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On Location: Japan

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

The impact of the Boeing 777 landing at Los Angeles International Airport was insufficient to wake me up from what I still think was a two-week-long dream in Japan, where past and present elegantly pave a consummate vision of the future.

Photo by William Montes-Liendo
Shigeyoshi Morioka and Montes-Bradley

Amano, Wakayama – First Week of Filming in Japan

I arrived in Amano, driving on the opposite side of the winding country roads leading from Osaka into western Wakayama, where time quietly slows down. Amano, home to master Shigeyoshi Morioka-san is the hamlet nested in the hills of Wakayama among other small and underpopulated villages, temples, and shrines. I'm here to meet Shigeyoshi “Shige”, the potter who influenced -at least- three generations of American artisans, including Joy Brown.

The resemblance between the space they occupy eleven thousand miles apart is extraordinary. Joy's working and living space in Connecticut is, to a great degree, a mirror image of the one created by Morioka-san in Amano. The main house and other buildings were built over time close to the anagama-styled kiln, the gravitational pole of the compound. The arrangement is not unique. Similar forms of adapting family life to the rigors of labor have multiple parallels in other parts of the World. What makes Shige's and Joy's habitats so unique is the philosophy they hold on to as they create and continue to produce extraordinary works of art. The result is so unique and distinctive that when Shinichiro Watari-san found samples of Joy's work in Connecticut, he immediately associated her work with the ancient Japanese practice of anagama wood burning kilns. The coincidence will eventually bring me to Amami Oshima, an island in the Amami archipelago in southwest Japan.

Photo by Montes-Bradley
Shigeyoshi Morioka-san

Amami Oshima – Second Week of Filming in Japan

Amami Oshima is a beautiful island between Kyushu and Okinawa in the East China Sea, still waiting to be ruined by tourism. It is hard to think of such a place anywhere in the World. It was here, in a village called Toguchi, on the Pacific side of the island, that Joy's longtime friend Shinichiro Watari-san was born shortly after the end of World War II. Back then, Toguchi had no electricity; homes were inter-connected by dirt roads that took the local farmers and fishermen to and from work. Shinichiro was then one of the barefoot many under the shade of straw hats. Today, Watari-san is an art collector living between Hong Kong and Tokyo. Over the last decade “Shin” has built near his home village a sanctuary for his mother and Soko, an art museum for today's children of Toguchi. The museum holds several outstanding works from Joy Brown (mainly large bronze sculptures cast in Shanghai) in its collection. Its most recent addition is One World, a ceramic mural in which the artist has worked for the last two and a half years.

Shinichiro Watari-san | Philanthropist

I was in Kent when Joy was designing and then firing the many tiles and parts that make up this complex mural that now has a permanent home at the Soko Museum in Amami Oshima. I was there, on the island, to witness the process of installation, the attaching of every piece to a wall facing a large window into the Pacific Ocean, that other World to which Joy frequently commutes -to and from- as she continues to live as an artist of One World.

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Powerful story. Someday maybe you will write about the powerful force and need for beauty in so many forms. Don Partington

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