I spent a few days participating in the Japan Writers conference and basking in the glorious autumn sunshine and open blue sky in the charming old castle town of Morioka, Iwate prefecture. (October, 2014).
Iwate prefecture, rich in iron ore, clay and charcoal, is home to the production of Nambu Tekki cast iron ware, a cultural tradition dating from the early 17th century when craftsmen from Kyoto came to the region and developed utensils for tea ceremony. Cast iron kettles are made by pouring molten iron into either clay or sand molds and the tradition continues today in Morioka and Mizusawa. It is said water boiled in a tetsubin has a special flavor that enhances the taste of tea. There are also additional health benefits thanks to the iron content of the kettles. Nambu Tekki was designated an official national traditional craft in 1975.
With little time for sightseeing I was happy to discover three old kettles, each with a unique shape, in interesting locations on my cycling tour around Morioka city.
This lovely kettle was resting on a cushion at the entrance to Hoonji temple, where you can see up close 500 hand carved and life-like statues of Buddha’s disciples (created by nine Kyoto artisans from 1731-1735). I wish I could have enjoyed a cup of tea while contemplating the different characters and wondering what this happy pair below might be laughing about.
Later in the Konyacho area I found a sweets shop for a rest and tea time.
On the table was a beautiful Meiji era kettle with a traditional chrysanthemum flower and leaf design.
Morioka is also the birthplace of the poet Ishikawa Takuboku (1886-1912) and I found another lovely kettle in his ‘Honeymoon House’.
The blue autumn sky of Iwate…
…Shizukuishi Prince Hotel standing stark white against a cloudless sky.
“The autumn sky, so boundlessly vast and vacant
is too desolate.
Let a crow or something fly!”
(Poem by Ishikawa Takuboku 1886-1912, cited in Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature by Ueda Makoto)
Visit my Etsy store to purchase vintage and antique Japanese treasures.