Artist's statement: "Half my life"

Translated by Chiaki Matsukawa


1) Apprenticing Myself to Kenkichi Tomimoto

I entered Teikoku Atr School (the predecessor of the present Musashino Art University), the department of industrial design, in 1938. It was two years later that I began to visit Kenkichi Tomimoto, who lived in Soshigaya, and watch him working in his studio. I had decided to study in college and practice at Tomimoto's. I went to school to attend lectures like Oriental aesthetics, Western philosophy, French culture and anatomy for art on weekdays and I was going to see Tomimoto on Sundays. One day Tomimoto offered me to let me stay at his house and go to shcool from there. I greatly appreciated and I moved to his house.

Grass grew thick around his studio in Soshigaya. I helped him throw pots and I was to make the wheel with a belt move while he was throwing. During the work he lectured me on his craft theory. It was most difficult to operate the wheel right gazing at him with the greatest care. We had to work in perfct harmony. I believe that I am the only one who was taught by Tomimoto ,living and working with him under the same roof. There was no electric wheels in these days.

2) Longing for Nature

I was born in the city of MIyakonojo. The city is on the Sanshu plains and you can see mountains of Kirishima westward there. In the center of the mountains rises the peak of Mt. Takachiho. Lots of Japanese myths have been told in the district. Growing up there I became to love Nature. When I was a little boy I used to be deeply moved by the Nature art looking at pages of ancient Greek architecture and sculpture in books which was given by my mother. My master Tomimoto had a sharp, observant eye for nature and great skill in description, and he created very unique design which was delicate and gorgeous, whereas I see and express things in their natural way. So there may be some difference between him and me on clay works. After spending a year at Tomimoto's I was called up and got back to my hometown. Then the Pacific War began. Most of my comrades were killed and I survived and went to Tokyo again. I served as an instructor at Daitoa technical school up to 1945. After that I set out on a wandering journey leaving my master's place and it was more than ten years later that I settled down.

3) Pursuing and Wandering

I left my master's place and started visiting studios all over the country. In 1947 I went to the city of Tajimi. I saw many potters working in their own world there and I also studied under Kobei Kato. Wanting to know much better about nature and study the theory of it I went to the National Ceramic Research Institute in Kyoto to be a student. On Saturdays I attended extension courses in universities to listen to various professors. After that I went to Tajimi Ceramic Research Institute and devoted myself to studies on Mino clay in 1950. I began to feel that my passion for making pots jelled into a definite form after long days of pursuing. It was the time to have my own kiln that I could use as I liked. I began looking for a good place to build a kiln. I started Onada in Tajimi and went over the mountains. I toured Ookaya, Oohira and Hisajiri and I was really exhausted by walking. One day I stopped at Kaiyuzan, where I am.

4) Natural-Ash-Deposit

My first kiln in Tajimi was a charcoal kiln. I fired it for cups and plates. Then I started wood-firing with an anagama. It was true that I was greatly surprised by the marvelous power when I used Shigaraki, Iga and Bizen clay. It was only then that I began to realize that it was my mission to make pots without glaze to bring out the beauty of the clay at best. I make pots for everyday use, and it is my hope that when I use them I can feel Nature. I don't make abstractions. When I make pots I don't think that I am to make a great piece of art work. All I do is to put just clay in the kiln (except when I make Shino with a design).
My first consideration is what I am going to make pots for, whether for flowers or for the tea ceremony. I make vases imagining putting flowers into it seriously. Vases are to support flowers. Everytime I have my new vase come out I put flowers into it. It is fine when I see them in harmony as if they are talking to each other. When I make teabowls it is different. Teabowls play the leading part in preparing tea and they "revive" in the course of the tea ceremony as well.

5) Vessels of Zen

My master Kenkichi Tomimoto kept producing gorgeous works all his life. I am determined to throw away all the decoration and ostentation on my works nearing the end of a long journey. I have named them "vessels of Zen". I will stoke another bunch of wood through the stoke hole staring into flame putting all other thoughts out of my mind. Vessels can not be made but they are born. I don't make works but they are brought to me. A whole new life is brought to the one who holds all the experiences but doesn't stick to them.