One of the fantastic things about living near Tokyo is that my friends introduce me to fabulous people and invite me to tag along to special events. One of several recent events was a private tour at the Toguri Museum of Art by Alice Gordenker, columnist for the Japan Times and translator extraordinaire. This is not a museum that I would usually have been interested in going to but I knew that a private tour with explanations of the porcelain objects would make them come alive, especially with Gordenker’s passion for her subject matter.
Bryan Ryosuke Sakashita’s show might have already ended but it is still worthy of note. He is a young ceramicist who graduated from and later worked as a teaching assistant at Musashino Art University also known as Musabi (website in English and Japanese), one of the top art schools in Japan. Art runs in his family, and he is leading the pack of the next generation who for some unknown reason are all working in 3D. His father is Japanese and a talented photographer; his mother is American and comes from a family interested in creative expression.
This cultural blend is also reflected in his work. Some of his pieces reflect designs and colours often seen in contemporary Japanese ceramics, but others show a willingness to try new things. Long, thin plates or trays might be unusual in other countries but they are often used for fish or other delights to please the eye in Japanese meals.
Dark-brown coffee mugs are relatively common, but these are manly mugs that fill your hand but are still light enough to be easily held in one hand. When the handle on a friend’s mug broke off, he kindly reattached it using a traditional Japanese method where gold is used to fill in the cracks. I do not know if does that for everybody or only for family friends, but that is very classy. The smaller espresso cups and even larger coffee mugs are in a dusky blue that is unusual in Japan. Those large mugs are too large for me, but somebody else said that they would be perfect on a cold day because you could wrap both hands around them to stay warm.
The small, handheld colanders are something unique that he makes. The design and blue glaze were based on a family heirloom that was associated with blueberry picking. He was asked to make several to prevent family members from fighting over it. These colanders have proven to be one of his most popular items and are now available in other colours.
Perhaps I was the only one who then associated the blue jug below the colanders as being the perfect creamer for pouring cream over fresh blueberries or strawberries washed in the colander. Wouldn’t the little white bowl be perfect for sugar to sprinkle over your dessert?
I have seen ceramic “filters” for making coffee in Vietnam but I have never seen them before in Japan. Sakashita can also tell you which paper filters fit best.
Sakashita’s pieces are reasonably priced from approximately 3000 yen for a mug and 6500 yen for a colander if I recall correctly. Each piece feels a bit differently when you hold it in your hand, and that is why one customer picked up each and every cup to find one that he liked best. Sakashita is very approachable if you want to discuss his work with him.
The show was not in Shibuya or Omotesando but in a small cafe/gallery called the Suido Cafe in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. The gallery is small but has regular shows. In the afternoon, interesting choices of lunch or sweets are available. They are also very proud of their homemade rusk, which is toasted bread coated in sugar. They use special, mineral-rich brown sugar from Kagoshima in southern Japan. They, like Sakashita, also like to do things with a slight twist. How about a traditional Japanese snack called dorayaki that has lemon peel mixed with the red-bean paste as the filling between two pancake layers. Yum! The spoons, bowls, plates, and cups were probably by other artists who exhibited there. I am sure that the gallery/cafe staff will be more than willing to share information on Bryan Ryosuke Sakashita as well as other artists if you ask.
That is not the only twist! In the evening, the cafe turns into an exclusive sushi shop. Introductions and reservations are required; walk-in traffic will be turned away. Fresh fish is brought in directly by local fishermen. Thank goodness! Other sushi places in Tokyo often offer only maguro that was previously frozen or fish that is not as fresh as it is in other parts of Japan. Dinners are 5000 yen and up.