The Japan Ceramic Society (Nihon Toji Kyokai) was founded in 1945 and began to give its prestigious prize in 1955. The first winners were Sodeisha member Kumakura Junkichi, now Living National Treasure Shimizu Uichi, and Okabe Mineo, who refused to accept the award. The award has been given to 73 potters (as of 2001) of which ten are now Living National Treasures (LNTs). They are Imaiizumi Imaemon, Kato Takuo, Shimaoka Tatsuzo, Shimizu Uichi, Suzuki Osamu, Tokuda Ysaokichi, Fujiwara Yu, Matsui Kosei, Miura Koheiji, and Yamada Jozan. The ultra-prestigious 'Gold Award' has been given to only 17 potters.
The exhibition was held in the Wako Hall in Ginza and was well attended. Each year the exhibition has a theme and this year it was Ocha o Tanoshimu (Enjoy Tea). Potters were asked to submit something that would fit within this theme and most did. The hall was filled with small sencha cups, yunomi (tea cups), chawan and various dishes for placing a tidbit on to snack on while drinking. Some potters, who didn't comply with theme guides, displayed bunbougu (writing items) including Fujihira Shin who had the smallest yet very cute shinsha shi-shi yuteki (red copper 'lion' water dropper).
Potters who are strong in chadogu or tea utensils include Raku Kichizaemon (he didn't exhibit this time), Ohi Chozaemon (ugly chawan!), Kato Kozo, Kato Shigetaka, Tsuji Seimei, and Mori Togaku (very fine kogo -- best of show), Some others focus mainly on objet d'art and this group consists of Akiyama Yo, Araki Takako (new twist to her bible series), Kato Kiyoyuki (nice ash-glazed chawan though), Koie Ryoji, Kozuru Gen (what a wasted talent), Suzuki Osamu, and Yamada Hikaru.
I spent about an hour walking in the well-lit and airy hall. Wako Hall is one of the nicest places for a department store exhibition in Tokyo. As I walked in I was first met by the LNT's work, mostly predictably standard work for them. Suzuki Osamau's stiff aka-Shino hanaire was nice as were the others work. Yet after seeing them do the same thing for many years I easily get bored with their works. The only LNT that I was pleased with was Matsui Kosei who had a black chawan that was very intriguing. Usually his bright floral patterns, which remind me of Irish spring soap, are not suited in the least for tea. I guess he took an aesthetic shower and has come around to a more suitable ones.
I chuckled when I saw the security guard stationed over in the corner, coincidentally standing by Shimaoka's also predictable work. Most of the work from the exhibition is pictured below and it would be hard to comment on them all -- if you have any questions about any of the work please contact me.
Kato Kozo, Shimizu Uichi
Some pieces that I especially liked were Ito Sekisui's wonderful neriage rose bowl -- a three dimensional gem. Mori Togaku's kogo, which although being quite small, had the feeling of a large boulder -- it's black Bizen sheen was also quite special. Kato Kiyoyuki's green ash-glazed chawan was the best I've seen from him in years. I was pleasantly surprised with Yoshida Zenko's red choseki-yu vase -- I've never really liked his work before.Bizen potters Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Harada Shuroku each had fine chawan as well. Kyoto's Takiguchi Kazuo displayed his fine brushwork on some plates that included checked patterns, moon, rabbits, and leaves. Some of the pieces were quite boring, like Onodera Gen's gray leaf-shaped plates and Wakao Toshisada's overdone Shino plate.
I've heard that this year`s award will go to only the fourth woman potter in the society's history -- Ogawa Machiko -- she does some very dynamic work in organic forms. I hope you enjoy the web exhibit below -- these are all pieces that were exhibited this year.
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