The value of destroying objects in Japan


In the Kamigamo shrine, Kyoto, ceramics are sold for a ceremony for protection. Small earthenware kawarake are decorated with the motto ‘ward off evil’ (yakuyoke). These are tossed from the edge of a precipice.
According to a fascinating chapter by Louise Cort, “The very traits of porosity, redness, fragility, and brevity of lifespan that keep earthenware outside the commercial art market constitute its significance and suitability to its defined ritual role”.
Cort outlines the distinction between objects for everyday which are re-used (ke) and those for ritual ceremony (hare) which are often used only once before being destroyed. This tradition suggests some fascinating uses for social objects that can represent important rites of passage.
Cort, Louise Allison. 2007. “Disposable but Indispensable: The Earthenware Vessel as Vehicle of Meaning in Japan.” In What’s the Use of Art?: Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context, edited by Jan Mrazek and Morgan Pitelka. Honolulu: Univ of Hawaii Pr.
The image is from a blog describing a visit to Yamanashi with a very similar ritual: