On the beginnings of Mingei at Abiko

YANAGI SOETSU WAS IMPRESSED BY THE WARM, dignified and majestic ceramics of the Joseon Dynasty. His encounter with Joseon crafts became the prologue for the Mingei movement. In Japan, indeed in the world, when talking about Joseon ceramics and crafts, the names of the Asakawa brothers, Noritaka and Takumi, and Yanagi Soetsu cannot be excluded. This is because, until these three met, the general view was that the only Korean crafts deserving recognition, including ceramics, were the Goryeo celadon ware and also some bowls revered by Japanese tea masters that were attributed to the Goryeo period but actually came from the Joseon period.

This view was proven incorrect by the exhibition Art of the Korean People held at the Ryuitsuso Gallery in Kanda, Tokyo, from May 7th-15th, 1921. This exhibition was organised under the auspices of the Korean Folk Art Museum. That little-known museum is the reason why the names of the Asakawa brothers and Yanagi Soetsu cannot be excluded when talking about Joseon ceramics and crafts. The story of how the Korean Folk Art Museum became the crystallisation of the wisdom of the Asakawa brothers and Yanagi Soetsu, is the subject of this article.

In September 1914, Asakawa Noritaka, a schoolteacher in Korea, visited the Yanagi residence in Abiko Chiba Prefecture Japan, for the purpose of viewing a sculpture by Rodin, which had been presented to the Shirakaba group of which Yanagi was a member. Asakawa's present of several pieces of Joseon ceramics introduced Yanagi to Korean pottery.

Gazing at the gift of Korean pottery Asakawa had brought him, Yanagi said "I had never dreamed of discovering in cold pottery such warm, dignified and majestic feelings. As far as I know, the people (1) with the most developed awareness of form must be the ancient Korean people." Two years later in August 1916, Yanagi visited the Korean Peninsula for the first time, to investigate the true beauty of Korean crafts.

Asakawa Noritaka travelled down to Pusan to meet Yanagi and brought him back to Seoul, then known as Keijo. Asakawa wrote in his book Reminiscences of Korea: "In his zeal for Korean crafts, Yanagi has already bought a ferric-oxide decorated vase in Pusan and mailed it back to Japan. Despite the heat here (in Seoul), Yanagi has been doing the rounds of the antique shops and hunting through them every day."


Yanagi was fascinated by the beauty of form in Korean design and while in Seoul bought many Korean craft objects. But perhaps one of the most valuable things Yanagi was able to obtain on that trip to Korea was his acquaintance and subsequent friendship with Asakawa Noritaka's younger brother, Takumi.

Asakawa Takumi joined his brother Noritaka, who was seven years older, one year following Noritaka's move to Korea in 1914. Resigning from his job with the Akita Prefectural Forestry Office, Takumi found work with the Korean governmental Forestry Office. A devout Christian, as was his brother Noritaka, Takumi followed the missionaries in learning the Korean language and generally assimilating himself in the Korean way of life.

Yanagi enjoyed staying as a guest in Takumi's house. Observing the Korean craft objects which Takumi had acquired while setting up house with his wife, Yanagi experienced astonishment and inspiration in the true beauty of the Korean crafts.

On March 1, 1919, the Mansei Demonstrations or March First Movement (2) (in Japanese Banzai Jiken) occurred. In what he later refers to as "the first thing that I wrote about Korea after realising that there was no one speaking publicly in their defence" Yanagi hastily wrote Chosenjin o Omou (Sympathy Towards the Koreans). This lead to a series of articles being published in the Yomiuri newspaper from May 10 to May 24 that year. Through that series of articles Yanagi was able to express his sincere affection for the Korean people.

In 1920 accompanied by his wife Kaneko, a professional alto singer, Yanagi made his second visit to the Korean Peninsula. With the co-operation of Asakawa Takumi, Yanagi held lectures and Kaneko gave concerts, with the purpose of showing support for the Korean people's situation. The Yanagi's humanitarian acts made a great impression on Korean intellectuals and were received favourably. These positive results prompted Yanagi to consider with Takumi, the proposal of setting up an art museum, to further show support for the Korean people. In the January 1922 edition, Volume 13, Number 1 issue of the Shirakaba magazine, Yanagi announced the official proposal for the museum. The following is an excerpt from that article: "When trying to understand the humanity of any nation, I always think the easiest way is to examine that country's art. I believe it to be even more necessary now, when relations between Japan and Korea are in a pressing situation. If art could be used as a means of understanding, then I am confident that Japan could always remain the warm friend of Korea. I wish for all objects in my possession to belong to everyone. When the heart is consumed with beauty, there can be no thoughts of conflict. I have no doubt in my mind that the day when those excellent works of art of the Korean people will intersect and blend in our hearts, is not far off. I also have no doubt that the creators of those excellent works of art will become our heartfelt friends. To fulfil this hope and conviction, I propose the establishment of the Korean Folk Art Museum. First I intend to amass a collection which is representative of the unique characteristics of Korean folk art. Through this collection in the museum, I hope to convey the beauty of Korea which in turn represents the feelings of the people. It is also my wish that this will serve as a stimulus to promote the continuity and also the revival of the Korean ethnic art. "

