Japanese Tableware Gallery
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With the advent of October, autumn seemed to have finally arrived. However, a small walk during the day makes me sweat and it feels as if the record intense heat of this summer still lingers. So anything that gives an impression of coolness is always welcome.On the other hand, Japanese eating methods lay a lot of emphasis on the four seasons; as a result, lacquerware and pottery at times serve as a substitute for porcelain and glass tableware due to the impression of coolness they give.

The left lacquerware in the picture above is made by Yui Kado(the 'Daruma-Chan' on the right is my son's favourite toy). As the form resembles the' Daruma doll', it was named 'Daruma-Wan'.The Daruma doll is an ornament, originally made to decorate the figure of 'Daruma-Taishi', the Buddhist priest who spread the Zen movement and introduced the concept of Zazen (the fundamental method of training in Zen Buddhism though which one meditates in a specified sitting posture). The Daruma doll is now loved in Japan as a mascot regardless of denomination. Mr.Kado lives in Wajima City,Ishikawa Prefecture. It is a prosperous area where lacquerware has been made for a long time. As the work involved includes various tasks such as shaving wood, applying lacquer, and decorating the finished product, it has created a division of labour around which a community has evolved. Mr.Kado is referred to as 'Nushi' in this area and applys a lacquer to wood, which is the finishing stage of making lacquerware in his studio. He has succeeded his father who was a skilled Nushi. Mr.Kado guides his studio which includes artisans from his father's time as well as newly joined members. He is well known for his dedication to the art of making lacquerware. As for the Daruma-Wan, it is unique form compared to the more commonly used lacquerware. It can be used for various purposes and is well suited for the needs of modern day eating how they want to use the Daruma-Wan. Its plump round form is identical to that of the Daruma doll and the look and feel of it is pleasant!

Daruma-Wan (Red)
Yui Kado
Size D9.5−H7.2    Price 21,000Yen

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It is June and the rainy season in Japan has set in. For several years now, heavy seasonal rains have been causing serious damage in various locations all around. The elderly famer is particularly worried seeing the state of his fields, damaged by the rains. This is indeed very sad, and I fully understand the state of mind of those who are engaged in agriculture, because the management of water is always very important. I sincerely hope that such rains do not occur this year.

This is a photo of Kensuke Fujiyoshi's works. Its design has three people wearing a Mino(straw raincoat) and Kasa(bamboo hat), pulling a ship. Although it is my favourite work, it makes me feel sad as in the olden days, without proper facilities for weather forecasts and flood control measures, people found it difficult to move about, and working on rainy days was much harder than it is today. However, I feel an emotional attachment to the Mino and Kasa. A Ukiyo-e print of Hiroshige Ando's Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi series has a lively picture of people wearing a Mino and Kasa, hurrying in the rain. Tableware such as the one in this photograph is called 'Soba-choko'. Traditionally this tableware was used as a serving dish,but with the spread of Soba during the Edo era, people began using it as a container for serving Soba-tsuyu(a dip for cold soba).Today, Soba-choko has other uses, for instance, as containers for serving tea and desserts. I find it interesting that many Soba-chokos carry a picture of the season on them, and the work in refreshing blues, looks good and makes me feel comfortable. 

