The Yokkaichi Banko-Yaki Ceramics Festival
From the 13th-14th May the Annual Banko-Yaki Ceramics Festival was held in Yokkaichi, Mie-ken. Banko-yaki is a tradition that started roughly about 250 years ago in the Edo-Period of Japanese History and is possibly one of the youngest traditions in Japanese ceramics and consequently almost unknown not only abroad but also in Japan itself! . Now, although Yokkaichi ranks 15th in the Japanese system of ceramic importance it is actally No 7 in terms of volume and income in Japan, the major area of production being the "nabe" (Japanese casserole) and Yokkaichi has an almost total monopoly of the Japanese market. I participated in the festival as a member of the Yokkaichi Banko Potters Association. The first day could not have been worse barring an earthquake or Tidal Wave. Setting up the stands at six in the morning in the pouring rain wasn`t much fun. The rain that poured down and occasionally drizzled giving us some respite, really put a damper on things. It is really surprising that amonsgt the potters there wasn`t an outbreak of pneumonia, plueresy or potflu given the conditions. Still some diehard customers didn`t allow that to spoil the fun and the long hours during the day when there were more potters than customers allowed us to share many ideas and thoughts with fellow potters. I was very impressed by the quality of work on display and feel that challenges can be met with confidence.
Sunday saw the turning of a completely new leaf to the occasion. Gorgeous sunshine brought out the beautiful girls in mini-skirts and young lovers sharing "okonomiyai" and "yakisoba" making it a true matsuri. All the customers who stayed behind thronged the streets that are close by the Banko-Yaki Sato Kaikan and sales were good. Okada Katsuya, the man who ran against Koizumi Juichiro (PM of Japan) in the last erections visited the show and I also bumped into Uchida-kun with his three young children. The show closed to bouyant sales and a satisfation of meeting old friends and meeting new people. I have participated in several Japanese ceramics festivals and I can`t help feeling that the Yokkaichi Festa is the best simply because they have made the necessary cahnges and are reaching out to the public. I am looking forward to the next event and have the festival as a regular date in my calender. What is impressive about this festival is the changes that have been made which has allowed it to grow and develop. If only other festivals could do the same!
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