full of gaudy colors, heavy bass music, and girls so outwardly 'fashionable' it was rather shocking - I had to wonder if I was still in Japan or had entered some movie set. Many westerners think that the beauty and strength of Japan comes from a quiet inwardness, a deep reflecting mind, and a strong spirit - yet how Japan looks today is so different from that ideal that I have to wonder what sort of identity will the Shibuya 109ers have in the coming century - will they know what it means to even be Japanese?
Will they ever have the joy to drink from a Yoshida Yoshihiko guinomi?
I believe that as we are on the doorstep to the 21st century and so many people are looking for a new vision we have to search inside our own souls to find the answer - the new frontier isn't outer space, but the potential of the human spirit-mind.
That spirit is to be found in Yoshihiko Yoshida's work. These pieces appear plain on the outside but with a closer look one can find an inward strength and beauty that is, what I think, to be the foundation of Japanese culture. There's no need to wrap this hakeme tokkuri in sparkling, glittering colors or to set it up on high-platform shoes -- it already has a sense of identity that is quiet and deep. Does that come only with experience or is it something that is born within the soul? Why is it that so many young Japanese have no idea of wabi-sabi and seek identity through fashion?
Obviously when I look at Yoshida's work I feel I'm gazing into the true Japan and have to wonder where the 21st century will find Japanese culture. Japanese culture is a glorious color in the world culture's rainbow and to lose it would be not only a great loss to Japan, but also to the world.
I wish that I had this confident hakeme tokkuri, or shiro-kesho guinomi with it's fine mikomi and purple shades, or gentle aka-shino guinomi with me when I walked into Shibuya 109. I would have waved them above my head like a sword and yelled at the top of my lungs, "Here is what you're looking for - a sense of identity that goes beyond fashion and speaks to your heart!" Who would have listened?
These Yoshida shuki are quite appropriate for me to use as I gaze upon the unknown future - even facing the unknown, they are sure of themselves, and bring a calm into my heart whenever I fill them with nihonshu (sake) and enjoy a quiet drink. With Yoshida's shuki by my side, I face the unknown, and the known, with a sense of wonder and joy at the gift of life.
Humanity turns another page
up the river we flow
Yoshida shuki in hand
by Robert Yellin
published in Honoho Geijutsu Issue #60, 1999
photos courtesy of Honoho Geijutsu
For more on Yoshida Yoshihiko, please click below links:
Yoshida Yoshihiko Exhibition 2001
Yoshida Yoshihiko Mino Wares
Yoshida Yoshihiko Chawan and Zen