Kensuke Fujiyoshi
Size D7.5−H6    Price 3,990Yen

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April begins ― it is almost spring. This year, the Sakura flowered early, and so, the day of full bloom might be over by the time you read this. In Japan, all people track the blossoming of the Sakura so that they can see the flower at its most beautiful. One may pattern one's life on the Sakura, which blooms suddenly and quickly, and is scattered purposefully. In Japan, a country that stretches lengthwise from the north to the south, the Sakura season signals that spring is around the corner. The Sakura-Zensen(cherry blossom front), the line linking flowering days across the country, moves from Kyusyu(in the south) to Hokkaido(in the north). Matching the northward progress of Sakura-Zensen, many people travel by train or car, and continue to enjoy the Sakura as it gradually blossoms across the country. From this, we understand how much the people of this country love the Sakura.
This is one of Katsutoshi Mizuno's works, a pretty dish with the Sakura motif. When I look at it, it seems mysterious because I can see a slight pink hue(this work is actually white). Mr.Mizuno creates mainly white porcelain, which is rare amongst Japanese artists. He focuses on and puts all his energies into white porcelain. It must indeed be a valuable thing for an artist to bet his life on it and wrestle with it. He said,'The more I create white porcelains, the more I know it's difficult'. Speaking of white porcelain, Richo Hakuji―created when the Joseon dynasty ruledーis very famous; there are lovers of Richo Hakuji world over. In the background of white porcelain heralding the golden age of the Joseon dynasty, Confucianism, which regards white as an expression of neatness or honesty and of religious importance, had begun to spread in place of Buddhism. It is rightly said,' If you want to understand the history of a period, see its ceramic ware'. In the works of Mr.Mizuno, there are many reproductions of Richo Hakuji. He loves white porcelain and he has studied it in depth. His work is warm and bracing, attracting attention all over the world as well as in Japan.

Katsutoshi Mizuno
Size W13.5-H2.3 Price 3,990Yen   

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March begins, and thus the season changes from winter to spring and back again. Such a climate is referred to as 'Sankan-Shion',which expresses the climate in spring as a warm day on the 4th after a cold day on the 3rd,returning to the cold again.

This is one of Keiju Sakaba's works. The bright green of the flowers and a bird excites me. This depiction mirrors the coming season, when trees in the forest wake from a winter's sleep and bloom. Mr.Sakaba lives in Mito City of Ibaraki Prefecture, and both he and his house were safe at the time of the Tohoku Earthquake two years ago. Many of his works,however,were destroyed. For a while, aftershocks were a main concern following the earthquake, and I thought the days when he could not concentrate on his work would continue for some time. But he has resumed his work,creating them passionately and energetically. In fact, his works following the earthquake disaster illustrate renewed strength and depth! The example he left at hand was destroyed, and there is the work that he created from memory, but his works continue to evolve.

In eleven days, we will mark the two-year anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake. At the first sign of spring in Tohoku, the tragedy occurred. As the revival is still in progress,I look at this work while praying for Tohoku to blossom into the beautiful green life reflected in this work.

Keiju Sakaba
Size D21−H4   Price 6,930Yen

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Ume no Hana

Winter continues, but spring is surely approaching. The Ume tree at my parent's house produced a pretty bloom. Sakura (cherry blossoms) is considered the representation of spring in Japan, but the flowering of the Ume tree, another sign of spring, lends a feeling of quite calm.The Ume tree was brought in from China, and the people in the time of Manyo planted Ume trees in their gardens to create a China-like atmosphere. The Ume tree is now found all over Japan and has come to symbolize the coming of spring. The Japanese love its pretty flowers!!

These are Shigeo Fujisawa's works. The flower of Ume is drawn on the porcelain white as snow. This work probably holds emotional value for the creater. A red picture, drawn in this way, is called 'Akae', and artists are constantly challenging themselves to create beautiful Akae. They focus on obtaining good Bengala(colour), balancing the composition, timing of the compounding, and so on. In Japan, Kakiemon Sakaida was the first one to produce Akae porcelain in the 1640s, and his story was adapted into a Kabuki program (Meiko Kakiemon). Mr.Fujisawa handles 'red' work very skillfully. This work depicts the pretty flowers of the Ume tree that bloom beautifully in the early spring days after the snowy ones.

Shigeo Fujisawa
Size D15.5−H2.5     Price 6,300Yen

Shigeo Fujisawa
Size D5.5−H4.2     Price 3,780Yen

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Finally, there is only one month left in this year. In Japan, December is known as 'Shiwasu'―loosely translated as being such a busy time that even a great monk who is never usually busy will be praying on the run. Although the month's Japanese name has a Buddhist connotation, Christmas is a common feature in this season and the festival is widespread across Japan. Pious Christians go to church on Christmas day,but most Japanese enjoy Christmas without the religious implications.With beautiful Christmas lights illuminating the streets,lovers spend many romantic evenings together,and families enjoy fun times and a special dinner at home. Such a scene might seem quite absurd to people from the West.

