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Introducing Ryuji Iwasaki
Beautifully crystalized glaze 

Beautifully crystalized glaze 

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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.

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“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.”


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Creation:

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.

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Wheel:

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.

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Color:

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.

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Happiness:

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.

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Dream:

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
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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.

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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.

We love... "japanese packaging" part 1

We adore Japanese packages. We'd like to share Part one of our packaging study.

Plum tea package by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten. Their business dates back to 1716, supplying special Goyohin to Tokugawa government. 中川政七商店

Plum tea package by Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten. Their business dates back to 1716, supplying special Goyohin to Tokugawa government. 中川政七商店

Individual Plum wine carton comes with a pretty sleeve. "Ume-iro Shizuku" from Kozaki Shuzo Nabedana, in Narita, also has 320 years of history. 鍋店

Individual Plum wine carton comes with a pretty sleeve. "Ume-iro Shizuku" from Kozaki Shuzo Nabedana, in Narita, also has 320 years of history. 鍋店

Gorgeous emboss work on outer pack for Incense ...by Shoyeido Incense Co, Kyoto. 松栄堂

Gorgeous emboss work on outer pack for Incense ...by Shoyeido Incense Co, Kyoto. 松栄堂

Individual mini Yokan in 3 flavor packs are in a cute little fabric bag! ...by one of the most well known Wagashi store, Toraya. とらや

Individual mini Yokan in 3 flavor packs are in a cute little fabric bag! ...by one of the most well known Wagashi store, Toraya. とらや

Matcha Storms New York!
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We recently introduced a Matcha story in Bon Appetit magazine on our Japan Suite Facebook site. It seems now that nealy everyone is talking about the wonders of Matcha mania as evidenced by this Huffington Post article — and also discovering where to go to enjoy it here in New York City

Matcha bar in Brooklyn has been enjoying a lot of pub in the media lately, and newer Matcha cafes are popping up every month. We Manhattaners can also enjoy great authentic Matcha at places like Ippodo and at a new tea room opened by Satoko Souheki Mori in the great Japanese furniture store, Miya Shoji

Matcha is a powdered green tea, so we are literally drinking the whole green tea leaves that contain health-giving antioxidants, and “anti-aging” catechins as well as providing Matcha’s “relaxing effect” due to the L-Theanine contained in the leaves.

Matcha does have caffeine, but it releases its effect slowly over time not like coffee that and other caffeinated drinks that hit you very quickly. So, we enjoy the calm alertness all day long with one or two cups of Matcha a day. 

I have been taking Tea Ceremony classes, learning how to serve and enjoy Matcha properly in a more ceremonial manner, which is certainly different from grabbing Matcha latte at a cafe. However wherever you get your Matcha fix on, the core spirit of it is simply to enjoy the tea.

Now, if your neighborhood doesn’t have a Matcha cafe, can you make a cup of Matcha at home? Of course. We now offer Matcha whisks and scoops at our store. We particularly love the 100 tine whisk that makes creating the finest foam easy - even for a beginner. The subtle combination of the bitter taste with slight sweetness is sure to satisfy and make you happy.
Please let us know if you have any questions, we would love to share information about making and enjoying a great cup of Matcha…!

Infographics curtesy of © Epic Matcha 

Hiyaoroshi - Another Autumn Treasure
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It still feels like summer out, but those days will soon be fleeting as fall makes it’s arrival. While we love and will miss summer, autumn has many charms that we embrace. The leaves change colors as nature weaves it beautiful magic, late season fruits and vegetables are in markets and stores — and being the sake lovers we are, it also makes us excited for the arrival of the Fall sakes, including one of our favorite kinds, Hiyaoroshi.

Sake brewing traditionally finishes in spring of each year, and a six month aging process helps smooth out the flavors, which is why the new batches of sake are usually released in the fall. Typically sake is pasteurized twice to ward off any unwanted enzymes that can spoil the taste. Remember, sake brewing goes back many centuries before the advent of refrigeration, so the extra measures to protect it were vital to a great brew. However, once it began to get cooler in the season, brewers would release a version that is only pasteurized once — this is known as Hiyaoroshi. Sake lovers eagerly awaited its arrival every fall. So do we!

In Japan, some prefectures like Nagano and Saga have set September 9 as their official day for releasing each year’s Hiyaoroshi.

Hiyaoroshi has a lively, clean flavor to it — very vibrant with wonderful aroma and a nice, smooth finish. We can’t wait to try some of this year’s versions and will be heading to one of our favorite sake stores in New York City — Sakaya in East Village — to enjoy some when they arrive in the U.S. next month. We're excited to find out what this year's winners will be.

We encourage and invite you to try this seasonal delight. But don’t wait too long. Hiyaoroshi is typically released in small batches, so the supply can go quickly. Kanpai!


Seasonal recommendation from Sakaya

Wakatake Onikoroshi Akino Ki-ippon Tokubetsu Junmai Namazume 
若竹 秋の生一本 ひやおろし 特別純米生詰め

Uraksasumi Tokubetsu Junmai Namazume 
浦霞 特別純米 ひやおろし 生詰め