Guests gathered at the Embassy of Japan in London on September 21 to mark a new friendship agreement between St Ives, Cornwall and the town of Mashiko in Tochigi prefecture, Japan. Since the 3/11 disaster and emergency in Japan, St Ives has continually shown great support and goodwill to Mashiko, whose potteries and museums underwent substantial damage. The links between St Ives and Mashiko date back over a century to the time when St Ives’ Bernard Leach lived in Mashiko and learned his craft as a potter. In 1920, when Leach returned to the town, he was accompanied by his friend and fellow potter Shoji Hamada and together the two established the now world-famous Leach Pottery. Today the links between St Ives and Mashiko continue to proudly reflect this shared history and connection. In 2008 individuals from Mashiko pottery village and members of the Mingei Association collectively donated over £40,000 towards rebuilding the Leach Pottery.
Mashiko is located about 60 miles north of Tokyo. In 1923, following the Great Kanto earthquake, Shoji Hamada returned to Japan from St Ives and settled in Mashiko with his family where he set up his own pottery. His pottery is still in operation and is now owned and run by his grandson Tomoo Hamada, who attended the reopening of the Leach Pottery following its restoration in March 2008. Shoji Hamada also established the Hamada Reference Museum in Mashiko to display his collection of crafts and ceramics. Mashiko now has over 400 studios and kilns, providing the main livelihood of the town. Each spring and autumn the Mashiko Pottery Market attracts 80,000 visitors. On 11 March 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake caused considerable damage to kilns, homes and buildings in the town. Mashiko’s two main museums, the Mashiko Ceramics Museum and the Hamada Reference Museum, have also been badly hit. In response, the Leach Pottery trustees launched an appeal to raise funds for Mashiko.