“The streets of this city have no names,” writes Roland Barthes about Tokyo in his bestselling book Empire of Signs. Written addresses were meant for “the postman, not the visitor. The largest city in the world is practically unclassified; the spaces which compose it in detail are unnamed.” - Thus one has to rely on maps, often hand drawn maps.
Emori Nahiko (1902-1992) had to rely on a hand drawn map by Hamada Shoji (1894-1978). Nahiko who later was well known for his tea houses had commissioned a number of ceramics. But Hamada Shoji’s working was slow. In September 1930 he moved to Mashiko and the following year he built a new kiln.
Thus Hamada’s letter - dated June 10th, 1931 - begins with excuses and explanations. - “Forgive me for not writing you for so long. The work on our house hasn’t really progressed, so I didn’t write you except for these lines this spring again. I am sorry for that. Among the pieces you have commissioned only the unglazed pot is ready. The celadon tea cup with fish design on the inside somehow failed.”
But the letter not only contains excuses and explanations. It is also an invitation. An invitation to a small, exclusive and private exhibition held in the house of Kurahashi Tojiro (1887-1946), a publisher, collector, and Mingei enthusiast.
“On the 13th and 14th of June", Hamada writes in the letter, "I will hold a little exhibition, as indicated on the left. I can bring it [i.e. the unglazed pot] with me. If you could come and visit the exhibition and look at it, I would be more than a pleasure."
The exhibition announcement reads: “13th and 14th (Saturday and Sunday) both days from 10am to 2pm – Kojimachi district Shimo 2-70. In the residence of Mr Kurahashi Tojiro.”
On the left there is a charmingly simple map how to find the venue of the exhibition, Kurahashi's house. - The map says: "Get off Kojimachi 6 tram station, which is between Hanzomon and Yotsuyamitsuke. (Both landmarks are not on the map, just indicated.) Turn right and pass the Belgium embassy, see the hatched rectangle on the map, there is Kurahashi's house, depicted as a black rectangle. But if you get as far as the Heibonsha building your too far."
Hamada Shoji (1894-1978)
Ink on paper