Nakagawa Jinenbo 

Nakagawa Jinenbo (1953-2011)Became a potter at the age of 24 on the advice of the boss of that time . Went on to build his own bamboo climbing kiln (Jizenbogama) in 1982, after training under Inoue Toya at Kyozangama in Karatsu for three years. Following this, he mostly showcased his work in solo exhibitions, including at Shibuya Kurodatoen in 1985, and at the Odakyu Department Store the same year. Nakagawa developed a style of pottery that was unbound by convention, yet respectful of the traditional techniques of Karatsu-ware, such as brush-decorated, mottled, Korean, and brushed slip. He mainly specialized in the production of tea bowls.In 2000, he succeeded in recreating a tea bowl in the old Okugorai style of Karatsu-ware, and became known as an artist to watch. He died at the age of 58. Jinenbo means "nature boy," an apt handle for a man who digs clay himself from nearby mountains and conjures his glazes from the ash of rice stalks he collects from the fields near his workshop and home deep in the Saga Prefecture countryside. Karatsu pottery is so earthy, lyrical, and breathtaking; it's one of my favorite styles of Japanese pottery. And Jinenbo is one of my heroes. He's an amazing potter and I love his work; it's been a great privilege to call Jinenbo a friend.

Let me say, too, that the wonderful thing about Japanese potters, even masters like Jinenbo, is that you can go visit them in their workshops. That's how we first met years ago, when I ambled down to rural, lovely Saga. In fact, pottery is what inspired me to travel Japan in the first place, and I've visited potters across the country. Nakagawa is a pure potter and one of Karatsu's finest. apprenticeship in 1977 at the Kyozan kiln, which specializes in chadogu (tea utensils) for the Urasenke tea tradition. All his works are fired in a noborigama(chambered kiln) that he built when he established his pottery in 1982.   

As Yellin says, Nakagawa does the gamut of Karatsu styles. These include muji-garatsu, a plain, undecorated ware with a feldspar glaze containing wood ash; madara-garatsu, covered with a thick, opaque white glaze of straw ash containing traces of iron, which melt during the firing process to emerge as flecks in the surface of the glaze; and e-garatsu, Karatsu's most well-known style, which has a thick, coarsely crackled buff glaze and is decorated with various geometric designs and themes from nature, such as reeds and grasses. There is also the darker chosen-garatsu, which is made with a transparent dark-brown glaze overlaid with the white glaze of madara-garatsu. There are a few other styles as well, reflecting the influence of Korean potters. Karatsu, like Hagi, can trace its roots to Korean potters brought back from Hideyoshi's invasion in the late 16th century. The majority of early Karatsu wares were very similar, as can be expected, to Korean Yi Dynasty wares.

There are basically eight fairly distinct kinds of Karatsu:

  • undecorated muji Karatsu
  • speckled madara Karatsu
  • iron-underglaze decorated e-Karatsu
  • carved hori-Karatsu
  • Korean-style (Chosen) Karatsu
  • green ao-Karatsu
  • yellow ki-Karatsu
  • black kuro-Karatsu

Nakagawa excels in Chosen Karatsu, a style made with a dark opaque glaze overlaid with a white ash glaze on an iron-rich clay body

There are only few opportunities to find antique Chosen Karatsu chawans. The grandiose embellishment of color creates a sublime sense of tension between the dark glazed and color infusion. The Chosen Karatsu style is a traditional style which was introduced by one or more potters brought from the Joseon Dynasty during the Japanese invasions of Korea. It features a black glaze placed under a white glaze which has been fired with straw. The two glazes run together and give a feeling of opposites. A profusion of color descends the granulated surface of this traditional bowl by legendary potter Nakagawa Jinenbo enclosed in the original signed wooden box titled Chosen Karatsu. The grandiose embellishment of color creates a sublime sense of tension between the dark glazed and color infusion. Although very much in the Chosen Karatsu tradition, the execution is unequivocally contemporary.

Nakagawa Jinenbo he is one of the great potters who brought his chosen form to the forefront of pottery circles and is sorely missed.