Posts Tagged pottery

April 5, 2006 – Pottery Lessons and free upgrades

My parents, The Penpal, and her parents spent the night at the beautiful Hanabusa ryokan in Izu Nagaoka. Izu is filled with ryokans, but one of the reasons we chose Hanabusa over the others was that they offer pottery classes. After a delicious breakfast we went to the pottery classroom to learn from the resident pottery master.

There is a long history of pottery in Japan. I had been to a pottery class with The Penpal a few years ago with a sad looking teacup to show for it. I was looking forward to getting a second chance to test my skills as a potter.

Pottery class!

Pottery class!

The pottery area was in a large room with long tables surrounded by shelves with cups, plates, and vases in various states of completion. Our families were the only ones in the pottery room, so we got the full attention of the master, who was a friendly, energetic older gentleman. The Penpal translated as he guided us through pounding, rolling, spinning, and shaping our cups.

Thanks to the expert instruction and hands on assistance, we all did reasonably well. My mom’s cup actually turned out fantastic, and mine was far less terrible than my attempt two years earlier. We all finished our cups, and the master promised to glaze and fire them, then ship them to The Penpal’s house.


My parents absolutely loved their time at Hanabusa! It was a far different experience than simply staying at a hotel somewhere. Getting to stay at the ryokan with The Penpal and her family made everything even better; they were just as excited to share their culture with us as we were to learn about it.

After checking out, we drove around Izu in the rain before returning to Numazu. The Penpal’s family dropped us off at the hotel for the last time, where we learned that my parents had been given a free upgrade to a suite as a thank you for spending so many nights at the hotel.

If you need a hotel in Numazu, stay at Hotel Miwa located conveniently close to the north side of Numazu station! It’s convenient, reasonably priced, and the service is fantastic!

We said goodbye to the Penpal’s family, and my parents started getting themselves ready to return to Canada. I can’t believe their visit is almost over!

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April 18, 2004 – Izu vacation day 2


Today was the second day of my two day Izu vacation with The Penpal. The main activity of the day was a pottery school. It was well hidden in a residential area built on the side of a hill. The school taught the traditional Japanese way to make pottery. It was really out of the way, and everything was in Japanese which didn’t make it a very common tourist spot for foreigners. Based on the reaction of the staff, I was likely the first non Japanese person they had ever taught.

The Penpal and I decided we would make simple cups. We paid for 1kg of clay and sat down in a room full of other students to await instructions. The pottery instructor came out and started the explanation. He started slowly and then stopped to wait for The Penpal to translate for me. I told her in English that she should just translate everything at the end to avoid holding up the lesson. She passed along the message and then the instructor went full speed ahead for the next 15 minutes. I could only understand about every 5th or 6th word, so I tried my best to remember what he was doing with the clay.

By the end I had a general idea of what I needed to do, so I decided to have a little fun with the instructor. Until this point I had not said a single word of Japanese to anyone. I put up my hand and said:

Me: Sumimasen (Excuse me)

Instructor: Hai (Yes)

Me: Moo ichido itte kudasai. (Please repeat it one more time)

Instructor: (which part)

Me: Zenbu kudasai. (Everything please)

Thinking I was serious, he looked shocked that he would have to give the entire presentation again. At this point I started laughing and told him that I was just joking. This got a good reaction from the rest of the students, and they all took turns coming over to say hi and to lie about how good my pottery wasn’t. I was especially popular with the middle aged ladies. A little of a foreign language and a smile goes a long way to make friends.

When we left I got a lot of bows and sayonaras from the students and staff. The Penpal was largely ignored by everyone else, which was a little sad. We drove back to Mishima station and said goodbye and I was on my way home.

One the train ride home, a little old man started talking to me in excellent English. He asked me for my business card (I didn’t have one) and said that next time I came to Izu, would I please stay at his hotel and help him practice English. In exchange he would serve me traditional Japanese food. The other people around us on the train all seemed to be interested and or amused by this conversation. I love Izu!

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