An Afternoon with Hamada pt. 2: His home

Click here for a video tour of the Hamada home. 

Hamada's home is a sight to behold. The farm house that he relocated to Mashiko in the 1940's is a great example of Minka architecture. This traditional style employs a method of wood joinery that uses no nails during construction. This was my first time seeing the style and I came away with an appreciation for the builder's dedication to craftsmanship. For more information on Minka you can visit the Wiki page by clicking here.

The thatched roof covering the structure was impressive in its own right. It runs the length of the building consisting of twelve inch sections of thick stacked thatch. The interior timbers necessary to hold up the roof are easily two feet deep by three feet wide. Can you imagine the cost of building with lumber this size now? The development of cheap prefab building supplies has driven the cost of rough cut wood up considerably since the time Hamada's home was originally constructed. It is ironic that the Minka style originated as a way for Japanese farmers to use cheap local materials to build their homes. I find it interesting that technology often rises out of poverty only later to take on an air of value based on its age and rarity.

You can no longer walk inside the core of the house but we could view the living space by walking around the perimeter. The central area has a raised floor covered in tatami and an inset fire pit used for heating. Chimneys are not needed in Minka homes as their high ceilings help separate the smoke from their residents.

Hamada's taste was truly a mixture of east and west. I loved seeing his English and early American furniture collection. The small side room off the kitchen could have been taken right out of a home in 19th century London. I was struck by how similar the objects he collected were to other potters collections I have seen. I could have been looking into a potter's home anywhere from North Carolina to Nagasaki. These similarities point to the power of the craft professions to shape the lives of their individual practitioners.

We ended the tour with tea at the sun lit kitchen table. It was served out of pots made in Tomo Hamada's workshop (Shoji's grandson), which sits adjacent to the Reference Collection Museum. This was the perfect way to soak in my surroundings on a brisk winter morning. I will never forget the sight of steam rising off the tea in my yunomi.

This travel series springs from my visit to Mashiko Japan and the home of world renown potter Shoji Hamada. Along with the help of Bernard Leach, Kanjiro Kawai, and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, Hamada popularized the Mingei movement. For more info on the movement please visit the Mingeikan website by clicking here.

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