|2005 Winter - Intro - Visiting Japanese Kilns - Bizen - Tokoname - Seto & Tajimi
photography by Yasunobu Kobayashi / lead text by Masanori Moroyama / text by Kyoko Tsukada
One of Japan's oldest ceramic centers, Tokoname has a pottery-making history dating back more than 900 years. Today it is home to a burgeoning industry in ceramic ducts and pipes, construction tiles, and sanitary fixtures. It's also well known for its redware teapots and other tea wares. Change came to Tokoname in the 1970s when contemporary ceramic artists captured the limelight at overseas art exhibitions with their art pottery, wall murals, and other creations transcending the scope of conventional pottery. The atmosphere of freedom that fostered this fresh development continues to welcome new artists and ideas.
Inventor of dynamic ice-blue porcelain
In a pottery center famed for its shudei (red clay) and yakishime (high-fired unglazed stoneware), Masamichi Yoshikawa daringly introduces hakuji (white) and seihakuji (bluish white) porcelain into his works.
He explains, "I couldn't wrestle in the same ring with people making pottery here for generations."
Shortly after coming to that realization, he encountered Northern Sung hakuji and seihakuji, which are considered the pinnacle of Chinese ceramics, and thought to himself, "This is it!"
For Yoshikawa, who originally aspired to be an interior designer and was always enamored of the color white, hakuji and seihakuji provide him with the sense of designing in white.
"Some people find hakuji too cold," says Yoshikawa, "yet there is a quality to Korean Yi-dynasty hakuji that can move me to tears, and I find seihakuji so expressive."
Yoshikawa's beautiful forms accentuate the phantom-like blue that dwells within the subtle puddling of the seihakuji glaze. His vessels convey what might best be described as a quiet sense of heat.
He has been the recipient of numerous international ceramic art awards in recent years, the most recent being the grand prize at the 2004 Taiwan International Ceramics Biennale.
Yoshikawa feels that going abroad has made him more keenly aware of the extent to which the local air, water, humidity, light, and soil have cultivated his sensibilities and actually do form his creative flesh and blood.
"A potter," he says, "is much like a farmer, continually confronting and learning from the elements of nature."
Incised lines, carved planes, and glaze create gradations of seihakuji's characteristic bluish tone and modulate its expression.
Clockwise from top: Deep square dish, 200,000 yen; rectangular plate, 60,000 yen; pair of rice bowls, 80,000 yen; square plates, 70,000 yen and 80,000 yen
4-65 Haramatsu-cho, Tokoname, Aichi
Telephone inquiry is required to purchase works from the studio.
Master of teapots in the Tokoname tradition
Tokoname traditions figure in the works of Emu Yamada. He uses clay with high iron content and fires unglazed wares for long periods at very high temperatures. His specialty is Japanese-style kyusu (a type of teapot with the handle mounted at a right angle to the spout). He also makes vases and tableware.
Born into a family boasting master ceramists since the Meiji period (1868-1912), Emu learned from his father, Living National Treasure Jozan Yamada III. He continues the family heritage, making the shudei (red clay) kyusu that are a Tokoname specialty.
His relatively orthodox wares emphasize the natural beauty and "flavor" of the clay. By picking them up one can tell from their weight, form, and balance that they are a pleasure to use.
Yamada explains, "Because a kyusu is a tool for brewing tasty tea, the angle of the spout and the overall balance become important factors." It is with use that the unaffected skill in his kyusu begins to show its real charmthe way the pot fits the hand and grows richer in appearance.
While his main goal in making pots for everyday use is giving form to function, he also pursues aesthetically beautiful silhouettesin hopes that using an Emu pot will be one of its owner's little joys in life.
Because it involves making and assembling several separate componentsbody, spout, lid, and handlekyusu-making is technically difficult and time consuming. Still, with the increasing popularity of green tea, there is growing demand for good kyusu. Yamada adds, "It has been scientifically proven that the traces of iron in shudei clay enhance the flavor of the tea!"
Yamada creates primarily teapots and vessels for flowers. Vases from 100,000 yen; leaf dish, 30,000 yen; teapot, 50,000 yen.
Travel 5 minutes from Shin-Nagoya Station to Jingumae Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Honsen Ltd. express; then go 30 minutes to Tokoname Station on the Meitetsu Tokoname Line.
The Pottery Path (Path A, 1.5km)
This designated path begins at Ceramics Hall, about 5 minutes from Tokoname Station. Along the hilly path you will pass more than 30 pottery workshops with showrooms, the black walls and brick chimneys characteristic of Tokoname, and abandoned kilns renovated into galleries.
Tokoname City Folk Museum
Displays of pottery-production tools and Tokoname pottery convey the history of Tokoname ware and the relationship between pottery and the city. The adjacent Ceramic Art Institute also displays Tokoname ceramics and provides an opportunity to decorate teacups.
4-203 Segi-cho, Tokoname, Aichi
Open 9 AM to 4:30 PM, closed Mondays and the fourth Tuesday of each month
INAX Tile Museum
This museum presents historical displays along with tiles from around the world, collected by the late tile researcher Masayuki Yamamoto. In addition to the permanent display the museum organizes special exhibitions.
1-130 Okuei-cho, Tokoname, Aichi
Open 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays
Admission 500 yen (includes entry to the Tokoname Ceramic Park next door)
A hearth-grilling specialty restaurant with a typical old-Tokoname atmosphere sits on a side alley off the Pottery Path. The bento-box meals are popular at lunch. Dinner is by reservation only. On the same property are a teashop and an eatery specializing in local sake.
2-88 Sakaemachi, Tokoname, Aichi
Open 11 AM to 2 PM, after 5 by reservation; closed Wednesdays and the first Tuesday of each month
Articles from the 2005 WINTER issue:
Kateigaho International Edition Issues:
2005 SUMMER - 2005 SPRING - 2005 WINTER
2004 AUTUMN - 2004 SUMMER - 2004 SPRING - 2004 WINTER
2003 AUTUMN - INAUGURAL ISSUE