hamada shoji letter

Hamada Shoji | Letter

SKU: 2560

“The streets of this city have no names,” writes Roland Barthes about Tokyo in his bestselling book 'Empire of Signs'. Addresses, he says, were meant for “the postman, not the visitor." And "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 these maps were hand drawn. 


Emori Nahiko (1902-1992) had to rely on a hand drawn map by Hamada Shoji (1894-1978). Nahiko was designer of tea houses and had commissioned Hamada Shoji to produce a number of ceramics some months earlier that year. 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 delighted.

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 an adorably simple hand drawn map showing the way to the venue of the exhibition, Kurahashi Tojiro's house. - The map shows the way from dot to dot. - "Get off at Kojimachi 6 tram station [dot], which is between Hanzomon and Yotsuyamitsuke. Turn in and walk down the street and turn left at the mailbox [dot].  Walk down and turn right at the next mailbox [dot]. And just before getting to the next mailbox [dot] when you have passed the Belgium embassy (the hatched rectangle on the map), you get to Mr Kurahashi's house, depicted as a black rectangle on the map, but if you get as far as the Heibonsha building your too far.


Hamada Shoji (1894-1978)

Letter, 1931

Ink on paper

26.8 x 44 cm (10 ½ x 17 ¼ in.)

Mounting 87 x 54 cm (34 ¼ x 21 ¼ in.)
With original envelope. 
Wooden box with inscription

Ink on paper



Bachmann Eckenstein