From the beginning of the Meiji era (1868), the primary ceramic products in
Shigaraki began moving toward "hibachi", (charcoal braziers), flowerpots and building
materials. At present, the main products are building materials and industrial ceramics,
which account for close to 65% of the entire ceramic production in Shigaraki.
Two other main products comprise a significant amount of Shigaraki's contemporary pottery
production: If you visit Shigaraki, you will be sure tosee the raccoon dog statues, called
"tanuki". The statues may be found everywhere in front of the shops. Many people tend to
associate Shigaraki with tanuki. And rightly so, for the production of tanuki statues accounts
for nearly 5% of Shigaraki's total ceramic output. And finally, the production from Anagamas
make up an additional 5% of the total pottery output. The total number of kilns in Shigaraki
equals 400. 53 of these are Anagamas.
Given the pottery history of Shigaraki, there are two ceramic artists, whom we should not
forget, who appeared in Shigaraki after World War II. They are the fourth Naokata Ueda and
the third Rakusai Takahashi. In addition, Rakusui Okuda, Rakuzan Uda and Ryuzan Yamamoto were
also skillful artisans.
It was a difficult quest for these potters to pursue the beauty of traditional pottery
during what was then the golden age of industrial pottery. But in spite of that difficulty,
they have left us a legacy of raditional firing in Shigaraki. What is more, they not only
followed the steps of our ancestors, but they brought their own sense of beauty to their works.
The fourth Naokata Ueda and the third Rakusai Takahashi both won the title of "prefectural
treasure" for the first time in Shigaraki. The current title holders are the fifth Naokata Ueda
and Shunsai Takahashi who is the third Rakusai's second son. Both of them belong to
Nihon-kougei-kai (a group of traditional craftsman).
There are three main groups of craftsmen in Japan: Nihon-kougei-kai, Gendai-kougei, and
Mingei-ha. The Nihon-kougei-kai group strives to maintain the traditional techniques and the
traditional sense of Japanese beauty, while making works which are both useful (functional)
and beautiful. Thesense of purpose which is expressed by the Gendai-kougei group
(including Nitten and Soudeisya) is the pursuit of beauty without the necessity of functional
utility. Mingei-ha, founded by Souetsu Yanagi, aims at making objects for use, and assumes
that fine objects of utility possess an inevitable beauty.
Each of these groups has its own sense of purpose, theory, and philosophy. Personally,
I cannot understand the necessity of these separate groups. Many of the potters of Shigaraki
belong to one or the other of these groups. However, I have chosen not to belong to a particular
group. Instead I work to produce my own exhibitions at the galleries of many department stores.
In 1990, the Shigaraki Tougei-no-Mori (ceramic center) opened. There are many institutions
which are part of the ceramic center: Tougei-kan,Shigaraki Sangyou-tenji-kan, Tougei-kensyuu-kan, etc.
Exhibitions for the ceramic works which come from all over the world are held at the Tougei-kan.
At the Sangyou-tenji-kan, one can see many contemporary industrial products made in Shigaraki.
The other institution is Tougei-kensyuu-kan where many artists and students, who come from
all over the world, take their training, and have their workshops. An Anagama, a cross-draft
kiln and a oil burner kiln have been built there. And many famous ceramic artists from all over
the world are invited here to present lectures and workshops.
Tougei-no-Mori (the ceramic center) sponsors these sorts of meetings and many other projects:
Four years ago, Ms. Toshiko Takaezu presented a workshop. And in April 1995, Mr. Peter Voulkos,
Peter Callas and Jyun Kanekowere invited there to present workshops. Mr. Peter Callas came back
again in September 1995 to have a firing for Voulkos's and Callas's works.
As a result of this interaction, Shigaraki is becoming more internationalized. This interaction
comes as a breath of fresh air, helping to enable each potter to strive for their own goals through
their activitiesas a ceramic artist.