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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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Like many people, I’ve been immensely moved and upset by the earthquake and tsunami disasters that began yesterday in Japan. In some small way I want to help, so I’ve start organizing an online art auction with the help of my oldest friend, Kathryn Pombriant Manzella, and my new friend, Ai Kanazwa Cheung, both of whom have deep ties to Japan. The auction will go live on Friday, March 18th and continue through to Sunday, March 20th at 9 pm EST. Many Japanese artists and artists with ties to Japan are donating work for the cause, with 100% of the proceeds going to charity relief for Japan. As soon as we start getting images in this week, we’ll be posting previews of the work so please stay in touch by signing up for the mailing list or RSS feed please and spread the word to your friends. Thank you for caring! (The picture above was taken in Tokyo by AFP)

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