Yoshiichiro and Yoshiko Kuge, Kintsugi Masters
Yoshiko-san has always had a fascination for objects with storied pasts, collecting antiques since she was a young girl. As a potter in her youth, she would find that if anything broke, she would never want to throw it away; instead, she always turned to mending. This interest in preservation soon grew so strong that she would intentionally purchase damaged ceramics, with the sole intent of repairing them. There she began her practice of Kintsugi.
Now, with decades of experience later, Yoshiko-san owns a Kintsugi studio with her husband, Yoshiichiro-san, a fellow Kintsugi master who has also been practicing and teaching for decades. Together, they both instruct others and refine their own skills in Kintsugi. What they love most about the art is that one can keep using items that hold special value; there is no need to throw things away if they’re accidentally dropped or scraped. That philosophy, the part of Japanese culture that treasures that which is broken, is one dear to both their hearts.
There has recently been a surge of foreign interest in Kintsugi, something which excites the couple twofold. They hope to spread this Japanese wabi-sabi way of life to citizens of other countries, so that they too can preserve their good memories through items. They also love the interest and the foreign customers on a personal level: sitting at their studio in Suginami-ku, it feels as if the rest of the world is passing through their doors. Yoshiko-san and Yoshiichiro-san learn about new cultures constantly and they love the element of diversity that their students bring; the range in ways of thinking constantly inspire them, and the enthusiasm that each guest brings makes them excited to come into work everyday. As authentic Kintsugi is a long process, guests sometimes even send back broken dishes and plates for the couple to fix once they return to their home countries. This continued interest in Kintsugi once people have left Japan makes them happy, and they hope that one day Kintsugi will become widespread enough so that one can repair their items as easily in for example France as in Japan.
Their hospitality doesn’t stop at fixing the damaged goods of customers who have long since departed Tokyo. Yoshiichiro-san draws great inspiration from fellow craftsmen, regularly traveling around the country to see their work, and is always happy to share recommendations with those who are interested. Yoshiko-san is an avid baker, and often serves homemade goods to her guests, much to their delight. The couple offers the best in Japanese hospitality—not only do they share their technical expertise, they’ve created a haven of warmth, smiles and creativity.