Through the success of this exhibition, Yanagi and the Asakawas became confident in their mission and in October of the following year, 1922, were able to have the world's first Joseon Dynasty ceramic exhibition at the Kizoku Kai Kan (Aristocrats' Hall) in Seoul, the first event held under the name of the Korean Folk Art Museum. Finally, in April 1924, the Korean Folk Art Museum was officially opened at Chipkyongdang in the Gyeongbokgung, the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty, located in Seoul. In the process of establishing the new museum, Yanagi and the Asakawas were repeatedly requested by the Japanese colonial government of Korea to remove the word minzoku, meaning folk or ethnic, from the name of the museum. However, they refused to comply with the request to compromise on this important word in the museum's name. The reason for that is, as Yanagi had stated in his proposal for the establishment of the museum: "It is also my wish that this will serve as a stimulus to promote the continuity and also revival of the Korean ethnic art."

With this important point as a premise in its establishment, the Korean Folk Art Museum was established when Yanagi Soetsu was 35, Asakawa Noritaka 40 and Takumi 33 years old. It is because of this noble ambition, that even though the museum was destined to vanish after fulfilling its historical mission, their achievements are still spoken of with respect and their names have been immortalised.


Yanagi Soetsu's approach to craft, in particular folk craft or Mingei, was influenced by his experiences during his sojourn in Korea. Through his experience with Korean crafts, especially the beauty of Joseon crafts, Yanagi and the two Asakawa brothers were able to support the Korean people who were forced to endure the oppression of the Japanese rule after Korea's annexation by Japan in 1910.

It was the intention of the Asakawa brothers, Noritaka and Takumi, and Yanagi Soetsu to evoke a sense of pride in the Korean people, by exhibiting the excellent craft articles of the Joseon Dynasty. This intention was realised in the exhibition at the Ryuitsuso Gallery in Kanda, Tokyo, Japan.


(1.) 'Abiko kara: Tsushin 1' Shirakaba magazine, vol 5, issue 12, 1914.

(2.) The March First Movement was one of the earliest displays of Korean independence move ments during the Jap anese occupation of Korea. Massive crowds assembled in the Pagoda Park to hear a student, Chung Jaeyong, read the Korean Declaration of Independence.

Victoria Oyama is an Australian potter who spent many years in Mashiko, Japan. This article is written by Shinzo Ogyu and translated by Victoria Oyama. Photography courtesy Nihon Mingeikan.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Ceramic Art
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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手賀沼 宝永図.gif
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 実験開始から約3か月、稚貝が付着しているのが確認され、実験は成功。その後もアコヤ貝の数は順調に増えていきました。 貝が増えれば採れる真珠もそれに比例すると考えていた幸吉でしたが、期待していたほど多くの真珠は得られませんでした。






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志賀がこの書斎を作ったのは1921(大正10)年のことである。木造平屋の切妻作りで、床面積は約44坪(14.46u)、6畳間の北側に床の間、地窓と踏込み 、トイレを配し、東側に押入を突き出し、南側に濡れ縁を設けている。屋根は現在、銅板平葺き、外壁は漆喰塗りで腰を板張りとしているが、当初は杉皮葺きで、外壁は下まで漆喰塗りであったことが古い写真から判明している。四面に開口部が設けられ、通風と採光への配慮が見られる。内装は漆喰仕上げの壁、船底天井に網代を張り、棹縁に柱の磨き丸太を用いている。柱は杉材で手斧(ちょうな)跡を残したなぐり仕上げとし、虫喰い跡のある杉丸太の梁や垂木を見せる。床柱には青桐の皮付き丸太、落し掛には湾曲した百日紅(さるすべり)を用いるなど、数寄屋風の手法であるが、かなり独創的で趣味的な建物となっている。











