Week 2 – Heat Waves

(すみません、写真を撮ってもいいですか?Translation – May I please take your photo? Use this phrase when taking pictures anywhere that might include locals or other people. More often than not, you will get an enthusiastic “yes!” In return, and they will allow you to take their photo)

Japan in the summer is hot: full stop. There is no real way around this fact, and unless you live in or nearby a building with regular A/C, you’re on your own with how you cope with the temperature. I’m still teaching myself how to translate from Fahrenheit to Celsius so I can understand what the other artists here are referring to in terms of temperature, but both are just numerical ways to say that it feels like you’re melting into the floor on a daily basis. We have fans placed all around the house to help with the heat, but after a certain temperature they just push warm air around and do little to actually cool down the house itself. As a result, work has been slow. As in actually slow to complete due to not wanting to exert ourselves more than is required – baking into your laptop keyboard is not conducive to productivity – but the inevitability of running the workshop we hosted this Sunday meant that we had to go out and get things done ourselves lest we be behind schedule.

The ceramics workshop is our first step in the Anagama kiln firing project we are assisting with during our internship. The workshop allows for locals to come in and sculpt a small piece with some clay for a price of ¥3000 per person. We ran it for about six hours on Sunday, from 9AM to 3PM. And the warehouse that we hosted the workshop in? You guessed it – No air conditioning. It isn’t hard to tell from the photos we took during the first four hours, but aside from the requests for cold tea and the towels around people’s necks, the participants seemed like they couldn’t care less. The entire time we were there, the room was filled with friendly chatter, laughter, the sounds of wet clay being molded into balls for distributing, childish squeals and cheers of excitement, and the clicking of camera shutters to preserve the moments happening there.

The turnout was larger than we expected, especially during the morning hours. By the time my partner and I arrived, the building was already full, and there were guests waiting by the check-in desk for spots to open up so they could participate. It was a very encouraging sight to see after all the prep we put into making sure the workshop ran smoothly. And run it did – there were people coming and going constantly for the first three hours we were there!

And then the rain started.

Right now, there’s a typhoon forming to the southwest of us – plenty far away for us to be out of danger, but the bands of rain coming off of it are forecasted to hit us intermittently for the next three days until the storm itself arrives on the sixth of July. By that time, the surrounding mountains will have likely taken most of the wind out of its sails, leaving us relatively unscathed. But don’t be fooled, dear readers: These thunderstorms still pack a punch.

We had to pull the large wooden doors to the warehouse shut after we realized that the wind was blowing sheets of rain right into the work area and putting the guests and the clay at risk of being drenched. Without the reprieve of the breeze from outside and the fields for the younger kids to run around in, we were left with not much else to do but occupy toddlers and take photos. So we got to work.

The workshop was hot, sweaty, full of residual clay and muggy from the rain. Add that to the myriad of children running around and lack of any true respite from the heat, and you’d have a day that most would consider to be unpleasant enough to avoid. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Besides – where else are you going to get smiles like those?

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