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2003 Newsletter Archive



                   Written by Robert Yellin

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February 2003


Kato Yasukage; Folk Ceramics

- Kato Yasukage
- Japanese Folk Ceramics (Montgomery Collection)
- Latest Honoho Geijutsu and Tojiro Magazines
- Ibaraki Museum
- New items

Even though he's still in his thirties Kato Yasukage (formerly known as Kato Shoji) makes some fantastic works. He recently had a very successful exhibition in Takashimaya, Tokyo, where almost all the works sold. In today's Japan that is no easy feat. On top of that he recently won an important award for his chawan, which appear to be made by someone way beyond his years. The award is from the ninth Mino Togei Shoroku Chawan Exhibition. The award is named after the late Kato Shoroku who was a prominent businessman in the Mino area. Kato was given the award for a Shino chawan that will be kept forever in the Gifu Prefectural Ceramics Museum -- I do hope they take it out and use it sometimes! That is what it was made for. Judges include Kato Takuo and Kato Kozo, the latter has a new interview up on Past winners of the award included Hori Ichiro (a personal Mino favorite of mine), Hayashi Shotaro, Miwa Ryoji (great chawan on, and Kato Kozo amongst others. If your computer can read Japanese you can see past winner's chawan here:

Kato Yasukage will have works on display in NYC during the March Asian Week and I'll have more information on that soon.

Fifty Centuries of Japanese Folk Ceramics from the Montgomery Collect
Speaking of the Big Apple there are always interesting exhibitions and events during the last week of March during Asian week. I know for sure that some nice ceramics will be offered at Christies and as mentioned above Kato Yasukage will also be there in works and in person. Another interesting event is the 'Quiet Beauty' folk ceramics exhibition starting March 27 to June 15 at the The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture. They also have an impressive array of lectures scheduled and more information can be had by reading this press release:

Latest Honoho Geijutsu and Tojiro Magazines
All collectors and other assorted followers of Japanese ceramics always look forward to the two main magazines, Honoho Geijutsu and Tojiro. The current issue of Tojiro takes an in-depth look at two of Japan's 20th century ceramic giants, Tomimoto Kenkichi and Kitaoji Rosanjin. Both were exceptional artists with Tomimoto having the most refined brushwork on porcelains and Rosanjin creating works across the ceramic spectrum. Tomimoto's works are among the most expensive of any 20th century ceramic artist and last month a covered hexagonal box sold for 15,500,000 yen (about $135,000)----the work was made in 1943. A Tomimoto tokkuri made in 1950 (very much like the Shofu Eiichi one on was sold for 2,200,000 yen or $19,000. A Rosanjin Oribe lamp was purchased for 3,000,000 yen($26,000) and a square Shino plate went for 1,350,000yen($11,700). In the same auction a Kato Tokuro chawan was purchased for 6,000,000 yen or about $52,000. Enough about the auction. See for yourself the works by both of Tomimoto and Rosanjin in the current Tojiro, that is if you don't already own one. Also a look at a current Rosanjin exhibition can be found on

Honoho Geijutsu's feature is on shuki or sake utensils.  Part of it's opening summary in English goes, "People will have a drink in times of joy, sorrow, or solitude. While sometimes we just drink to get drunk, real connoisseurs find great joy in the act of drinking itself. Of course the flavor of the liquor is of great importance, but choosing from what to drink the liquor is an additional pleasure. The variety of cups from which to drink Japanese sake is as rich as the sake itself, with such examples as guinomi, tokkuri, and katakuchi. Actually we find that drinking sake is really another way to enjoy ceramics. Because each type of Japanese sake cup holds all the charms of the various firing methods, such as Bizen, Karatsu, Shino,Oribe and Kohiki. Nowhere else in the world can we enjoy ceramics along with a drink of sake. We change our sake cup to match the mood of the day, and as we drink sake, we become intoxicated on the charms of the cup, caressing it and putting it to our lips. Drinking from cups focuses our pleasure in using ceramics. These are the charms for which we strive."

