Contemporary Shigaraki Pottery

From the beginning of the Meiji era (1868), the primary ceramic products inShigaraki began moving toward "hibachi", (charcoal braziers), flowerpots andbuilding materials. At present, the main products are building materials andindustrial ceramics, which account for close to 65% of the entire ceramicproduction in Shigaraki.

Two other main products comprise a significant amount of Shigaraki'scontemporary pottery production: If you visit Shigaraki, you will be sure tosee the raccoon dog statues, called "tanuki". The statues may be foundeverywhere in front of the shops. Many people tend to associate Shigarakiwith tanuki. And rightly so, for the production of tanuki statues accountsfor nearly 5% of Shigaraki's total ceramic output. And finally, theproduction from Anagamas make up an additional 5% of the total potteryoutput. 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, whomwe should not forget, who appeared in Shigaraki after World War II . Theyare 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 oftraditional pottery during what was then the golden age of industrialpottery. But in spite of that difficulty, they have left us a legacy oftraditional firing in Shigaraki. What is more, they not only followed thesteps of our ancestors, but they brought their own sense of beauty to theirworks.

The fourth Naokata Ueda and the third Rakusai Takahashi both won the titleof "prefectural treasure" for the first time in Shigaraki. The current titleholders are the fifth Naokata Ueda and Shunsai Takahashi who isthe third Rakusai's second son. Both of them belong to Nihon-kougei-kai (agroup 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 maintainthe 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 (includingNitten and Soudeisya) is the pursuit of beauty without the necessity offunctional utility. Mingei-ha, founded by Souetsu Yanagi, aims at makingobjects for use, and assumes that fine objects of utility possess aninevitable 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 workto produce my own exhibitions at the galleries of many department stores.

In 1990, the Shigaraki Tougei-no-Mori (ceramic center) opened. There aremany 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 heldat the Tougei-kan. At the Sangyou-tenji-kan, one can see many contemporaryindustrial 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 theirworkshops. An Anagama, a cross-draft kiln and a oil burner kiln have beenbuilt there. And many famous ceramic artists from all over the world areinvited 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 aworkshop. And in April 1995, Mr. Peter Voulkos, Peter Callas and Jyun Kanekowere invited there to present workshops. Mr. Peter Callas came back again inSeptember 1995 to have a firing for Voulkos's and Callas's works.

As a result of this interaction, Shigaraki is becoming moreinternationalized. This interaction comes as a breath of fresh air, helpingto enable each potter to strive for their own goals through their activitiesas a ceramic artist.

Tougei-no-Mori (Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park)

2188-7 Chokushi, Shigarakicho
Koka-Gun, Shiga, 529-18
TEL (81)-748-83-0909 FAX (81)-748-83-1193