In the art gallery called Second Spice in Kyoto Kawaramachi, Misao Yajima mentioned to me “it would be so interesting to write a story for every piece of utensils.” Yajima is a pottery artist living in Shiga Prefecture who is currently having her personal exhibition in this gallery. The exhibition mainly displays her most well known black and white containers. The plate in my hands bears a drawing of a forest, in which a few animals are hiding in dense bushes, whereas giraffes and rabbits are gathering in the center of the plate. I imagined how it would be like having pieces of vegetables stacked on the plate; taking the vegetables away bit by bit would be like exploring in the bushes and discovering all those hidden animals.
Yajima started to enjoy using pottery as a platform for story telling ever since she started studying pottery in Kyoto Seika University. Back then she was not making utensils for daily use but creating pottery as a form of art. It was only until graduation that Yajima began to make utensils. Mass production of the same kind of utensils made her feel empty at some point, therefore she sometimes tries to step away from the realm of utility and to return to the world of art, the gateway through which she understands the world.
Yajima had a solo exhibition near Biwako last year. Among many of the containers in display stood a few ceramic tiles. Different shades of blue harmonically converge on the tiles and create a gentle reflection; this is the reflection inspired by the Biwako Lake. A few years ago in another of her exhibition “The 12 Lovable Stories” displayed works she created for the 12 months of the year. In every month of the year she listened attentively to the nature, and to her own heart while creating these works. A young boy playing flute on the moon to personify the bright moon and warm breeze in March; a boat in the shape of a fish for June, the in-between spring and summer rainy season… The silent conversation Yajima has with the nature is so soft and peaceful, such an ambience is beautifully revealed not only in her sculpture art but also in the utensils she makes.
Yajima is a shy person; when talking about her creation, she appears to be rather lack of confidence, and sometimes self-criticizing for not meeting the taste of general public. Although she is well aware that most of her customers are into the natural roughness as embraced by wabi-sabi, she simply loves to paint vegetables, flowers and animals on the utensils she makes. Regardless of how her work could go against popular taste, this is entirely the expression of her truthful self.
When leaving Second Spice, I took with me a plate with the pattern of a wine bottle painted on it. From this plate, I can envision a world that is filled with the fragrance of wine, in which people show a tipsy and joyful smile.
Miso Marinated Tofu
1 piece of Cotton tofu / Hard tofu, 3 tbsp. of Miso, 2 tbsp. of Mirin
- Fill a pot with water and bring to boil. Put tofu in and remove when water is boiled again.
- Wipe excessive water from the tofu.
- Wrap the tofu with two layers of kitchen paper and place it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and weigh down the plate. Leave it in the fridge for one day to further squeeze water out from the tofu.
- On the next day, take the tofu out and remove the kitchen papers. Get rid of the water and wrap the tofu with a layer of kitchen paper.
- Mix miso and mirin and rub the mixture against the kitchen paper wrapping.
- Put the tofu in a container. Leave it in the fridge for three days before serving. The salty taste can have an even fuller body when marinated for two weeks.
The same method can be used to marinate Mozzarella cheese. Take the cheese out of the package, wipe away liquid on the surface and marinate with miso and mirin. The cheese can be served after being marinated for two days.
Adding black pepper and honey before serving can further enhance the taste. Serving with biscuit makes it a nice canapé that goes perfectly with Japanese wine.