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February 24, 1991|Charles Solomon

THE ROAD THROUGH MIYAMA by Leila Philip (Vintage: $9.95, illustrated). This introspective journal chronicles the two years that Philip spent studying pottery-making in the village of Miyama, at the southern tip of the Japanese archipelago. Since the early 17th Century, when the feudal lord Yoshihiro Shimazu established a colony of captured Korean artisans there, Miyama has been famed for its ceramics. As a gaijin (foreigner) and a female, Philip would ordinarily have been doubly excluded from this traditionally male craft, but the eccentric master potter Kazu Nagayoshi accepted her as an apprentice. She lived with her teacher and his wife, running errands, mixing glazes, serving tea and trimming pots. As she learned to shape the clay into subtle, ancient forms, Philip discovered she was being molded by the culture around her: Her open, independent American demeanor began giving way to the more reticent and submissive manners of a traditional Japanese woman. These intimate reflections offer insights into the art of pottery and the curiously imitative yet xenophobic culture of contemporary Japan.

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