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Sake Vessels - A Wonderful Trio
Abe Anjin, Ezaki Issei, Kagami Shukai



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Written by Robert
Yellin, these serial stories about Sake
Drinking Vessels
first appeared
in Honoho Geijutsu
between 1997 & 2001
(# 49 thru # 68).

In 2002,
the series was
picked up by, our
 Japanese language
sister site.

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Sake Vessels
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finest potters


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Published in HONOHO GEIJUTSU No. 52, 1997

L to R - Abe Anjin, Ezaki Issei, and Kagami Shukai
Photo Courtesy of Honoho Geijutsu
L - Bizen Guinomi by Abe Anjin
M - Tokoname Guinomi by Ezaki Issei
 R - Ki-Seto Tokkuri by Kagami Shukai

These three sake utensils are future national treasures of Japan - of course I'm talking about two or three hundred years from now, but that isn't such a long time now, is it?

Ki-Seto, Bizen, and Tokoname can trace their histories back longer than that and we who inherit these great traditions must also look back to understand the value of what we have now. These three pieces will flow into the future....

A custom of mine when I ride on the shinkansen (bullet train) back from a pottery-shopping day in Tokyo is to open the smooth signed boxes that house the pottery treasures. I did so on the day when I bought this Ki-Seto tokkuri made by Kagami Shukai. As I was admiring it, I heard a man ask in English, "Isu dis sheet okay?" (Is this seat okay?) "Sure," I said, and the Japanese gentleman sat down next to me. He said that he was from Okayama and liked Bizen pottery and I said I did too. "How about Ki-Seto?" I asked him. "Oh well, I don't understand Ki-Seto at all," he said.

I found this to be true for most pottery admirers as well;
Ki-Seto seems to be hardly appreciated. The reason is so few people do it with any degree of style and knowledge, but that is not the case with Kagami. He has done years of research on Ki-Seto and it shows.

The yellow glaze has a subtle depth that pleases my senses - its skin is like that of a tropical citrus fruit. Quiet lines have been etched on the sides and the all-so-difficult brown koge (scorch markings) can be seen on the lip, the side, and the bottom. Kagami was able to achieve aburage and tanpan long ago but it's only recently that he could get this koge effect. For more on these terms,
please click here.

On the backside I found the face of a Daruma and so I named this tokkuri "Daruma's Mountain." When I told this to my shinkansen neighbor, he gave me a  funny look while shaking his head at his bewilderment of  Kagami's classic Ki-Seto tokkuri. I then got off the train.

To match Kagami's tokkuri with anything less than exceptional would be an insult, so I have chosen two other "well-researched" potters who have put their backs up against the wall to discover the mysterious beauty in their chosen styles - one has passed on and the other fires on; always their pottery lives on.

Ezaki Issei's
Tokoname pottery is the 20th-century highlight of that ancient center. He recaptured old forms and glazes and breathed new life into an almost lost art, his ash-glazes are phenomenal and this guinomi has an emerald green glaze that forms a pool in the center. The form of this guinomi is perfect and the only other guinomi that I have that has the "heavenly drinking lip" was made by Nakamura Rokuro. Ezaki Issei never made it to Living National Treasure status, but I feel that he should have. I have named this cup "Emerald Falls."

Abe Anjin is also a potter who has done his research and has created his own style of
Bizen - "Anjin Bizen." Yet there is a feeling that his pieces were reincarnated directly from the 16th century. Even so, his pieces have a modern-day freshness that keeps them from being mere replicas. This guinomi has a rich "clay flavor" and mesmerizing "tobi gomi" floating on the inside. It has a delicacy yet at the same time it is quite masculine. I've named this Anjin Bizen guinomi "Dreams Fall Like Snow."

A delightful threesome that compliments the depths and colors of each other - almost too "jimi" though, but after a long day walking in the concrete jungle and neon madness of Tokyo, a little peace and quiet - all found within this trio - is just what I need. 

Story by Robert Yellin
Published in HONOHO GEIJUTSU No. 52, 1997

Kagami Shukai
Abe Anjin
Abe Anjin Exhibition



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