Posts in Japanese Crafts
Introducing Ryuji Iwasaki
Beautifully crystalized glaze

Beautifully crystalized glaze

Award winning craftsman Ryuji Iwasaki was born in Osaka in 1980, where he still lives and works in his studio/home, shown below. The contemporary and simple design of the house tells us a lot about his unique point of view for the traditional crafts.

He has won more than a dozen crafts awards all over Japan.

“I create something from an undefined shape and make an object the user will find special and unique. I find great satisfaction in the bond this stimulates between the creator and the end user.”


I’ve always liked to make things since childhood, but not something standard or mass-produced like a plastic model. I’d rather make something without plans or instructions, which I can use to express my vision freely. I believe that is the key to becoming a potter.


When you see videos or photos of potters, they are turning the wheel. Some potters don’t like that part so much, but I really enjoy it. It takes me to new places while I create.


I think color is the most important element. The color of the ceramic is determined not simply by the type of glaze, but also by the proportion of the mixture, its flow, and firing. You become an alchemist by combining a very complex mix of all these elements and make one nuanced look. Therefore, I will spend the rest of my career searching for the various elements – call it a recipe if you like – on a quest for beautiful combinations of colors.


The most exciting moment during the creation process is when I open the kiln. Even if I have a very clear expectation of what I think the image may look like, I never know for sure if it turns out the way I expect. It goes the way I expected sometimes, and fails sometimes. But time to time, it turns out more than I was hoping for, and I fall in love with the exact work I made myself.


When I create something, I am always inspired and fascinated by the depth and beauty of Japanese traditional crafts and ceramics. I want the world to know and experience the depth and the charm that I cannot express by the words. It would be great if I can inspire the world through my work.


The Art of the In-Between

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) has a stunning exhibition of famed fashion designer Rei Kawakubo’s work. Of course, she is synonymous with Commes des Garcons, and The Met has put together a really intriguing exhibition that looks at opposites in her work. It blurs the lines of what we think opposite means and looks at what’s in between. It is the essence of what she has done since founding Commes de Garcons in 1969 -- embracing two Japanese principles:  mu (emptiness) and its relation to ma (space). The concept of opposites blurring invokes the space in between.


As always,we were really impressed by Kawakubo’s body of work as well as the great manner in which the exhibit was curated and designed. We’ve been to other shows in the Costume Institute at The Met that were stunning, but they were typically staged in dramatic setting with more direct lighting, to great effect. But Kawakubo’s work was portrayed entirely different. The staging was white with a matrix of overhead lighting from the ceiling and no spot-lighting on the displays. It emphasized the bold shapes of Kawakubo’s work, reflecting the colors and theme of the exhibit as well as her design ethos..

There are several concepts of “in-betweenness” portrayed in the exhibition and we could go into great detail about each, but I think the visuals tell the story.

Saying Goodbye to Summer With a Sip
Ozaemon from Toki city, Gifu great balance of umami and acidity

Ozaemon from Toki city, Gifu great balance of umami and acidity

September signals the waning of summer and the inevitable change in seasons. It’s a profound time for all who love summer. In NYC, the days remain warm and mostly sunny. It’s a nice transition to what will follow. September is also a time when sake brewers everywhere debut their newest offerings. And for past five years, it’s also a time to welcome in a new batch of sake to New York City by a bevy a sake brewers who come to our fair city and show their latest wares at the NY Sake Expo. We happily accepted the task of checking out the Expo (as we have done the past few years) and enjoyed talking to many of the representatives and brewers from sakaguras all over Japan as well as some in the U.S. Please join us in recognizing and enjoying the magic that is sake...

Kakeya from Unnan city, Shimane. Full of Umami, sooooo good!

Kakeya from Unnan city, Shimane. Full of Umami, sooooo good!

Shochu maker Kyoya from Miyazaki, introducing Heihachiro. It goes well with fatty food, such as Tuna Tartar so well!