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 Bernard Leach Tile 1925 cTate St Ives 
 Bernard Leach Ceramic 1925 cTate St Ivesて紹介されたのは、6代目乾山こと浦野繁吉で、リーチは彼に入門するとほぼ毎日工房に通う。1年後には自宅に窯を築くまでになり、更に一年後には7代目乾山の伝書をもらい免許皆伝となった。また、陶芸を学ぶことは、茶の湯や禅を始め、さらに深く日本文化を知ることであり、中国や韓国の文化に触れることだともいえる。リーチはこうして陶芸を通し、さらに広い視野で東洋を、そして美術の世界を見つめ始めていた。それまでは西洋に対する東洋、純粋美術に対する工芸など、AとBを対比させる二元論で物事を考えてきたリーチだが、陶芸の世界に触れたことで、これまでのような対比だけではなく、二者の融合の可能性を考えるようになっていく。

出典:ONLINE ジャーニー
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 川端康雄監訳、晶文社・2484円/W.Morris 1834〜1896▽E.B.Bax 

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 そこで匿名を条件に協力をとりつけたのが柳田国男なのです。これが怪我の功名というべきか、もともと農村に関心のあった柳田の関心とひびきあい、二人はともに調査旅行を行うまでになります。その成果報告として、帰国後、スコットはFoundations of Japan(1922)という大著をまとめます。柳田は謝辞にあるのみですが、柳と内村鑑三については詳細なインタビュー記事が掲載されます。

 もし柳が宣伝活動に協力していれば、この本は民芸や新しき村について多くのページを割く書物になっていたのかもしれません。とはいえ、スコットが宣伝のために刊行した『New East(新東洋)』というバイリンガル雑誌には、柳やバーナード・リーチ、鈴木大拙(ここでの連載が『禅と日本文化』の原型となります)など、多士済々が日本文化について質の高い論考を寄稿します。ただ、ここでも柳田は表だってでてきません。


 なおスコットの活動とNew Eastは、今年度から始まった神智学の科研共同研究(代表・安藤礼二先生)につながっていきます。スコットと入れ替わるようにして、野口米次郎の招きで慶應にJames Cousinsがインドからやってきます。アイルランド出身のカズンズは、神智学の宣伝に奔走するのですが、その際に、柳ほかスコットの人脈をかなり利用(というか逆用)しているのです。

 インドの反英運動を刺激するからとNew Eastは神智学を批判するものの、大拙やOsvald Sirenなど、神智学関係者の記事がしばしば掲載されていました。おそらくカズンズは、New Eastを読んで参考にしたのではないかと思っています。そのせいかどうか、カズンズは、離日後にインドで、New Japanと題した日本滞在記を刊行します。New Japanでは、柳やリーチ、そしてベースとなる岡倉の『東洋の理想』が、New Eastとは実に対照的に登場しており、両者の比較は来年度にでもできればと思っています。。



