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Mashiko: A center of folkcraft pottery Art Attack! Roth Management talks art investment, consulting and commissions SuperSitters: Finding baby-sitter services in Tokyo



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As the most famous center of pottery in the Kanto area, Mashiko is always a good bet for a day trip from Tokyo, but the Mashiko Pottery Fairs, held twice a year - in November and May - are an especially good time to go. The 2012 November Pottery Fair began on Thursday and runs through Monday. BY VICKI L BEYER PHOTOS BY JOHN ADAMS & VICKI L BEYER

Mashiko has produced pottery for over a thousand years. The village and surrounding area boasts nearly 400 kilns still active. For the most part, Mashiko’s pottery, known as Mashiko-yaki, is not like the fine porcelain produced in some of Japan’s other famous pottery centers. Rather, it is earthier. The dishes are often thick and heavy, with the glazes being predominated by earth tones: brown, black, white, persimmon, and amber. It is today regarded as a fine example of Japanese folkcraft. The main pottery centers within the town of Mashiko are in Sayado and Jonaizaka, which begins about a kilometer from Mashiko Station. Bicycle rental is available at Mashiko Station, but if you’re visiting during one of the Pottery Fairs, you may find it too crowded to bicycle comfortably (and parking the bicycle can be a problem). An easier strategy is to catch a bus from Mashiko Station to Mashiko Sanko-kan (bus stop: Mashiko Sankokan-mae) and then work your way back to the station on foot, a distance of about three kilometers. Mashiko Sanko-kan is the former home, workshop and kiln of Shoji Hamada. As you will learn when you visit, Hamada, who died in 1978, had been designated as a Living National Treasure in 1955 for his art. One of Mashiko’s most famous potters, he is widely credited with elevating Mashiko-yaki from the status of mere kitchen ware to that of folk art



and modern tableware. A number of his most famous works are on display here. To make your way back toward Mashiko Station while thoroughly exploring Mashiko’s ceramic heart, follow Highway 230 (also sometimes referred to as Jonaizaka Street). As you pass through the Sayado and Jonaizaka districts of Mashiko, this road is lined with shops and galleries featuring Mashiko-yaki. You can wander at will through the shops and workshops. During the Pottery

Fairs, many are selling their wares under canopies along the roadside. Some areas, including the Mashiko Pottery Cooperative on the southeast side of the road, also feature a number of other locally produced handicrafts and handmade items. There are also plenty of food stalls, restaurants and cafes, many in beautifully restored early 20th century buildings. At the lowest point in Jonaizaka Street is the Mashiko Pottery Sales Center, easily identified by the giant ceramic tanuki standing guard in the parking lot. This is a veritable supermarket of Mashiko-yaki and other locally-produced handicrafts, with very reasonable prices. During the Pottery Fair, the parking lot is turned over to stalls for vendors. In the center of Jonaizaka, on a hill above the Mashiko Pottery Sales Center, is Togei Messe Mashiko, a museum/ theme park celebrating Mashiko-yaki. This is a great place to learn more about Mashiko-yaki and see excellent displays

controlled, are now in common use in Mashiko, but these traditional kilns are much more interesting! In fact, there are several kilns in this neighborhood, and further afield, that offer the hands-on opportunity to throw a pot, or paint a biscuit-fired dish and have it fired as a souvenir. The best way to source these is to inquire at the Tourist Information Office at Mashiko Station when you first arrive.

of some of the very best items produced from Mashiko’s kilns. At times, handson experiences are offered here. You will encounter “noborigama,”

traditional earthen kilns that snake up slopes, in various places in Mashiko. This structure, built on a hillside, is really several adjacent woodfired kilns taking advantage of the fact that heat rises. Gas and electric kilns, more readily temperature-