The above picture is one of Keiju Sakaba's works. It is a wonderful example of karakusa-monyo(an arabesque pattern) worked on in a relaxed manner.Considering that we will probably have many opportunities to eat a special dinner around Christmas time, it makes a very handy serving dish. Karakusa-monyo is often seen in Japanese tableware. The art form came to be widely used during the Heian period and is a pattern that conveys a friendly sentiment; however identifying the plant in the pattern has remained inconclusive. The pattern seems to have originated in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and was introduced to Japan from China along the Silk Road. I think that, over the centuries,the pattern has gradually changed form while crossing various cultures and regions,and then reflects the Japanese idea of beauty. Considering the examles of karakusa-monyo and Christmas, the Japanese culture seems to be one that skillfully adopts the culture, manners, and customs of the foreigners who entered this country.

Keiju Sakaba
Size D15−H3.2  Price 4,200Yen

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Autumn deepens day by day,and the signs of winter are more visible. In the mountains,maple leaves turn red, while people wearing warmer clothes wander throughout the towns.

In this post,I will write about 'kiku'(chrysanthemum),the flower which represents autumn. While in recent years, we have been able to admire the kiku any time of year because of its widespread cultivation, I still think that autumn is the best season for enjoying it. Originally, the kiku was introduced to Japan from China as a medicinal herb in the Nara period,though nowadays, it is a flower that represents Japan as much as the 'sakura'. We don't only admire the beauty of the kiku but also display it proudly alongside prayers for longevity at the Choyo no Sekku(the Chrysanthemum Festival),and use it in flower arrangements at funerals,representing the memory of the deceased. In addition, it has been used as the Imperial crest since Emperor Go-toba adopted the design of kiku in the Kamakura period,and the design has been used extensively in kimono patterns,Japanese sweets and art. In fact,one could say that no flower is as close to the Japanese heart as the kiku.

The works in the picture above utilize the kiku motif. The white porcelain dish on the left is made by Katsutoshi Mizuno,the upper dish by Ito Akemi,and the right dish―on which the kiku is painted in blue―is made by Keiju Sakaba. The kiku is often used as a motif for Japanese tableware and is one of my favourite designs. It can be used in many ways, such as modelling the piece into the shape of the flower,drawing or painting the flower on the piece, and so on. Because this design is meant to produce a calming effect,they are understandably very popular pieces in my gallery. 

Katsutoshi  Mizuno 

Size W13.5−H2    Price 3,150Yen

Akemi  Ito
Size D10.5−H2.5    Price 1,680Yen

Keiju Sakaba
Size D14−H2.5    Price 4,200Yen

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The beginning of October appeared to welcome autumn. Whenever I travel to the suburbs, I come across some rice fields ready to be reaped. The sight of rice growing in abundance gives me immense happiness and makes me feel rich. The rice crop has now become easier to cultivate thanks to mechanisation,but when I see my father-in-law who is more than 70 years old, I always picture him cultivating rice the hard way by going to the rice field almost every day and pay close attention to water management and pest invasions.Therefore, I intend to eat with care, without wasting even a single grain of rice. And above all, I intend to savour the unigue taste and flavour of fresh new rice which encapsulates the power of nature―the rain and the summer heat.Rice is the staple food of the Japanese, but rice also has a deeper meaning―it helps to develop a deep connection to the soul and also acts as a strong support to the Japanese heart.   

This is one of Shinpei Ido's works. Among tableware, Gohanjawan(rice bowl)holds deep emotional meaning for the Japanese. Not only adults but even children have their own Gohanjawan, which is selected based on size and design. Mr.Ido lives in Kumamoto Prefecture. He has studied architecture at the university, but he has chosen pottery to pursue his passion for cooking and manufacturing. He was trained at the kiln of Karatuyaki, and later, he opened his own kiln in Kumamoto. I met him for the first time in June this year. The man from the Kyushu district has often been described as 'Kyushu Danji' and he is a real Kyushu Danji, warm-hearted man with a strong sense of integrity. Although he has just begun his career as an artist, he creates excellent designs that are deep-rooted in tradition. I have great expectations from this artist in the future!