Wow! That's a bit on the sensual side, but hey, I have to wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I'm part of this issue along with Japan Ceramic Society Board of Director member, prolific author, and owner of Ginza Kuroda Toen, Kuroda Kazuya and ceramic artist Mikami Ryo. We were invited by HG to Kamakura for an afternoon of talking while enjoying the pleasures of sake and shuki. There are many color photos of the works we each brought. Also, the feature continues with some of the past and current great of shuki including Tomimoto, Rosanjin, Kato, and many more. Also of interest was a ranking of the most popular shuki makers today and number one was -- drum roll kudasai -- Bizen's Kakurezaki Ryuichi! You can't say I never told you---many works have 'found good homes' on and there is one tokkuri still waiting for, as HG puts it, caressing. The list continues like this from number two on: Kaneshige Yuho (Bizen); Suzuki Osamu (Shino), Nakamura Rokuro (Bizen) and Nishioka Koju (Karatsu) all tied for third; Uchida Koichi (various styles) Kaneshige Kosuke (Bizen), Koie Ryoji (various styles), and Suzuki Goro (Mino) all tied; Kaneshige Makoto (Bizen); and Osawa Tsuneo (Bizen), Kagami Shukai (Ki-Seto and Shino), Kawase Shinobu (celadon) and Nakajima Katsunori (Mino) rounding out the list. Other vote getters -- the votes were cast at sixty galleries nationwide -- were Abe Anjin, Harada Shuroku, Masamune Satoru, Nomura Ichiro and Mori Togaku (Bizen), Ichino Masahiko (Tamba), Kaneta Masanao (Hagi), Kawaguchi Jun (colorful porcelain), Kobayashi Togo (various), Sawa Kiyotsugu and Tsuji Seimei (Shigaraki), Tsujimura Shiro (various), Nakagawa Jinenbo, Maruta Munehiko and Nakazato Takashi (Karatsu), Fujioka Shuhei (Iga), Fukami Sueharu (Seihakuji) and Hanaoka Yutaka (kohiki) amongst others, Oh, Mikami Ryo -- the potter with me in the interview was also included. If you'd like to see some photos from the interview and the cover shot of a pieces by Ishiguro Munemaro and Kawakita Handeshi.

Copy below URL onto one line in your browser's address box.

Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum
In the past few years two noteworthy ceramic museums have opened and they are the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art in Gifu Prefecture ( and the above mentioned museum in Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture ( . The current exhibition at the Ibaraki Ceramic Museum is titled 'Gendai Togei no Hana -- Contemporary Ceramic Masters of Western Japan. The bi-lingual exhibition catalog states, "The Japanese people have long cherished pieces of pottery they used in their daily lives, and as much as they have appreciated the elegant forms in pots and bowls, they also loved their decorative aspects such as the expressive surgace feel, the variety of glazes, and the bright colors of painted design. Building upon the long tradition, today's potters are introducing new decorative elements into ceramic art through inventive original techniques that employ the diverse process of ceramic making to greatest effects. In this exhibition, we have taken up 75 works by 25 leading contemporary ceramists of western Japan. In the beautiful glazes and exquisite surfaces of these works, you are seeing the best examples of colorful and decorative ceramics." This was written by the museum's director Hasabe Mitsuhiko. The feature essay was written by curator Todate Kazuko and is titled 'The Structure and Decoration in Contemporary Ceramics---"Shell Three-Dimensionality by Wall-Forming Process" in Ceramic Works.' In addition she also wrote brief essays about each artist. The 25 are: Inoue Shinichi, Imai Hyoe, Imaizumi Imaemon XlV, Kakurezaki Ryuichi, Kaneshige Kosuke, Kaneta Masanao, Kawaguchi Jun, Takiguchi Kazuo, Tashima Etsuko, Toda Morinobu, Tomita Mikiko, Nakajima Hiroshi, Hayami Shiro, Hinoda Takashi, Fukushima Zenzo, Maeta Akihiro, Matsumoto Hideo, Miwa Kazuhiko, Miwa Ryosaku, Mori Masahiro, Morino Akito and Taimei, Yagi Akira, Yanagihara Mutsuo, and Yoshikawa Masamichi.

The exhibition is divided into four sections: Decoration and Form; Local Resources and Traditions; Minimalism in Color and Form; and Decoration and Form Part 2.

A look at a past exhibition at the museum can be viewed here:

And their web site in Japanese only can be viewed here:

The above-mentioned catalog will be in the March offerings at :

DARUMA Magazine
The new issue of DARUMA magazine has just been issued and within is my article about three ceramic legends: Okabe Mineo, Kamoda Shoji and Tsuji Seimei. You can find more information on Daruma's web site:

New Items
The winter is a slow time for works of art to circulate here in Japan yet that doesn't mean it's a 'barren' season. Each and every day I look at dozens of works and if I can find one that I would like to own than I satisfied. Only then do I offer it on Recently I went to Kyoto and finally visited tenmoku master Kimura Moriyasu. I selected 12 works that are now almost all featured on His work is magical and he's been perfected is glazes for almost fifty years. Kimura's work is in major private and public collections worldwide and I invite you to at least take a look at his dazzling creations. Also, you'll find some other fine pots including works by Kato Shigetaka, Kakurezaki Ryuichi, Minegishi Seiko, Uraguchi Masayuki, and Saki Kobu.

And finally as my good friend Dick Lehman ( wrote me a few weeks back, "I hope that you will join me in praying and working for peace at a time when our government is talking and threatening war."

Until the next time-

"Teach us to delight in simple things,
And mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And love to all men 'neath the sun."

By Rudyard Kipling.

Robert Yellin


Copyright 2001

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