Sunday, October 12, 2008

Raku Museum: A Japanese Gem in Kyoto

I was in Japan on business for the first week of October visiting my Japanese clients. I always to try extend these trips over a weekend to visit other parts of Japan. I was fortunate to be able to a short weekend in Kyoto this trip. Kyoto is a charming city which is best known for its many beautiful temples and their gardens. Although I was enchanted by the gardens that I visited, the concierge at the hotel also suggested that I visit the Raku Museum Until I visited the museum, I had always thought of Raku as a technique for making pottery originating in Japan which is characterized by low firing temperatures and removing the pot from the kiln while still hot. The results are difficult to predict, but have a special charm for that reason. The ceramics produced using Raku techniques are quite identifiable and striking (many years ago, I worked with ceramics and used the Raku technique).

However when I visited the museum, I learned that Raku was developed in the sixteenth century and is actually the name adopted by the family that developed the technique (the name is based on a seal granted the family by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the leading warrior statesman of the sixteenth century). The museum is small, with only three rooms, but this size and focus makes it a gem. In fact, the museum is in a building next to the family's kiln. The kiln is still being used. The visit reminded me of several other Japanese museums of similarly small size (all very focused) which I have visited. They appear to form a special class of museums in Japan. They are well worth the effort of seeking them out. If you are in Kyoto, you should visit the Raku Museum and when in Japan you should try to visit its other small museums!