International Teapot Exhibition

Today, I received the wonderful notice that my “RED TEAPOT” is accepted in the International Contemporary Teapot Exhibition with the title: “Beyond the Function”.

Entry A1,Swanica Ligtenberg, Red Teapot

The description of this show is to be an exhibition interested in the exploration of new developments in teapots worldwide during the birth of the 21st century.

There were hundreds of entries from five countries and 26 pieces were selected for this show. The curator and exhibition contact is Guangzhen Po Zhou.

The exhibition dates are from April 6 – 12, 2009 in the French Designer Gallery of French Thompson in Scottsdale, Arizona and concurrent with the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) conference to be held in Phoenix from 8 – 11 April, 2009.

Detail lid red teapot, 300_1

Coming-of-Age in Japan

Coming of Age_5 Coming-of-Age is a young person’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. Since 1948, the age of majority in Japan has been 20; persons under 20 are not permitted to smoke, drink, or vote. Coming-of-age ceremonies, known as “seijin shiki”, are held on the second Monday of January, called the “Seijin no hi”. The ceremony is generally held in the morning at local city offices and all young adults who maintain residency in the area are invited to attend. Government officials give speeches, and small presents are handed out to the new adults.

Many women celebrate this day by wearing a “furisode”:a style of kimono with long sleeves that drape down. Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves due to the intricacies involved in putting one on, many choose to visit a beauty salon to dress and to set their hair. A full set of formal clothing is expensive, so it is usually either inherited or rented rather than being bought specially for the occasion. Men sometimes also wear traditional dress: dark kimono with hakama.

So, on Sunday we went to the Hachimangu Shrine and saw some beautifully dressed women. They go there to ask for blessings. But because still of the New Year a lot of people visited Kamakura that day.

General Comig of Age_1

A nice sunny cold day for this Coming-of-Age day.

Coming of Age back Obi_2

Coming of Age_3

The back with the sash “Obi” and the front of the dress.

Coming of Age_1

Three beautiful women/girls with their handbags and “Zori” slippers.

Odawara Castle

Odawara Castle is a landmark in the city of Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was the stronghold of various daimyo, powerful territorial lords during the Muromachi period of Japanese history. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Odawara Castle had very strong defenses, because it was situated on a hill, surrounded by moats with water on the low side, and dry ditches on the hill side, with banks, walls and cliffs located all around the castle, enabled the defenders to repel attacks by the great warriors Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen. However, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took the castle in 1590, and awarded the holdings of the Hojo to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in turn installed the Okubo clan at Odawara.

During the Edo period, Odawara’s strategic location on the Tokaido,  between mountainous Hakone and Sagami Bay, gave it great strategic importance.

Eventually, Odawara Castle was destroyed by Meiji government. However, present Odawara Castle was rebuilt in 1960. It serves as a museum and is designated as an important historical monument. Today,  a reproduction of the castle stands high on a hill above Odawara.4b) Odawara castle_1

The moat around the castle is filled with koi fish.2) Fish in Odawara castle moat_1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My boys, Arjan and Roland, and Katie had fun being dressed up as Samurai and Lady.

5) Samurais Katie_5

Tsukiji Fish Market

The Tsukiji fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the picture, where you see the yellow boat underneath the bridge, is the fish market.

The auctions usually end around 7:00 a.m. Afterwards, the purchased fish is either loaded onto trucks to be shipped to the next destination, or on small carts and moved to the many shops located inside of the market.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         There the shop owners cut and prepare the products for retail. In case of large fish, for example tuna and swordfish, cutting and preparation is elaborate. Frozen tuna and swordfish are often cut with large band saws, and fresh tuna is carved with extremely long knives (some well over a meter in length) called Oroshi hocho, maguro-bocho, or Hancho hocho.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are two distinct sections of the market as a whole. The “inner market” (jonai shijo) is the licensed wholesale market, where the auctions and most of the processing of the fish take place, and where licensed wholesale dealers (approximately 900 of them) operate small stalls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA






The “outer market” (jogai shijo) is a mixture of wholesale and retail shops that sell Japanese kitchen tools, restaurant supplies, groceries, and seafood, and many restaurants, especially sushi restaurants. Most of the shops in the outer market close by the early afternoon, and in the inner market even earlier.

And of course we had a delicious brunch in a Sushi bar with the freshest fish ever!

The first market in Tokyo was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu (the shogun who established Edo as capital and united the whole of Japan) during the Edo period to provide food for Edo castle (as Tokyo was known until the 1870s). Tokugawa Ieyasu invited fishermen from Osaka to Edo in order to provide fish for the castle. Fish not bought by the castle was sold near the Nihonbashi bridge, at a market called uogashi (literally, “fish quay”) which was one of many specialized wholesale markets that lined the canals of Edo.

New Year in Japan 2

On New Years Eve we also went to the Hongakuji temple on our way back home. This temple is beautifully decorated with lighted lamps “akachochin” (red lamps) and “shirochochin” (white lamps).

5) Hongakuji temple_1

This is the Ebisu-do Hall built by the 1st shogun Minamoto Yoritomo to honor the guardian gods of the village. Ebisu is the Japanese god of fishermen, good luck, and workingmen, as well as the guardian of the health of small children. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune and the only one of the seven to originate from Japan. And Kamukara with a border on the sea, Sagami Bay, has lots of fisherman.
Nichiren lived in this hall to continue his missionary work. He was a Buddhist monk and is credited with founding what has come to be known as Nichiren Buddhism, a major school of Japanese Buddhism.
In 1436, the main temple got built and part of Nichiren’s ashes were brought here.

6) Hongakuji temple_1

The main temple.

During the New Year holidays crowds come for the Ebisu festival and lucky maidens “Fukumusume” distribute sacred sake to the temple visitors.
2) sacred sake_1

At the beginning of the new year the temples will chime their bells with the magic number 108 times. This is to finish the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana.
Every body can ring the bell and you stand in line and pay 100 yen. 4) Standing in line_1

Then you pull the rope and the wooden block hits the big bell which resonates for a long time.
3) Ringing the bell_1

And the new year begins! GOOD LUCK in 2009!!!!

New Year in Japan 1

This is a special time in Japan and a lot of people take their days off to visit family and to go to the shrines and temples. Even banks and post offices are closed for several days, so, you have to be prepared. (We ran into this problem 2 years ago and in Japan a lot is paid by cash.)

Everywhere you see “kadomatsu” (Gate Pine). This is a traditional Japanese decoration of the New Year placed in pairs in front of homes supposedly to welcome ancestral spirits or “kami” of the harvest. They are placed after Christmas until January 7 and are considered temporary housing for kami. Designs for kadomatsu vary depending on region but are typically made of pine, bamboo, and sometimes tree sprigs which represent longevity, prosperity and steadfastness, respectively.

Kadomatsu in Kamakura.

Celebrating the new year in Japan also means paying special attention to the “first” time something is done in the new year. Hatsumode” is the first trip to a shrine or temple. Many people visit a shrine after midnight on December 31 or sometime during the day on January 1.

That evening we had an early Happy New Year celebration at our house and then we left to go to the Tsurugoaka Hachimangu Shrine to be there at 12 o’clock. The first shogun Minamoto Yoritomo built this shrine in Kamakura, the ancient samurai city. (Look under my category of Kamakura for more information about Kamakura and the 1st shogun on April 12, 2006 and May 10, 2006).

There were so many people waiting to go up the stairs of the shrine.

6a)Maarten and cows_1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maarten and Roland found their friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         They are ready to go up the stairs to the shrine in groups controlled by the police at 12 o’clock sharp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         On the top of the shrine people pray and make their wishes.


This is a fortune board. You pay 100 yen ($1.00) and shake a wooden box out of which a wooden stick falls with a certain number. Then you get this special piece of paper and you read your fortune for the coming year and attach it on a rope.

7) Banana stand_1

Then there are very festive food stands allover with delicious treats!

Lots of people come to Kamakura during the first 3 days of the New Year. Don’t try to take the train the first day, because the station will be packed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And the inner city is completely blocked off: only taxis, busses and authorized cars are able to drive there.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kamakura blocked off and people can walk everywhere.


