thumbnails of japan

There are many realities in Japan right now. We at Handmade For Japan and the media have largely been focused on the disaster area in Tohoku, but I also want to share images from a recent trip to Japan showing another side. It felt very important for us to go to Japan during this time to show our support economically and morally. In many places we went, we were the first foreigners they’d seen post-earthquake. On top of the obvious economic impact of the disaster, millions of tourists canceled their trips during what is normally a peak season for the tourism industry. Outside of the disaster zone and apart from a slight undercurrent of anxiety in the national psyche, our trip went smoothly and the Japanese were their usual gracious, generous, and kind selves. Please consider supporting Japan by visiting.

Ken Matsuzaki's shard pile grew twice as big after the earthquake

The trip was a much needed vacation but it was also a chance to see first hand some of the damage caused by the earthquake. Near and dear to the hearts of many potters worldwide is Mashiko, a town made famous by National Living Treasure, Shoji Hamada, one of founders of the Mingei/Folk Art movement who established his pottery here in the 1920′s. It’s still home to hundreds of potters who were struggling in the recession pre-earthquake and who now have the daunting task of rebuilding destroyed studios and kilns. Ken Matsuzaki was kind enough to show me and writer/translator Naomi Tsukamoto around his studio and the town, including the Hamada estate which was very hard hit with 40% of the collection broken, kilns destroyed, and major structural damage to buildings. It was both heartbreaking to see the extent of damage and inspirational to see the potters and town rallying to move forward. To donate to Mashiko’s rebuilding efforts, the Mashiko Pottery Relief Fund has been established by Ken Matsuzaki, the Pucker Gallery, and Mudflat Studio and to volunteer in person, visit this website. From April 29- May 5, Mashiko has their annual spring pottery festival so if you have friends in Japan, encourage them to go. See pictures on Flickr.

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Just when we thought that the flow of money had sadly come to a trickle, a very, very generous benefactor has come forward with an incredible offer. We’d been thinking all week about how to continue raising funds for disaster relief in Japan, despite the fact that the auction was so much more successful than we ever imagined. Recovery costs are estimated at 235 billion dollars and the images coming from Japan continue to be heartbreaking. During the course of the auction, we heard over and over that people who really wanted to give and participate were priced out after a certain point, so we were sure that we wanted to offer some sort of t-shirt after the sale. Besides that, we love our disaster bear logo drawn by illustrator Dave Gordon and weren’t quite ready to retire him.

What our anonymous benefactor has offered is to match Cafe Press’ production cost dollar for dollar and donate it to our charity of choice, GlobalGiving. Say a t-shirt costs $25;  the mark up of $5 is what we’ll donate to GlobalGiving and $20 is what Cafe Press takes in production and profit and what our benefactor will match with a donation to GlobalGiving. Click here to see all the great gear whose purchase will continue to help the Japanese people.

Also see GlobalGiving‘s nice write up on Handmade For Japan and many others here.




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