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  • Joan Rothchild Hardin

A Visit to the Old Japan

I’d first wanted to visit Japan in my mid-20’s when I began taking pottery lessons and became enamored of those earthy Japanese glazes and the sublimely imperfect ceramic shapes. There were potters’ trips that would have let me work and live at a few pottery villages and participate in their wood-fueled kiln firings. The trips cost something like $1500. If I recall correctly, that price even included round trip airfare. But I was young and didn’t have the money. While such a trip would no doubt have provided a wonderful set of experiences and might have changed the course of my life, it turns out this 2014 trip was worth waiting for – and also let me see glimpses of the old Japan my younger self was seeking.

A little bowl I made years ago – still in use. (Photo: J. Hardin)

THE FOUR MAIN ISLANDS OF JAPAN The archipelago that is Japan is made up of 2,456 islands. Its varied climate ranges from cool temperate in the north to tropical in the south. Honshu (where Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Hiroshima are located) is the largest. Hokaido, (where Saporo is located), to the north of Honshu, is the second largest. Shikoku, between the Inland Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south, is the smallest. Kyushu (where Nagasaki is located), to the south of Shikoku, is the 3rd largest.