I was a bit nervous when I first heard that our CET-led excursion would be to Kyoto for molding clay. The reason why? My first thought went to the specialized context that the students would have to navigate—all in Japanese. First, the staff at the workshop would have to teach us how to properly mold clay. We then had to continue communicating with the staff as we carefully tried to avoid messing up our new tea bowls. Luckily for us, however, there was a class that Friday reserved for just the sort of pottery-related phrases and vocabulary that we would need to succeed in that environment.
Here are just some of the words and phrases that we learned in preparation for our 陶とう芸げい (ceramics) trip.
- 電でん動どうロクロ – electric pottery wheel
- 腕うでを支ささえる – support your arm (a tip we were actually given by workshop staff as we molded our clay)
- 穴あなを開あける – open a hole (the first step in making your tea bowl or other creation)
When it came time to listen to the staff demonstration and start work on our own bowls, the process went a lot smoother than I expected, and it was fun slowly spreading out the clay as it spun on the pottery wheel and we each gave it our desired shape.
After we finished making our bowls, students were free to use the rest of their day as they pleased. Since the pottery workshop was located right off Kiyomizu street, lined with restaurants and souvenir/snack shops, many students went to go visit Kiyomizu Temple: one of Japan’s most picturesque. As with Kiyomizu Street on our slow ascent up the mountain,
Students’ creations ready to be baked.
Kiyomizu Temple thronged with domestic tourists including kimono-clad couples waiting their turn to snap a picture together off the main balcony that overlooks the tree cover and city scape. The strong smell of fresh incense wafted through the air as we made our way through the busy temple complex. One would occasionally hear the old gong located near the main balcony reverberate solemnly through the space.
View from Kiyomizudera,
After descending the mountain and filling up on snacks and souvenirs for our OGU housemates and friends back home, everyone went their separate ways. Some went on to explore Kyoto while others hurried back to start on homework or just to unwind back home after another busy week at the International Center.