 西欧文明の内戦ともいえる第一次世界大戦が勃発してから約一年後の1915年、スコットは日本へ向かう。浩瀚な農村調査にもとづく大著Foundations of Japan (1922)にしたがうならば、日本の農業についての研究はこれまでになく、それによって英国の文明を建て直すためだという。そこには日本が近代化と田園とを調和させているという誤解もあったのではないか。そもそも日本の庭園や農村は、ヴィクトリア朝の旅行者を通じて過剰に美化される傾向があった。その点で、スコットが義和団事件を機にして刊行した小冊子Peoples of China(1900)が一つの傍証になる。ステッドのもとで修行した名ジャーナリストらしく、スコットは中国を訪れることなく、中国関係の書籍をあさり、それらを切り貼りすることで、この入門書を書いた。ステッドが、月刊誌Review of Reviewsで膨大な雑誌新聞を巧みに編集して要約した手法と、スコットの書き方は実によく似ている。この小冊子のなかでスコットは、中国の大部分は都会ではなく村落と指摘しつつ、その家族を基盤とする共同体には長老たちの頑迷で固陋な支配しかないと否定的に記した(69-71)。つまり、スコットの関心は近代以前の農業社会ではなく、産業都市と共存する農村共同体にあったといえるだろう。すでに多くの研究があった中国でもインドでもなく日本の、しかも農村を調査しようというのは、こうした背景があったからではないか。
 ただ日本を訪れて以降、スコットは、再びジャーナリズムの世界に飛び込み、今度は一次大戦における英国の大義を声高に主張することになる。これはスコット自身というより、すでにIan Nish (1972)やMari Nakami (1997)が指摘しているように、グリーン英国大使から対日宣伝活動を依頼されたためである。こうしてスコットは敵国ドイツの蛮行を強調し、日英同盟の堅持を呼びかけ、アジア主義者がインドに接近する危険を警告した。英国にとってのインドは、日本にとっての朝鮮半島だというのである。その宣伝に際してスコットに協力をよびかけられて断ったのが柳宗悦である。一方、船木裕 (1991)が明らかにしたように、スコットが執筆したプロパガンダであるIgnoble Warrior (1916)の邦訳原稿を作成し、日本語が不自由な彼の農村調査に同行協力したのが、柳田国男だった。つとに知られるように、柳と柳田は、西洋物質文明の対極にあるような日本や東洋の文化という関心を共有しつつも、とりわけ植民地に対する態度が異なるなど、けっして親しく交わることがなかった。スコットという共通の友人をもちつつ、ここでも二人は距離を置いていたことになる。
 たとえばスコットが宣伝のために編集していた雑誌『新東洋』(1917-8)には、柳やリーチも寄稿しているが、柳田はさして関わろうとしなかった。そしてスコットが柳田とともに調査した成果を盛り込んだFoundations of Japanに、柳についてはインタビュー記録といえるほど多くの頁を割いているが、柳田の名は謝辞にあるのみである。なお本書に挿絵を提供しているのは、スコットの妻の妹であったElizabeth Keithであり、版画家として知られる。姉を訪ねて来日してからは日本の版画を学び、アジア各地を旅行して残した作品は、特に朝鮮半島の貴重な記録として近年、再評価されている。この点からも両者の違いを浮き彫りにすることが可能だろう。
 このようにスコットの日本滞在( 1915-1919) に注目することで、民藝や民俗学をとりまく人脈の広がり、ひいてはその反響と反発が発掘できるのではないか。リーチは1919年に日本の工芸についての報告書を英国政府に提出しているが、こうした文脈は、スコットが拡大し攪拌した政治と工芸の境界を読み直すことで浮かび上がってくるだろう。拙稿「日英における移動と衝突 : 柳、柳田、スコット、リーチの交錯の例から」(2013)をもとに、スコット周辺の交錯を解きほぐししながら、スコットと民藝運動、ひいては民俗学とのかかわりとその文脈を明らかにしたい。

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Yanagi Muneyoshi and Two bothers met in Abiko, in the early 20C.

Noritaka Asakawa (浅川 伯教 Asakawa Noritaka?, August 4, 1884 – January 14, 1964) and Takumi Asakawa (浅川 巧 Asakawa Takumi?, January 15, 1891 – April 2, 1931) are two brothers who pioneered the study of Korean ceramics, and who worked to preserve and promote indigenous Korean culture. The two brothers were born in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, but would move to the Korean peninsula by early adulthood. Noritaka introduced Soetsu Yanagi to Joseon ceramics, and he alongside his brother greatly influenced Yanagi who later stated, "My encounter with Yi (Joseon) Dynasty everyday utensils was a critical one in that it determined the course of my whole life."

During Japan's occupation of Korea, Noritaka was stationed as a Japanese elementary school teacher in present-day Seoul with Takumi being sent there a year later as a forest engineer.The Asakawa brothers alongside Yanagi were critical of the Japanization of Korea during Japan's occupation, and stressed the value and importance in maintaining Korea's native culture. In 1924 the three founded the National Folk Museum of Korea, in Seoul, displaying examples of Korean culture as well as their own research.

Noritaka devoted the remainder of his life to searching for and studying Joseon ceramics. During his lifetime he surveyed 700 sites of old kilns, recovering and classifying enormous quantities of pieces and remnants. A member of the Society for the Appreciation of Korean Arts and Crafts, the essays he wrote appeared in such periodicals as the Shirakaba, the leading literary magazine in his time, and would harbinger appreciation of Joseon ware outside of Korea.Noritaka's body of work continues to receive academic praise to this day. Additionally, Noritaka produced paintings that were often inspired by the Korean artifacts he observed.His brother Takumi would ultimately publish "Survey of Korean Ceramics," an enormously important reference volume that remains in print today, detailing and describing various aspects of Korean ceramics.

Takumi lived as a Korean, and died at the age of 40 after delivering his final words "bury my bones in the land of Joseon." Beloved by the locals he was given a funerary procession, and would posthumously become well known for his work promoting Korean culture, being depicted in the novel "The Man of White Porcelain", by Emiya Takayuki, which is due to be released as a film in 2012. In 2011, Chiba City Art Museum held a special exhibition titled "Asakawa Noritaka & Takumi Brothers: Their Souls and Their Visions" to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Takumi's birth.

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