This story may sound like the ultimate anecdote about “slumming it,” a phenomenon in which the rich and privileged willingly choose to endure conditions much harsher and more squalid than they are used to. About 10 years ago, following his retirement from politics, ex-Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa decided to take up ceramics, choosing to study under a particularly unorthodox teacher, the potter Shiro Tsujimura.

“He is a very unique and wild person, and very strict with his apprentices,” Hosokawa said during an interview at the Maison Hermes gallery in Ginza, where some of the results of his artistic endeavors are on display. “When I first contacted him, his response was quite blunt. Anyway, he picked me up and drove me to his workshop up in the mountains, about 40 or 50 minutes from Nara. His workshop was extremely dirty, littered with the debris of broken ceramics, but I stayed there and worked under his leadership for about a year and a half.”

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