Tokoname is the name of a town known for centuries for producing ceramics. Although westerners associate Tokoname with good bonsai containers, it is most famous for producing tea bowls, sewer tiles and toilets, not bonsai pots.
About 20 years ago there were over 100 potters producing bonsai containers. Today there are only about 10 because of the Chinese imports. It’s important to realize that the inexpensive Chinese pots known in the United States is not what comes to Japan. There is a finer grade exported to Japan, so good, I’ve seen them at the Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition. There is an extensive color catalog issued every few years. The newest and current catalog is smaller, but still hefty. All the potters use the same catalog and the prices are consistent throughout Japan. You can’t get pots cheaper by coming to the factory, only one price.
One of popular tour extensions Kora and I offer for our members is a visit to Tokoname to purchase containers. We have a pot dealer which offers a substantial discount to our group and moves us around the town visiting different potters.
Yesterday we visited several potteries:
Known for his spectacular glazes, mostly in small sizes. Mr. Koyo wanted to trade hats so we exchanged headwear.
Here again Mr. Shuho has beautiful glazes and small and medium size pots.
Both glazed and unglazed containers are made by Mr. Ikko
This is one of my favorite potters because of the quality and unusual glazes. I can always find one of his pots for my deciduous bonsai. Now only Mr. Reiho and his wife produce pots. Mrs. Koyo makes small unglazed pots and finishes her husband’s work.
Although the Yamaaki Kiln is open for business, they stopped making pots several years ago. When I first came to Japan 45 years ago I had the opportunity to meet the founder of the Yamaaki Kiln, Mr. Sadamitsu Kataoka, and was pleasantly surprised to see an old photo of him hanging on the wall. It must be an old photo and not of the best reproduction. But, the photo you are seeing is better than the one hanging on the wall.
Mr. Gyozan is considered to be the NO. 1 potter in Japan. He generally makes larger size unglazed pots alone. But, his lovely wife makes beautiful paintings on his smaller sizes.
He is known for purchasing back pots he made 35 years ago because of the unique coloring. The large container on the second shelf on the right in his showroom had a price of US$ 10,000.
He wanted to show our small group how he makes containers and proceeded to quickly make one. Then he smashed it and dumped it in the clay recycling container.
His quality and unique coloring are know around the world, even in China where they are producing replicas complete with Mr. Gyozan seal and signature on the bottom. He is now changing his identification marks and I saw one container signed “Gyozan” in cursive English.
It took a considerable time to account, pay and have all our pots packed up for our return trips to the United States, Puerto Rico, England and Australia. My plane departs Nagoya in a couple of hours so this will be the last blog for our annual autumn tour to Japan. I hope you enjoyed my brief reports as much as I did experiencing Japan.