Shochu maker Kyoya from Miyazaki, introducing Heihachiro. It goes well with fatty food, such as Tuna Tartar so well!

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Namazake: A Fresh and Lively Early Sign of Spring in a Glass
Shichi-hon-Yari Namazake in  Edo Kiriko  glass, by Kamata Kiriko, with typical  Girls' Day(Hinamatsuri)  sweets, Hina-Arare.

Shichi-hon-Yari Namazake in Edo Kiriko glass, by Kamata Kiriko, with typical Girls' Day(Hinamatsuri) sweets, Hina-Arare.

As we head into March and spring is getting closer, one of our favorite parts of the end of the winter road is here — namazake, which is the early spring sake that, like it’s fleeting cousin sakura (cherry blossoms), is best enjoyed fresh and savored while it is here. Namazake appears just after the sake brewing season ends, which happily is now.

Most sake is pasteurized twice to halt the work of the enzymes, stabilizing the brew for a long shelf life. Namazake forgoes the sterilization in favor of fresh, spring tastes. Once opened, namazake should be refrigerated and is optimal for two weeks or so. If unopened, you are good for around six months for optimal flavor.

Shichihon-Yari in Edo Kiriko glass bt  Horiguchi Kiriko

Shichihon-Yari in Edo Kiriko glass bt Horiguchi Kiriko

So, on the last weekend of February, we knew it was time to head to one of our favorite places for sake, Sakaya, in the East Village of New York (a fine neighborhood and one with a decided Japanese presence among many eclectic influences). Sakaya is NY’s first and only shop totally dedicated to the elixir. Owners Rick and Hiroko are always welcoming and full of helpful advice.

We partook in a tasting of Shichi Hon Yari from the Tomita Shuzo brewery in Shiga Prefecture. It is a wonderful melange of fresh tastes, drier than your typical namazake in a really nice way — a good mix of earthy, grassy fruitiness. Yes, we bought some and are enjoying a small glass as this is writing. There are many great namazakes offered this time of year, so we encourage you to check out this year’s batch while it’s here and fresh.

Fall preview from Japan Suite
Motion plate by Kihachi

Motion plate by Kihachi

We hope you had a wonderful summer. 

At Japan Suite, we are busy preparing for Fall products. And we would like you to preview a few of them today!

We are planning to introduce some unique glass jewelry pieces by Harrys as well as traditional lacquerware from Kihachi in Ishikawa. And from Kyoto, we are going to showcase bamboo dinnerware by Takano Chikko.

We are excited about these artists and will let you know as soon they are ready on our site.

Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Bonbon necklace (silver) by Harrys

Kiriko Day — Another Reason to Celebrate in Early July

Kiriko glasses are a fantastic accompaniment for chilled sake and food in Summer. July 5th is Kiriko day in Japan to celebrate the history of this style glass making, distinguished by designs cut into the glass.

Edo Kiriko was popularized in the mid-19th century by Kagaya Kyubei. It is said that Commodore Perry was very impressed by the intricate cuts on the gift glasses he received. Since then, the technique has been developed and today, artisans enjoy the liberty of designing new and contemporary versions of Kiriko, adding to the evolving legacy.

Guinomi Kai by  Horiguchi Kiriko

Guinomi Kai by Horiguchi Kiriko

Guinomi, Hane and Tabane by  Horiguchi Kiriko

Guinomi, Hane and Tabane by Horiguchi Kiriko

Hibi-Kohiki and atomosphere

Kohiki is typically a style of dark clay body covered with thin white slip and then a translucent glaze.  This style came from Korea and became popular among Chajin, who held tea ceremonies since late 16th century. 

Kohiki's warm milky white as opposed to porcelain pale white is popular among collectors. 

Some stains start to appear in a long run, it is called "Amamori", leaking roof. Chajins appreciated the atmosphere and the scenery of it during tea ceremonies. And the tradition continues to this date.

bowl from Vietnam

bowl from Vietnam