You will know you have reached the end of Jonaizaka when you come to a major intersection called “Jonaizaka.” At the northeast corner of this intersection is the Higeta Indigo Dye Workshop, where you can see displays of how indigodyed cloth is produced. While Mashiko’s fame as a pottery village overshadows the renown of its indigo dyes, indigo dye is also a major product of this area, and the historical displays are quite interesting. By this time, perhaps you’ve begun to feel you’ve had enough of pottery for one day, anyway. From here, as you continue toward Mashiko Station, pottery shops and galleries begin to thin out. But there is

still plenty to see, including three “float parks,” warehouses where the floats used in the annual festival of Mashiko’s main shrine. These buildings are open to the public and you are free to wander in and have a closer look at the floats. From anywhere in Tokyo, to reach Mashiko, first make your way to Oyama via JR’s Tohoku Shinkansen, Keihin Tohoku line or Shonan-Shinjuku line. From there, take the JR Minto Line to Shimodate and then the Moka Railway to Mashiko. The trip takes about two hours. On weekends and public holidays, in addition to enjoying the delights of Mashiko itself, even the trip to Mashiko can take on special significance, as the Moka Railway runs a limited number of vintage steam locomotives on the line. On Saturday and Sunday, the Moka Railway steam locomotive departs Shimodate at 10:36; the return train from Mashiko departs at 3:02. Of course, sometimes missing the opportunity to ride on the train is a good thing, as instead you are afforded to opportunity to photograph the steam locomotive in action.




Art Attack Founded in 2009 in London, with a professional team whose experiences and networks reach into all industries, Roth Management offers a variety of services in the art world. It specializes in consulting, art fund management, asset allocation, art investment, public art, commissions, licensing and international curatorial projects. PHOTO BY YUKI MATSUMURA RYAN ROTH Managing Director Roth Management



Managing director Ryan Roth says he founded the company after seeing so many artists feel defeated before they had a chance to have their voices heard. When a person wants to invest in art, Roth links them to artists for licensing. He goes back and forth between London and Tokyo.

Tell us a little about your background

I was born in Southampton, England and what seems like another lifetime now, I studied law and psychology at university. I then traveled and saw the world, doing some humanitarian work and all the time I was attending art events and researching the art world. By living in different countries and living in some of the biggest cities in the world (London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, Los Angeles, Auckland) and traveling to over 50 countries, it allowed me to see the art world, through a very different perspective to most other people in the industry.

What work did you do before you founded Roth Management in 2009? I was doing some humanitarian work, but mainly traveling and researching the art world.

Why did you establish Roth Management?

For a few reasons. Firstly, I recognized I had a unique perspective of the art world and my connections in different countries, could be very beneficial to an art business. Second, I saw a great number of galleries not looking out for the best interests of artists, only caring about their own interests and not the career or well being of the artists. Third, I recognised a great lack of taste in the industry and a lack of new talent coming through, who could have long lasting careers.

What services do you offer?

Art investment advice, curating, interior design consultation, public art works, artist career guidance, artist public relations and art direction.

Who are your typical clients – what percent corporate and individuals? 60% corporate and 40% private.

Where are you based?

The office is in London, but I’m rarely there. I’m usually in the U.S., Europe, Asia. I have been based in Japan for the last six months and expect to be spending a lot of time in Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing and Seoul in the next few years. Of all the places I’ve lived, I think Tokyo is the best city for many reasons and one of them is the food. It’s unbelievable how much pride Japanese people put into their cooking and anything they are involved in, shows a great deal about the culture and artists have that same pride.

Are you planning to open an office and gallery in Tokyo?

I have been looking at Tokyo for the last six months, looking to see where I feel it would be best to open a gallery. So far, I think Ginza or Omotosando would be the best location. But we will see where it will be. I’m looking at opening in 2014/15, once I have built the right team and found the right location.

In general, how did the Lehman Shock, the eurozone crisis and last year’s disaster in Japan affect the art investment business?

It hasn’t really affected it so much, as there is a lot to be said for a company which has great art on the walls. It gives a wonderful first impression and as for investing, I give people different options whether it is an already established artist we can buy art from, who of course would have a high fee, or a newer artist whose works will appreciate in the next few years.

What is the biggest obstacle that aspiring artists face?

Confidence - knowing how to market themselves. Artists are great at making art and as a whole, they do not want to deal with business and why should they? They can do something I don’t and working with someone like us, who look out for their best interests, rather than just the bottom line, is important for an artist. So they can create and not worry so much about the other things. Unfortunately, many galleries who claim to look out for the best interests of the artists, do not. They only care about what


“When someone or a company wants a new art piece in the office, they tell me a little about what style they want and then I approach the right artist.” makes them the commission and not about the long-term career of the artist.

What are some different attitudes toward investing in art for the office or home that you have noticed between Japanese and European clients? Older Japanese seem to be interested in older European styles, rather than more contemporary, while Europeans seem to look more at contemporary. With offices/companies, they all seem to go for contemporary art or at least the people who contact me, as my area of expertise is focused on contemporary art from Japan, Singapore, China, Korea, UK, France. Although I know a lot about contemporary art in other markets, these are the markets I am most interested in.

As an art investment advisor, are you also an art expert? How far back does your interest in art go?

Yes, you could call me an art expert in the areas I mentioned. I have little interest in anything but contemporary art, as much as I might appreciate it. I have mixed feelings about cubism and art where I see a complete lack of ability. People say everything is art, but I differ in my opinion. When I see art, if I feel like I could have done that myself, I have no interest.

Have you ever done any painting yourself?

Yes. My personal works will be a great exercise in trying to let someone else represent me. As I don’t think you should represent yourself, especially when I represent artists. I will release my works in 2014/2015. But they are all based around politics and real social issues. For example, I have created a series of pieces which depict the mass loss of life, through pointless wars. They are blank canvases with areas of dark red, depicting the area of the world which had wars in various years.




Finding a babysitter whether for just a day or for longterm help is a daunting task. Are they qualified? Do they speak English? Do they come recommended? Trusting your child to another person is sometimes necessary, but thankfully the process just got a lot easier as an excellent service is at hand.




SuperSitters Tokyo began operations in August this year. The brainchild of the owner of a large preschool, the service started as a result of parents seeking advice about reputable sitters in Tokyo. “From there it just took off,” explains Louise Ikeda, the managing director of SuperSitters Tokyo. “Parents needed quality child care particularly during school holidays and afterschool.” The service offers qualified and experienced childcare ranging from a one time “Oncall service” to full-time daily help. The minimum time per sitting is 3 hours, with great flexibility depending on the family needs. Louise explains: “Our sitters do not perform housework other than that involved with taking care of the child, but we consult with the parents about what they would like the babysitter to do, for example homework, cooking or reading, which comes at no extra cost. We then match the child and the needs of the parents to the right sitter.”

About the Sitters

SuperSitters Tokyo certainly has a long list of criteria for their sitters. “We generally look for qualified nurses and teachers who have children themselves,” Louise says. “We then meet with them several times as well as observe them with children, in addition to a background check. Most of our sitters come recommended from our community families.” In just three short months, word-of-mouth about the service has spread throughout Tokyo’s expat community, with the number of sitters on the register up to 50 already, and the number of families and repeat customers using the service steadily rising.

The Process

“We generally receive inquiries by telephone or email first,” says Louise. “Unless there is an emergency and we need to send someone right over, we then invite the parents to our office where we can discuss the needs of the parents and the child. They can also look through our babysitter profiles and together we will pick maybe three sitters to take a trial with and then organize an introduction between the sitters and the parents /children. When the parents are satisfied with the sitter, we work out scheduling and an agreement.”


For a contracted sitter you need to pay a registration fee of ¥10,500 followed by ¥2,310 per hour. For a one-time or “on call” service, it is a flat rate of ¥2,625 per hour with no registration fee, and in both cases an additional ¥525 per additional child applies. Specific tasks such as homework help requested by families come at no extra charge – something quite unique among babysitter services. An overnight service is also available at ¥18,900 per night. Payment is handled via monthly invoice which is sent directly to the parents (The sitters’ transportation costs are paid to the sitter directly on the day). SuperSitters Tokyo also handles corporate accounts.

Contact Information Ms. Louise Ikeda Tel: 03-3453-0822 Mobile: 090-3570-5808 Email: Web:





Japan has an award for almost anything. October and November are the “silly awards” season in Japan. This is when all sorts of celebrities appear at promotional events for various industries and associations to proudly receive awards – usually for something they have no connection with. But it gives the tabloids and TV morning variety programs something to report about. First up, there was The 25th Japan Best Dressed Eyes Awards. This year’s winners were actress Maomi Yuki, stage director Amon Miyamoto, actress Karina, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, economist Eisuke Sakakibara, Nadeshiko Japan soccer star Homare Sawa and up-and-coming actress Ayame Goriki in the Special Category. The awards are given annually to those who look “cool” in glasses. More eye candy was on display as Triumph International introduced its image girls for 2013. Fukuoka model Arisa Watanabe, 20, and singer Alisa, 18, who is a member of Okinawan band Lucky color’s, were chosen from 190 applicants. Their job is to promote the company’s lingerie brand from Nov 1 to October 2013.



Above Winners of the The 25th Japan Best Dressed Eyes Awards are, from left: actress Maomi Yuki in the entertainment category, stage director Amon Miyamoto for culture, actress Karina in the sunglasses section, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto in the political category, Eisuke Sakakibara in the economics field, Nadeshiko Japan soccer star Homare Sawa and upand-coming actress Ayame Goriki in the Special Category.


Below Fukuoka model Arisa Watanabe, 20, left, and singer Alisa, 18, who is a member of Okinawan band Lucky color’s, are the new image girls for lingerie maker Triumph International Japan in 2013.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see celebrities being honored for: • Best Jeanists (to those wholook the best in jeans) • Best Leatherists (who look the best in leather) • Best Formalists (formal wear), Nail Queens (and a Nail King) • Best Kisser (no, you can’t be a judge) • Best Character (that’s an award for publisher Kodansha that goes to the celebrity voted most popular by readers during the year and who contributed to the progress of magazine advertising) • Best Wedding Dresser • Best Smile of the Year and Woman With the Most Appealing teeth There are lots of other awards throughout the year, too. We’ve had grapefruit and kiwifruit ambassadors, as well as a cotton queen.




OPIN IONS Raising a bilingual child in Japan BY ADAM BECK Adam Beck is the blogger of Bilingual Monkeys, a site of “ideas and inspiration for raising bilingual kids (without going bananas).” A former teacher at Hiroshima International School, and now a writer for the Hiroshima Peace Media Center, Adam is the father of two bilingual children. URL:

Raising a child with good bilingual ability can be a big challenge when the child attends a Japanese school and your opportunities to travel abroad are limited. Good Japanese ability in such circumstances is a given, but what about English? If you want your child to develop good English ability, too, what steps will lead to your goal? Here are 16 tips to help increase the odds of success.

1. Start early

If you’re proactive from the start, you’ll have a much better chance of nurturing a good balance of Japanese and English. From birth to age 6 or 7 is a critical time for two reasons: 1) this is the period young brains are most primed for language, and 2) after the child begins attending elementary school, it grows more difficult to “rebalance” the two languages. In other words, the investment of time and energy up front will make it easier to foster the balance



you seek, and then maintain that balance throughout childhood. Playing “catch up” with English is much harder!

2. Prioritize it

Making this a priority goes hand in hand with being proactive. If the development of your child’s English ability isn’t one of your family’s highest priorities, chances are Japanese will quickly come to be dominant and English will be relegated to a more passive role. Don’t underestimate how quickly this can happen once the child enters the world and spends the majority of his hours bathed in Japanese. Make English a priority from the get-go and you’ll stand a far greater chance of long-term success.

3. Set a goal

Set a clear goal for your child’s English ability. Will you be content with oral fluency, and less concerned with reading and writing? Or is English literacy important to you, too, and you’d like to see her read and write at the level of a child in an Englishspeaking country? Whatever your goal is, articulate it, and make sure that your efforts match the goal you seek. Good reading and writing are attainable, but this goal will require a diligent commitment from both you and your child.

4. Get informed

By informing yourself on the subject of children and bilingualism, you’ll be better able to support the development of your child’s English ability. Turn to helpful books, online resources, and other parents to broaden your knowledge and ideas. JALT’s special interest group on bilingualism publishes a regular newsletter and various booklets on bilingual issues, particularly concerning children. Another useful resource is the site Education

in Japan, which also maintains an active email list.

5. Adopt a strategy

How will you use English and Japanese within your family? Every family is different, of course, but many families have found (including my own) that the strategy of “one parent-one language” provides a firm foundation for the two languages to grow in a balanced way. But whatever approach you choose, the important thing is making sure that the child has a sufficient amount of daily English exposure and that the family sticks consistently to its strategy — unless a conscious decision is made to alter that approach.

6. Read aloud every day

Reading aloud to your child in English, for at least 15 minutes each day, is the single most important practice you can keep when it comes to nurturing your child’s English ability. It may seem too simple, but reading aloud regularly has an enormous impact on a child’s language development as well as his interest in books and literacy. If you don’t read aloud — preferably from day one and continuing for as long as you possibly can — it will be far more difficult for your child to develop good English ability.

7. Build a home library You can’t read aloud to your child regularly if you don’t have suitable books at hand, including chapter books that come in series of 5 or 15 or even 25+ books. The costs can add up quickly, I know, but in the long run, books are a small investment, really, when the eventual payoff in good English ability is so great. Cut back in other areas of your budget, if you must, but don’t scrimp when it comes to putting children’s books in your home.

8. Visit the public library

If you live in a good-sized city, chances are the children’s library in town has a selection of picture books in English. In Hiroshima, where I live, the children’s library has a fairly large collection of English books that can be borrowed for free, five at a time. (I use two library cards and bring home 10 books.) Although the selection will naturally be limited, no matter where you live, taking regular advantage of your local library may help to increase the amount of reading material available to you.

9. Use background music

Making use of background music is an easy and effective way to consistently add to the English exposure your child receives. This is no substitute for your active involvement, of course, but background music can be one more beneficial component of your overall efforts. Just put a CD player and suitable CDs in the child’s main play space and play this music regularly.

10. Play English games Games are another resource

to gather for your home. Children love to play games, and there are a lot of great English games that are fun to play and effective in promoting English exposure. For a more harmonious home, I would recommend balancing the usual “competitive games” (which can leave kids in tears) with “cooperative games” (where the players work as a team). For good competitive games, try Gamewright; terrific cooperative games are available from Family Pastimes.

11. Make your home “English-rich”

Beyond books, music, and games, make your home as rich in English exposure as

12. Engage in storytelling

Tell your children true stories from your childhood — kids love to hear about the (mis) adventures of their parents when they were young. You can also invent fantastical “made-up memories” from your past or your children’s early years. (Kids like telling “made-up memories,” too.) The point is, storytelling — whether fact or fiction— can help expand and enrich the conversations you have with your children, and are especially suited for mealtimes.

13. Give written homework

If fostering good reading and writing ability is important to you, it’s best to establish a habit of homework early. If you begin giving small daily doses of English homework at the age of 3 or 4 — starting, for example, with simple dotto-dot books of the alphabet and numbers — this can set a positive pattern for the rest of their childhood. Make daily homework like teethbrushing—an expected habit — and it can be maintained far more easily than if you try to impose it later on. As with children’s literature, you must make efforts to seek out suitable materials on a regular basis.

14. Employ “captive reading”

To encourage literacy development and reading practice, you can take advantage of something I call “captive reading”: the natural tendency to read any words that fall under our gaze. Put posters of the alphabet and common words on the wall; label things in the house; include notes in your child’s lunchbox; put up a small whiteboard in the bathroom and write little messages and riddles on it; later on, post short stories in the bathroom, too, like fairy tales and fables.

15. Convey the value of English

It’s important to talk up the value of English for your child’s future, but it won’t really sink in deeply until she experiences that value directly through interactions with other English speakers. Play dates with English-speaking children in your community is one possibility, of course, but another — and one that we’ve found quite powerful — is to serve as a homestay family for a visitor from overseas. Check with your local YMCA or other international organizations in town to explore this opportunity.

16. Keep a journal

This final tip isn’t strictly about bilingual development, but I think it’s worth sharing. If you aren’t keeping a journal on your kids, you might want to start. It’s a small investment of your time, really — just make a short entry in a notebook or text file every few weeks — but for your children, these observations of their language milestones, their early traits and interests, and their notable activities and experiences will one day be a priceless peek into the childhood that they will have largely forgotten. //

The gap between parents and children: distance and culture BY MAKOTO Makoto blogs about EastWest cultural issues. As I sip the green tea my mother sent me from Japan, I think of her and wonder what it’s like to be the mother of a daughter who moved away from her country -- to have a huge gap between you and your children in both distance and culture. I haven’t had that experience yet, but it must be one of mixed feelings. I know my mom expected me to live close to her like she lived close to her own mother. I am sure she dreamed of my going on the same path she did: marrying a Japanese man, living nearby, being a stay-home mom or working for the government (which was considered to be the best and stable job for women in my little hometown), and having maybe two children. Yet, I left and I am thriving in the U.S. with a loving husband, beautiful children and a good job I enjoy to the fullest -- something which I couldn’t have done in Japan. My mom worked so hard to make sure that I would grow into what she wanted. Sometimes I was “corrected” for not being “it.” I didn’t know it was just “different” at that time but I thought it was “wrong.” No matter how hard I worked to convince myself it was wrong not to be what my mom wanted me to be, my strong will to be myself won out at a certain age. So I left my country to find myself and happiness.

I wonder if I would have stayed in Japan had my mom had allowed me to be what I wanted to be. I don’t know, and I am not the kind of person who looks back, wishing things were different. I am not criticizing my mom at all. That’s what was expected in Japan when I was growing up: doing and being what your parents wanted and taking care of them. Besides, I know that no parents are perfect, and I am sure my children will have something to say about me when they grow up, wishing that I would have done something this way or that way.


you can. At the same time, try to inhibit, wherever possible, the prevailing influence of Japanese. For example, when it comes to electronic toys, a device in English (like the Leapster Learning Game System) would be a far more productive choice than a gadget in Japanese (like a Nintendo DS). In the same way, emphasize English TV shows and DVDs over Japanese programs.

When it comes to parenting, I often give choices to my children. When they insist on doing something that I secretly don’t agree with or I don’t think is right, I teach them the consequences of each choice they make and let them choose. Telling them not to do something “because it’s not what I want” is not my parenting style. It’s such a delicate point that parents have to balance. If you make your home too comfortable for your children, they may lose a sense of independence and stay in your home forever. You have seen those grown-up kids, right? That’s not healthy, either. On the other hand, if you are too controlling, you may end up losing them altogether. Fifteen years from now, I will be sipping my tea as usual. I don’t know where my children will be then -near or far. But if I can sip my tea, knowing my children are happy with what they are doing, I will be okay.



Insight Issue 14  

In this week's issue, we visit a Japanese pottery town, talk art investment, find a babysitter, discover various Japanese awards as well as...

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