THE ROAD THROUGH MIYAMA by Leila Philip

THE ROAD THROUGH MIYAMA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young American woman's simple, elegant account of two years as a Japanese potter's apprentice and as a blonde, blue-eyed gaijin (foreigner) in a traditional village. The village of Miyama in Southern Kyushu was settled by 70 Korean potters, brought to Japan in 1598 as spoils by the warlord Shimazu. Their descendants, ambivalent about their Korean heritage, continue to produce pottery today. The village has also attracted Japanese potters, including Nagayoshi Kazu, who became Philip's teacher. While he and his wife Reiko (a leather artist) were considered outsiders and not well accepted by their neighbors, Philip--a tree foreigner--was such a curiosity that she gained entree into many homes and levels of society. When not wedging clay, practicing repetitive forms at the wheel, and helping with round-the-clock firings for her mostly silent teacher, she was invited to participate in Shinto rituals and a deluxe version of the traditional tea ceremony; she labored briefly in the stinking muck of the rice paddies as well. Along the way, she had to curb her natural inclinations and observe strict forms of courtesy and obedience--though Nagayoshi and Reiko, with whom she lived, were unusually modern, especially by local standards. Philip was disappointed at first that Miyama potters have modernized their methods, but she clearly learned much about her craft and Japan. A charming mix, and an unusual look at pottery lore and technique, and at modern aspirations and traditional attitudes in Japanese life.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1989
ISBN: 394-57818-X
Publisher: Random House
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