Shinpei Ido
Size D13 −H5.4     Price 2,100Yen

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Summer,about which we were greatly excited about at the Olympic Games,is almost over,I see signs of autumn. Regarding Japanese food,which places importance on the four seasons,the look of the tableware is turning autumn-like―from bright to calm colours.

This is one of Shigeo Fujisawa's works. Mr.Fujisawa lives in Kaga,Ishikawa Prefecture. He is an all-around artist, creating both pottery and porcelain products. But currently,he focuses on porcelain. He is in charge of the forming, while his co-worker, his wife is in charge of the painting. His works, which consider the end user, are very popular among Japanese restaurants and among people engaged in cooking.

In Japan,porcelain does not yet have a long history, compared to pottery that has been around since ancient times. Until the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Japanese could not produce porcelain products, which could be imported from China.
However, Lee Sanpei, who came from the Korean Peninsula,changed the history of Japanese porcelain. The production of porcelain in Japan started when he discovered kaolin,an ingredient for making porcelain, at Izumiyama of the Arita region in 1616. Although it seems that many people have various opinions on this matter, it is certain that Lee Sanpei played an important role in the beginning of porcelain production in this country. Thus,in japan,porcelain has been produced from Japanese materials,from technique of Korean Peninsula,and from the examples of Chinese products. In a while,Japanese had risen to become the biggest porcelain-exporting country.

Koimari is the name for porcelain,made in the Arita region during the Edo Period. Moreover,things made during the early period are called 'Shoki-Imari',and they are indeed very popular. This work is modelled after a small Shoki-Imari dish and is really expressive of the characteristics of Shoki-Imari―simplicity,gentleness,and so on. Although Mr.Fujisawa often creates porcelain products modelled after creations from the older periods, he does not only reproduce their size or design. He makes use of inspirations from his own ideas that are suited to modern food culture. I always think that Mr.Fujisawa is one of the key persons who are at the forefront of modern porcelain-making,and just like Lee Sanpei, he found a new direction for porcelain in this country.

Shigeo Fujisawa
Size D9−H2.4     Price 2,625Yen

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The month of Obon

In Japan, August is the month of Obon (in some regions,Obon is in July), a time when we worship our ancestors or family members in a variety of ways.
Such ways include Ohaka mairi(visiting graves), Toro nagashi(floating paper lanterns down a river), Mukaebi(welcoming fire for returning spirits), Okuribi(seeing off spirits), Bon odori(dancing festival),and so on. 

Obon of this year 2012 is the second time since the Tohoku Earthquake, and so, for us, it has become a special occasion. Those who lost their families and friends believe that the people who died during this earthquake live in peace in heaven and during this brief period of Obon, they come to see their beloved people. Without this tradition, it would be difficult to move toward the future. Starting now, we should address the problems that continue to plague our society: recovery operations, nuclear issues, disaster prevention, and so on. With this in mind, during Obon, we should come together as one to honor the ancient Japanese.

This bowl is one of Akemi Ito's works. As you can see, it was molded into a beautiful form and glazed thickly. Because the pottery is made from Earth and will ultimately return to Earth, I feel that it expresses Rinne Tensho(reincarnation).The reason we continue to create and value pottery is that it is our tangible link to ancient times and, therefore, we are attached to it.

Ms.Ito lives in Fukuoka Prefecture. She primarily creates pottery which is modeled after Karatsuyaki or Korean pottery from the Joseon Dynasty(1392-1910). At first sight, her works appear mannish; however, she produces feminine arrangements as well, which are practical in both size and shape. Though her works are very popular, she creates very few pieces at a time. She is wary, for example, about how she chooses clay, and judges by instinct. Her work is appealing because of its healing essence, and thus I feel it like a best friend.

Akemi  Ito
Size D15.5−H5.3    Price 4,200Yen

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