Mashiko and St Ives sign Friendship Agreement


On Thursday 20 September, Cllr Ron Tulley, Mayor of St Ives, Cornwall, and Mr Tomoyuki Otsuka, Mayor of Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, signed a Friendship Agreement between the two towns.  The ceremony, attended by a delegation from the town in Tochigi Prefecture which produces the world-famous pottery known as Mashiyo-yaki, took place in the picturesque Cornish town with a rich pottery pedigree.  The delegation from Japan included representatives from the local tourism and sake industries.

The following day a reception to celebrate the landmark agreement took place at the Embassy of Japan.  In his address, Ambassador Hayashi recounted the key roles of the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, who came to be designated by the Japanese Government as a Living National Treasure, and his British counterpart Bernard Leach, in furthering the fortunes of Mashiko and St Ives respectively as major centres of ceramic artistry.  The deep and enduring friendship between the two men led to one of the most compelling examples of Japan-UK cultural exchange.  “It is most gratifying”, the Ambassador said, “that this friendship has now crystallised into a formal agreement.”

Referring to the deterioration of the kiln in St Ives where Leach had worked following his death and that of his wife Janet, Ambassador Hayashi paid tribute to the role of Lady Carol Holland in initiating the Leach Pottery Restoration Project, supported by the generosity of the citizens of St Ives as well as their counterparts in Mashiko, which culminated in the opening of the refurbished facility in 2008.  By the same token, he expressed his appreciation of the generosity of the St Ives local council in sending a donation to contribute to the efforts to rebuild the kilns in Mashiko that had been destroyed in last year’s devastating earthquake, “in reflection of the two towns’ strong bonds and their readiness to help each other in times of need”.

Then followed some remarks from Mayor Otsuka of Mashiko, who began by referring to the beautiful scenery he had seen while travelling to and from St Ives.  He also spoke of the unique friendship between Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach, whose legacy was the Friendship Agreement he had just signed.   He gave a brief but poignant account of the extent of the damage suffered by Mashiko in last year’s catastrophe and of his town’s ambitious recovery plan.  As for future ties between Mashiko and St Ives, Mayor Otsuka envisaged school exchange visits as playing an important role.  He concluded his remarks by indicating the sake from Mashiko brought specially for the reception, which some of the lucky guests could sample in Mashiko-yaki cups that they could take home as souvenirs afterwards.

Next, Mayor Tulley gave the guests a short history of St Ives, including the unique features which began attracting artists at the beginning of the last century.  Pointing out that St Ives was much younger than Mashiko as a centre of pottery, he expressed his gratitude for a pot presented to his town by Mayor Otuska, which had been made by Shinsaku Hamada, the son of the renowned Japanese potter.  He also explained how his town’s relationship with Mashiko went beyond pottery, referring to a visit by 12 school pupils from Mashiko who had teamed up with an equal number of children  from St Ives to experience briefly life in an English town, including the school.  He echoed Mayor Otsuka by expressing the hope that there would be more of such activities in the future.

The formal aspect of the reception ended with Ambassador Hayashi, Mayor Otsuka and Mayor Tulley ceremonially breaking open a barrel of sake from Mashiko, which was then offered to the guests.