Tokoname is one of the six old Japanese kilns which have continued to support Japanese living for over 1,000 years. Tea pots and sewer pipes are the most famous items crafted and produced in the city of Tokoname, a bit south of Nagoya, Japan. Of course, most of the high-quality bonsai containers are also made here, but these pots are not the reason Tokoname is famous around the word.
Skilled and talented ceramic artists creating both traditional and contemporary bonsai containers have settled in this small town because the clay is good, strong and beautiful. The potters have been meeting the demand of Japanese professional bonsai artists for hundreds of years. The attention to detail, function and artistic design have made this city the center for container production in the world.
A few decades ago there were 30-40 kilns producing bonsai containers in Tokoname. Unfortunately, the introduction of Chinese pots has reduced the number of working kilns to about 10-15 today. There are many different quality levels of Tokoname pots. Some of the contemporary Chinese pots are better than the low quality Tokoname production pots. Their quality and pricing has made them very popular around the world, even in Japan. The Chinese potters have mastered techniques to produce large size pots. The size of bonsai around the world has been increasing because large trees are more available and commercially profitable.
Our tour group spent a wonderful day in the city of Tokoname visiting many of the top bonsai pot kilns. Many of these ceramic artists specialize in unique glazes they have created, perfected and are now famous for. Some of these potters are 4th and 5th generation artists with a history reaching back to 1889. While respecting their inherited traditions, the newer generation is always seeking ways to improve quality, reduce production costs as well as to add their own personality to the fine-quality pots they create. Many are now specializing in glazed containers while their father’s specialty were unglazed pots.
Shuho Kiln (Hidemi Kataoka)
Yamaaki Kiln (Hiroaki Inoue)
Reiho Kiln (Katsushi Kataoka)
Koyo Kiln (Kuniaki Aiba)
Shozan Kiln (Kazuhiro Watanabe)
Gyozan Kiln (Yukizyou Nakano)
It is interesting to note that several of the potters also have talented wives who are also skilled in making containers as well. And, some are well known for their unique shapes, paintings and sizes.
I was particularly impressed at the Ikko Kiln where Mr. Watanabe’s wife also creates exquisite mame three-inch size bonsai. Their creation and care more difficult than the common shohin bonsai. Mame bonsai are not often seen in Japan, and I found it a treat to appreciate these tiny jewels of the bonsai world.
Our entire tour group from Australia, Switzerland, California, Pennsylvania and New York spent a wonderful ten days enjoying fellowship, Japanese culture, bonsai and beautiful weather. Our next tours will visit Gafu Ten in January to see shohin bonsai, Kokufu Bonsai Ten in February and Nippon Bonsai Taikan Ten in November. If you would like to join Kora Dalager and me for an exciting, value-priced tour to experience the Japanese bonsai world, contact Bonsai Travel at: firstname.lastname@example.org