Published on 01 Oct 2020

Beautiful Japanese ceramics since 1600

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There is something very calming and soothing about ceramics. The coolness to the touch, the fragile nature, and the thought of the process that it takes to reach this state makes one gasp in awe of admiration and reverence. Takatoriyaki souke 高取焼宗家 is the family that heads the Takatori-ware 高取焼窯 clan that begun in 1600 when the Eimanji kiln was completed at the foothill of Mount Takatoriyama 鷹取山 in present day Nogata, Fukushima Prefecture. The above tea cups are created by Shunkei Takatori 高取春慶, born eldest son to Hachizan Takatori 高取八山, 13th generation and present master of Takatoriyaki Souke. His elegant style of fine lines and delicate walls stood out.
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This stunning fish-like pattern that spreads in the leaf-shaped bowl is made by the master himself, Hachizan Takatori. His style was more raw and earthy, with a sort of warmth that can be expected from a piece of earthenware.

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Another set by Hachizan, distinct patterns gleaming and exquisite, makes one desire the entire set to enjoy a nimono teishoku 煮物定食 (set meal with rice and casserole) or other traditional Japanese food.
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The exquisite curling edges reminds us of petals or leaves. The universality of the motif and neutral shade makes the ceramics very versatile, bringing out the colours and textures of all sorts of cuisines; slices of fresh sashimi, colourful dishes like ratatouille, or softly embracing tonal hues of tofu or fruit.
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Shunkei's delightful teardrop vases of around 8cm in diameter and 10cm high, have fragile paper-thin tiny openings. The subtle designs will bring to life the humble wild flower or twig of herb; reminding us that beauty can be found in the most ordinary and everyday places.
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Takatori-yaki ceramics are made with a mixed clay; clay with iron content obtained from Koishihara 小石原, and white clay from Nanakuma, Fukuoka 七隈, 福岡. The pounding, mixing, and filtering process takes 2 to 3 months after which the clay is vacuumed sealed and rests for a few months until it is ready to be used. The unique blend of the two clays is responsible for the very fine, lightweight, almost porcelain quality. Smooth and delicate rice bowls of beautiful earthy colours can also be used to serve everything from rice to casserole dishes.
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Each piece is created by hand, on a wheel. The glaze used at Takatoriyaki Souke is made with natural ingredients only; straw ash, wood ash, feldspar, and iron oxide - an ancient recipe recorded in the 'book of secrets' handed down from generation to generation. Above is cup by Shunkei, I'm sure coffee will taste much tastier when drunk from this fun trumpet looking vessel.

Takatoriyaki kilns are connected and built along a slope, a distinctive style that is named noborigama 登り窯, 'climbing kiln'. This style was introduced to Japan in the 5th century, making it possible to create large quantities of earthenware utilising circulation of hot air to control temperature through the numerous kilns.

The items displayed at the Teikoku Hotel Plaza near Hibiya, Tokyo, had price tags that matched those of the shop at the kiln -which is unusual. Typically they would be priced up a little taking into account the shipping, insurance, and man power costs to bring the pieces over 1000km to an audience in Tokyo. The exhibit ends November 4th 2019.

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