Western-style Aizu Hongouyaki ware from Fukushima to debut in N.Y.

Photo 1: Tableware designed in Western style for display in New York/Photo 2: Aizu Hongouyaki potter at work

Western-style versions of Aizu Hongouyaki ware crafted in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Aizumisato will be displayed at an exhibition to be held in New York from December 9 to 23. Local potteries have developed tableware sets for dinner to showcase them to U.S. retailers and other parties concerned. The Aizu Hongouyaki business cooperative association in the town is seeking to develop sales channels abroad in earnest from fiscal 2022 beginning next April. It is hoped that the upcoming inaugural New York exhibition will be held regularly in the future and grow into a showcase event for Fukushima's marketing initiatives so that local people can reach for the Aizu Hongouyaki brand more often, presumably with Fukushima-made sake rice wine that is getting popular in the United States. Twelve potteries will show off their creations at the exhibition. Each of them will display a dinner tableware set, including plates, dishes, cups and saucers. Aizu Hongouyaki has a wide array of products and variations made of both earthenware and porcelain. The potteries spent five years on their works for the exhibition, which reflect each potter's features and characteristics in design, raw materials and other aspects. Their traditional signature crafts will also be put on display. The exhibition will take place at Brooklyn's Haco gallery, where each pottery will display about 20 items. They will be shown mostly to local retailers, who also will give advice from the perspective of local trends and preferences. Event organizers plan to hook up potteries in Aizumisato with New York online so they can convey the allures of their ware. In addition, there will be opportunities for visitors to watch videos to enjoy the atmospheres of pottery production sites. The exhibition is the brainchild of Shuji Yumita, 56, the association's representative director and president of Ryumonyaki, one of the potteries. A few years ago, he got acquainted with a person with a tie to the New York gallery during an event in Tokyo aimed at creating business opportunities. That got things going and the idea grew to the point where it became part of a subsidy program of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) for supporting overseas business development projects. JETRO is discussing how to publicize the event and other details with a branding expert well versed in the relevant situations of the U.S. market. The potteries association is set to include marketing prospects in the United States in its five-year business promotion plan from fiscal 2022. It plans to continue holding similar exhibitions in the years ahead for sales pitches for Aizu Hongouyaki as well as prefectural sake, hoping that this combination will add to the eating experience among people in the United States and draw interest for use at hotels and restaurants in the future. The potteries have been hit by the novel coronavirus epidemic, which has resulted in a decline in tourists and caused their biggest showcase event -- the Aizu Hongou pottery fair -- to be cancelled for two years in a row. And now people have fewer opportunities to have a hands-on experience in touching locally made pottery crafts. The association hopes the exhibition will help boost the value of the Aizu Hongouyaki brand and promote the development of the pottery-making area as a whole. As part of promotional efforts, it also intends to run an English-language website and Instagram sections on a permanent basis. Yumita has high expectations for Aizu Hongouyaki grabbing a piece of the U.S. consumer market. "It would be encouraging to us potteries if our products are accepted by local people," he said. "We surely expect to explore new possibilities." ==Kyodo