After Nikko we traveled to Mashiko. We had to wait a while in the city Utsunomiya to transfer, where we did some shopping and sight seeing.We saw beautiful big neon signs: “Coca Cola”!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         And of course, we found some beautiful Japanese girls!


After riding the bus for one hour, we arrived at the Minshuku of the Tougei Art Center of Furuki-san, where we stayed over for the night. It was very cold, but we made a fire in the big room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Afterwards, we huddled together in the smaller rooms warmed by the gas heaters and the heaters underneath the tables. You stick you feet under it and close it off with a cover and your feet become nice warm and toasty.

The next morning, we visited the Toko Gallery where I sell my horsehair- and red ceramic ware and where I had my show in September 2007 in the treasure house. (Category: Gallery Toko).


Then we went to the Mashiko Ceramic Art Museum, but unfortunately, it was closed because of the Holidays.

But of course, we still saw some other ceramic stores and the big Tanuki on the main square of Mashiko.

4) Tanuki in Mashiko_1

Tanuki is the Japanese word for the Japanese raccoon dog. They have been part of Japanese folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.

It has eight special traits that bring good fortune: (1) a bamboo hat that protects against trouble, (2) big eyes to perceive the environment and help make good decisions, (3) a sake bottle that represents virtue, (4) a big tail that provides steadiness and strength until success is achieved, (5) over-sized testicles that symbolize financial luck, (6) a promissory note that represents trust, (7) a big belly that symbolizes bold decisiveness, and (8) a friendly smile.


The next trip was to Nikko and Mashiko. My youngest son and girlfriend had also arrived in Japan. The next day we left right away because for the Japanese this is a big holiday time too. A lot of places are closed and you have to check everything well before you go somewhere.

Over 1200 years ago, the Buddhist priest Shodo Shonin founded the first temple at Nikko in 766. In the 17th century it was renamed Rinno-ji.

8) Shyoen Edo-style garden_1

Behind it is the Shoyo-en, a lovely Edo-style stroll garden carefully landscaped for interest in all seasons. Its path meanders around a large pond, over stone bridges, and past mossy stone lanterns.

Centuries later, Nikko was a renowned Buddhist-Shinto religious center, and the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu chose it for the site of his mausoleum.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) was a strategist and master politician who founded the dynasty that would rule Japan for over 250 years. He built his capital at the swampy village of Edo (now Tokyo) and his rule saw the start of the flowering of Edo culture.

When his grandson Iemitsu had Ieyasu’s shrine-mausoleum Tosho-gu built in 1634, he wanted to impress upon any rivals the wealth and might of the Tokugawa clan. Since then, Nikko, written with characters that mean sunlight, has become a Japanese byword for splendor. So, for two years some 15,000 artisans from all over Japan worked, building, carving, gilding, painting and lacquering, to create this flowery, gorgeous Momoyama-style complex.

6) Pagoda Nikko_1

Donated by a feudal lord in 1650, this five-story pagoda was rebuilt in 1818 after a fire. Each story represents an element: earth, water, fire, wind, and heaven, in ascending order.

1) 1 of the 3 sacred store houses_1

One of the three sacred storehouses which are built according to a traditional design surrounded by stone lanterns.

2) Bell tower   entrance to Yomeimon Gate_1
The Yomei-mon gate and the Bell tower to the right on the shrine’s grounds.

5) The 3 Ligtenberg monkeys_1

The three Ligtenberg “Wise” Monkeys.

The stable of the shrine’s sacred horses bears a carving of the three wise monkeys, who hear, speak and see no evil, a traditional symbol in Chinese and Japanese culture.
The concept of the three monkeys originated from a word play. The saying in Japanese is “mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru“, and saru meaning monkey. Today “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is commonly used to describe someone who doesn’t want to be involved in a situation, or someone willfully turning a blind eye to the immorality of an act in which they are involved.

3) Decorated wall around sanctuary_1

The elaborated decorated carved and painted wall around the sanctuary.

