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b. benten is the online shop for high quality handmade ceramics and houseware items from Japan rooted in tradition for everyday use. Our mission is to introduce Japan's master artisans to the world by offering their limited work and covering fascinating stories of craftsmanship.


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Tsutomu Masuda: The Coming of Summer

Maya Nakamura

Kamakura is probably my favorite city in Japan.  It is by the ocean and there are dozens of old Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines in this area.  It is a popular old-fashioned resort town with lovely little cafes and gallery shops everywhere.  If you ever come to Japan, please make sure to swing by. 

So I heard my beloved potter, Tsutomu Masuda, is having an exhibition in Kamakura to celebrate the coming of summer.  

via  vuori  

via vuori 

The exhibition was at the cafe/gallery called, Vuori, right off Hase station.  Super cute.

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

Vuori  1-15-1 Hase, Kamakura 248-0016, Kanagawa

The first floor is the cafe and the second floor is the gallery space.  the first floor is so nice, but I was too excited to check out the exhibition, so I immediately walked up to the second floor when I got there with so much anticipation.   

And there, I could instantly spot Masuda chatting away with his fellow wood artist, Takashi Miyashita in the corner.  Photos were not allowed in the gallery unfortunately, so I'm borrowing the photos below from their website.  


Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via  vuori ) 

Vuori 2nd floor gallery (via vuori

By looking at his charming smile with flip up sunglasses and slightly messy grey hair, Masuda looked like such a lovely guy, and his pottery reflects his warm down-to-earth personality.  

I started to take plates and bowls shamelessly, and spread them out on the table to decide which ones I will take home.   By the way, this is what you normally do at any pottery shops in Japan.  You take the items you are interested in, and place them onto a "display table" so you can evaluate them and decide whether or not you will purchase them.   

So as I'm smiling at the plates and bowls that I selected, the sweet lady from the gallery insisted that she'd introduce me to Masuda.  Well twist. my. arm. 

I had such a pleasure talking to him about everything from his kiln to his love for jazz.  What I learned is that he was an art teacher.  He actually taught himself to make pottery using traditional methods like glazes, brushstrokes and powdered appearance.  He currently resides and make pottery in Tsukui, the far northwestern corner of Kanagawa prefecture, which is known for their artist community.  (It is like Hudson, NY in my mind)  

His pottery is simple and functional, he explained.  It is meant to be used everyday and easy to mix an match with your existing dinnerware and blends into all kinds of settings.    


These are particularly my favorite items from the exhibition. 

As I exited the gallery, I felt a breeze came from the ocean with a hint of summer fondly.   

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon.