Thursday, March 23, 2006


During the three years I lived in Japan, I took a weekly pottery class. We laughingly called it the Gaijin (foreigners) and Old People's class, because the class consisted of me, two fellow language teachers, and 6 or 7 other students who were 65 or older. We had a great time. The other students were amazing and would always give us helpful advice and encouragement.

My pottery teacher, Sugi Sensei, studied in Hagi - a city/region famous for beautiful pottery, like this:

I love Hagiyaki. My friend, Anne-Marie, and I would make frequent train trips to Hagi to buy pottery. I suppose I have about 10-15 pieces of Hagiyaki, including the most expensive piece of pottery I've purchased (to date): a tea ceremony bowl made by the owner of my favorite kiln. It cost about $175. I couldn't afford anything made by his father.

Anne-Marie bought one too. It was on our last trip to Hagi, so we justified the purchases as "Going Away Presents" to ourselves. Unfortunately, the box-maker was on holiday. The owner's wife took our mailing address and promised to send the bowls once the boxes were made.

About a month or two before we left the country, we received a package from Hagi. Our tea bowls had arrived, in simple, yet gorgeous, handmade boxes. Plus, the wife had added two large teacups (yunomi) to the package. YAY! Free stuff rocks!

OK. Back to the class, which was the original point of this entry ...

Sugi Sensei had several different glazes we could use on our works - hard white, soft white (like the glaze used in Hagiyaki), brown, clear, and green. The green glaze bucket was labelled in katakana (the Japanese writing system mainly used for foreign words): Oribe [pronounced oh-ree-bay].

For the longest time, I believed that, because there are no l's or v's in Japanese, "oribe" was how my pottery teacher wrote "olive."

Then, as a going away present, one of my classes took me to Ume no Hana [Plum Blossom], a fairly expensive restaurant. Each room in the restaurant is decorated in a different way and uses a different style of pottery. I hoped we would be in the Hagi room or the Bizen room.

It was not to be. All the pottery in our room was similar to this:

One of my students, looked at the pottery and said, "Oh. We must be in the Oribe Room."

And, that is how I learned, after 2 years and 9 months of pottery class that Oribe is not olive, but a style of pottery.


  1. I have never taken a pottery class, so this means you're cooler than me. *sigh* Now I have to beat you, you understand, right?

  2. If you've never read it, check out "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris. There's a chapter in there called "Jesus Shaves" that reminds me of your story.

  3. Hi, Goblinbox.

    Please don't beat me. I'm too cute to have bruises :-)

    Hi, Danulai!

    I have read "Me Talk Pretty One Day," and my favorite chapter is "Jesus Shaves!" It's an Easter tradition in my home to read that! ha. I laugh just thinking about "a bell from Rome."