4) Yomeimon Gate_1

The Yomei-mon Gate to the inner sanctuary has one of its 12 colums carved uoside-down, a deliberate imperfection to avoid angering jealous spirits. It was a cloudy day and it had snowed, so, the colors don’t come out that much. It is beautiful and splendid.

7) Ieyasu's threasure tower ashes_1
Finally, after another flight of long, steep stone stairs, you arrive at the upper sanctuary, where Ieyasu’s treasure tower contains his ashes.

Takaragawa Onsen

Two days after going to Koya-san we traveled north-west to an onsen in some other mountains. It was a long trip, but reading, talking, eating, playing games and listening to music passes the time fast.

2) Hotel without snow_1

The last ride was way up into the mountains by bus.
This is the hotel/onsen where we stayed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And this is one of the hot spring baths, surrounded by beautiful winter nature.3) Lekker eten_1

We had an delicious dinner. Everything so well cared for.


It snowed during the night and in the morning everything looked so pristine, fresh and new!

This is the bridge you have to cross to walk to the onsen.

Ard Maarten Roland in water onsen_2
What better way then to have a snowball fight in an onsen!!!

5) Fountain snow_1


On the way back we got stuck in the snow storm. The train lost power and we were bussed to the next place where the train worked again. This was quite an adventure, but my husband missed his appointment meeting in Tokyo, which was not good at all.
But the feeling of a white Christmas was undeniable!


This year we celebrated our holidays in Japan. We got a Japan Rail Pass and with our 2 oldest boys we traveled first to Koya-san, south of Osaka and about 6 hours of travel from Kamakura.

Mount Koya, set amid black cedars at an altitude of 1000 m., is Japan’s most venerated Shingon-Buddhist site, a major school of Japanese Buddhism and brought into Japan by the priest Kukai when he came back from China with many texts and art works in 804. He established this spiritual center  and monastic retreat in 816. There were almost a thousands temples on the mountain by the Edo period, but typhoons and fire have since reduced the number to 123.

2) Going up Koya-san_2

Going up the mountain by train.
1) Going up Koya-san_1

4) Cablecar_1

And very steep cable car.
We stayed the night in the Shojoshinin temple, one of the 53 temple lodgings.
It was such a beautiful temple. It was very cold though and then you are glad to wear slippers on the very cold wooden floors.

5) Shojojin temple_1

Delicious vegetarian prepared food in a warm room heated by a little gas stove.


5aa) Shojis_1
Beautiful (sumie) paintings on sliding doors everywhere.

The next morning, Christmas morning, we got up at 6am to participate with a Buddhist service. They chanted all the way through their book with hitting the gong in between. This was a beautiful spiritual start on Christmas morning.
6) Buddhist service_2
After breakfast we packed up our things and got on our way through the necropolis of over 200,000 tombs to Kukai’s mausoleum, Okuki-in. Great status is attached to burial on Koya-san.
7a)Mausoleum-1 11) Gorintos_1

All over you find the “Gorintos”, which are used for memorial and funerary purposes. Gorinto is the Japanese name of a type of Buddhist pagoda found in East Asia. In other countries it is called “Stupa”. The stupa was originally a structure or other sacred building containing a relic of Buddha or of a saint, then it was gradually stylized in various ways.
In all its variations, the gorint? includes five rings (although that number can often be difficult to detect by decoration), each having one of the five shapes, employing the basic geometric forms, symbolic of the Five Elements: the earth ring (cube), the water ring (sphere), the fire ring (pyramid), the air ring (crescent), and the ether ring, (or energy, or void).

12) Stonepaved approach_

The stone-paved approach to the mausoleum is flanked with statues, monuments, and tombs housing the remains of Japan’s most powerful families.

9) Temple of Light_1

In front of Kukai’s mausoleum is the Toro-do (Lantern Hall). Day and night 11,000 lanterns burn here, including two that are said to have remained lit since the 11th century.


On the other side of the mountain is a big park filled with temples.

8aa) THe konpo Daito Pagoda_1

This is the Konpon-Daito, an impressive two-story vermillion-and-white pagoda rebuilt in 1937. The pagoda is regarded as the symbol of Koya-san.