12 March, 2019
It feels so good to clean up in the morning. I’m sitting down at 8am after all washing is done and all rooms vacuumed. I did a little bit of KonMari, too – a few old undies and socks with holes are gone. I’ve never watched her show. I’m kind of scared I might get addicted to getting rid of things if I ever saw her show. The gist of her philosophy, as I understand, is “throw away stuff that don’t excite you”, and that’s enough education for me.
Dusting off the shelfs is kind of fun, too. I have to lift up a bunch of little things that Marcin collects, and they make me smile. He likes to buy one little thing from a new place we visit. Of all of them, I particularly like this tiny Bizen pig pottery.
He bought this piggy while we were on a four-prefecture round trip back in November 2018. Flying from Haneda to Tokushima airport, we rented a car and drove from the airport to Saga, Okayama, Hyogo and back to Tokushima airport. As part of our import and export business, we go on a domestic trip like this to explore local productions During this trip, we visited several landmarks, including Imbe, the Bizen Pottery Village in Okayama prefecture.
Bizen pottery has a a long history that stretches back a millennium. Bizen, along with Seto, Echizen, Tokoname, Shigaraki and Tanba, are referred to as the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan. Bizen techniques came originally from Korea in the 6th century, and Bizen pottery is characteristically brown – it takes advantage of the natural warmth of the soil, and doesn’t apply ornate coloring or painting and uses only natural patterns by the flame. So while other famous Japanese pottery like Imari and Kushitani are beautifully colorful, Bizen has a quiet, earthy beauty. I like that about Bizen, but I never owned one.
Arrived in Imbe, I was ready to purchase a whole set of plates, cups and other little Bizen things for ourselves. As we walked into Toukichi, a smily shopkeeper offered us a cup of welcome ume-cha plum tea in a very nice Bizen cup. “Ume-cha is calming. Please enjoy”. Rather than starting a sales talk or offering a shop tour, she quietly went back to the counter and left us alone. Excellent customer service. After a nice sip in the quiet, our shopping frenzy was supposed to start.
Everything was so beautiful at the shop. Earthy looking plates, cups, verses, you name it. Prices vary, but they don’t seem to be that expensive in comparison to Imari and Kushitani, which we export from time to time. But then, my stingy side kicks in.
In Japan, you could get nice Mino ware at 100yen shops. I’m ashamed to admit that most of plates and cups at home are from 100yen shops or purchased brand new from second hand shops. Should we get this two 2,000 yen Bizen plates when we could get 40 Mino plates? I know that a quality of life could be enhanced when you are surrounded by beautiful things. But, we live quietly and hardly ever have guests at home. This business trip was costing us a bit, too, and I got a feeling that I’d regret buying a 2,000 – 5,000 yen Bizen plate when we got home. Perhaps we can come back one day, I was thinking, and get a whole set once our business grew a little bit more.
Now, while I was gearing into the stingy mode, Marcin was busily selecting what to buy. When it comes to kitchen stuff, he’s all for good quality. I’d be happy with cheap cooking tools, but he is the only reason why we have a series of Sori Yanagi at home. To get him off from the shopping mode, I started off with this:
“I’m not sure if we need more plates or cups. Our kitchen is cluttered already.”
Obviously he wasn’t convinced. After all, we flew from Tokyo to Tokushima and drove hundreds of kilometers to Okayama from the airport.
“We’ve come this far to get Bizen. You know it’s not like we can pop back in here anytime like we do at a Seven-Eleven in Tokyo.”
So I brought out my ace.
“Why don’t we come back once we have a house?”
This ‘let’s wait til we have a house‘ card solves everything. We are planning to buy a house in Japan after 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Til then, we promised each other that we’d buy as little as possible.
“Ooookay *frawning*… then, let’s just get one small thing. A reminder of this trip.”
We started hunting for that little something, and usually he makes the pick. After a considerable browse, he picks up a little pig.
“This guy. Buta (pig in Japanese). It comes home with us.”
Buta? Who buys a buta? I was expecting a small plate or cup. Marcin usually picks weird things as a little trip reminder when we go traveling. A pig? I immediately made face and was ready to protest against his pick, but then I saw the price tag – 500 yen:
“Excuse me, I’d like this one, please. No need for wrapping, it’s for our home.”
After we came back from our business trip, he first searched for the Bizen buta in our luggage. He placed it along his collectables.
“There, our Bizen buta, a reminder of our four-prefecture trip.”
I didn’t like the Bizen buta in the first place and agreed to get it only because it was one of the cheapest. But today, somehow it’s grown on me. I will never openly admit this to him, but he brings in fresh, unorthodox perspectives in my life. I find myself looking for standards in Japanese things, in this case, Bizen should be plates and cups, because that’s what I think Bizen pottery is traditionally all about.
But he look as a pig and thinks “This represents Bizen and our trip”.
He was right. Now, every time I see the Bizen buta, it reminds me of the trip. It is also a reminder that my life with him is never boring.