Designated as the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Heritage “Chanoyugama” (Living National Treasure) in 1996. Born in 1920 in Yamagata City, Miyagi Prefecture, Keiten Takahashi succeeded the family business of foundry at the age of 19 in 1938 and studied under Tetsushi Nagano, the holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Heritage “Chanoyugama.” By selecting high quality river sand and clay and persisting in continual production method from molding and casting to coloring and finishing, Takahashi creates Chagama (Metal Furo Brazier), which has an elegant shape and soft metal texture. To produce first-class product, he orders iron sand from Shimane Pref., which is said to be very difficult to obtain, and furthermore, he selects the superior ones by feeling with his own fingers. Saying that time and labor yield a good product, he is particular about every step in the making process and sometimes takes as many as 3 months to finish one work. The shape, patterns and metal texture, all perfectly harmonize in Takahashi’s Chagama. His Chagama is highly evaluated as a sharp and sophisticated art work.
Ms. Miyahara was born in Shuri in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture in 1922. Hiving great interest and knowledge in the Shuri textile since very young, she entered the Okinawa Kenritsu Joshi Kogei Gakko (Okinawa Prefectural Women’s School of Arts and Crafts), where she learned dyeing. She met Muneyoshi Yanagi in the year of her graduation and went to Tokyo, where she studied weaving and dyeing with plant stuff under his guidance. After two years, she returned to Naha and taught at her former school. However, as the World War II turned Okinawa into burnt ground, the Shuri textile was virtually in danger of extinction.
The Shuri textile is the products of traditional dyeing and weaving techniques developed and handed down over five hundred years in the Shuri area in Naha. During the period of Ryukyu Kingdom, these fabrics were mainly worn by the nobility and warrior classes and the main weavers were wives and daughters of warriors.
Ms. Miyahara devoted herself to reviving the Shuri fabric traditions and organizing the craftspeople of the fabric. In 1972, when Okinawa was returned to Japan, she organized the Naha Traditional Textiles Association and contributed to the revitalization and succession of the Shuri textile. She was designated as a holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property (known as a Living National Treasure) in 1998. Love for her homeland and the hope for the world peace are woven into the fabric woven by Ms. Miyahara.
“Saiyu” is a technique of overglaze enamel painting that involves the application and firing on of colored glaze to a previously high-fired porcelain body. When the whole surface is covered in glazes of different colors, they fuse together to create a gradated effect.
Saiyu porcelain was developed in Ming Dynasty China in the 14th century. The techniques of Saiyu were introduced to Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) and were adopted and developed in Arita and Kutani porcelain.
One of today's best Kutani Saiyu masters is Tokuda Yasokichi III. He has made great efforts to develop his Saiyu technique based on the Old Kutani color glaze enamels. Backed by the highly elaborate techniques, he expresses the beauty of the color combination and the delicate gradation of colors. Tokuda’s Saiyu porcelain is characterized by delicate shading and beautiful contrast of the colors of the enamel glaze. Using this original technique, he has created his own world.
Shino Ware is most identifiable for a squat and cylindrical shape with thick white glazes. It is one of the Mino-styled pottery, which started to be made in the Azuchi-momoyama period in the late 16th century. Using glazers mixed with feldspar and iron oxide, various colors are created. The color variation from white, gray, to red depends on the combination of the glazers and the firing time and method.
It was favored by tea masters of the time, but was gradually declined because many potters all over the country started to copy the style of this pottery, by which Shino ware lost its originality and were gradually fogotten by people.
It was in 1930 when Shino ware was revived by the hands of Toyozo Arakawa. Having been born in the Mino region, he had a special affection for Shino pottery and discovered the old Momoyama kiln. Then he developed the first modern Shino glaze by studying Monoyama Shino pots. Since then he had actively fired his Mino wares in a kiln very much like those of the Momoyama potters and contributed to the revival of this old pottery. Today, a lot of potters are fascinated by this pottery and eager to create thir original Shino pottery works.
Ichibee Iwano was born in 1933 in Imadate in Fukui Prefecture. He is known as the son of the 8th Iwano Ichibee, who was designated a Living National Treasure for his work making washi (Japanese paper) in Echizen.
His son, the 9th Ichibee Iwano, was also designated a Living National Treasure in 2002. The paper he crafted was beloved by many artists, such as Picasso. He inherited his temperament for this work from the 8th and, for 60 years, worked hard to make the best washi.
Ichibee Iwano's paper is stiff, and is not easily torn. Its thickness prevents the paper from blotting. He also created an extremely thin paper for publishing reprints of Katsushika Hokusai's woodblock prints. To print these, it is necessary to rub the back of the paper with a special burnishing implement called a baren a few hundred times. To be sure, it is difficult to make a thin paper that withstands these rubbings. However, the 9th smiles and asserts that 'The harder it is, the better it is.' The spirit of craftsmanship may even exceed that of his father.
Tatsuzo Shimaoka was born in 1919, in Tokyo, and studied ceramics at Tokyo Industry University. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure because of his work in 'jomon zogan'.
Jomon-zogan is a ceramic technique invented by Shimaoka; a pot is patterned using a thin rope, then painted with white 'deisho' (mixture of pot clay and water). After drying, the pot's surface is shaved with a plane. Then, the white Deisho remains in the impressed areas and the jomon pattern appears.
After he was demobilized, Shimaoka studied under Shoji Hamada and, in 1953, he established his own kiln. His belief was to have 'his own distinctive style, not an imitation of others'. He learned through trial and error, and he integrated the jomon technique with zogan, a popular Korean technique. His work is practical and beautiful, unique with his identity.
Jun Isezaki was born on 20 February, 1936. In 2004, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his work as a Bizen ware craftsman.
Jun Isezaki was the second son of Yo Isezaki, who was a fine and detailed potter himself. Jun Isezaki studied pottery from a young age and in 1960, together with his brother Mitsuru, he set about the restoration of a medieval basement kiln that was part of an old kiln on Mt Koya: this was the first Bizen basement kiln.
True to his words 'I want to find my own way, not imitate others', he has continually presented many unique works using his creativity to rework traditional styles. His various ceramic ware ranges from flower vases, dishes and teapots to artistic objets. He believes that 'making new works leads to a tradition'. He is a leading Bizen ware craftsman with an exceptionally creative and wide output.
Hiroshi Tajima was born in 1922. In 1999, he was designated as a Living National Treasure in yuzen dyeing.
Just after he graduated from junior-high school, Tajima studied under Shoko Takamura and Ryuji Takamura, then he learned the yuzen technique on his own. When he was 32 years old, he became independent and sent works to many exhibitions, such as the Japan Traditional Handicrafts Exhibition. In a study group, he learned from a Living National Treasure, Nakamura Katsuma, and improved his techniques.
His technique is based on traditional yuzen dyeing and the various techniques he studied. Finally he invented his original 'sekidashi-yuzen'. This features raised patterns of sekidashi-yuzen, which are richly and beautifully colored by techniques such as direct rice-glue painting. The themes of his designs are mainly based on natural things, such as wild birds, cranes, eagles, gulls and wild flowers. His artistic works stir your poetic imagination.