Arakawa Toyozo \ A name that speaks volumes in Japan  

27.06.2021
6.8 x 4.4
6.8 x 4.4

Arakawa Toyozo, an apprentice of Kitaoji Rosanjin, devoted his life to re-creating Shino and yellow-and-black Seto wares of the Momoyama period. He eventually received the Japanese honor of being designated a Living National Treasure. The donor of this object relates the fascinating story of her meeting with the artist in 1956. Together they viewed the famous Chinese painting of six persimmons (kaki) by the Song artist Mu Ch'i (active thirteenth century), which was on view in an exhibition of treasures in a Japanese museum.

Arakawa went back to his studio and fashioned this small incense box in the form of the fruit, firing it with the simple but effective decoration technique known as nezumi-Shino (gray Shino). He then gave it to Mrs. Conant as a memento of their experience.

Arakawa Toyozo is a name that speaks volumes in Japan. He, along with Kato Tokuro, is responsible for the revival and current success of the Mino kilns. Mino was the name of the old province which now is located in Gifu prefecture centering around the potting towns of Tajimi and Toki. Today Mino refers to pottery styles that include Shino, Oribe, Ki-Seto (Yellow Seto), and Setoguro (Black Seto). Visit our GUIDEBOOK to learn more about Mino styles.
Arakawa was born in Tajimi in Meiji 27 (1894). He had a prolific career working at the kiln of Miyanaga Tozan in Kyoto and then for Rosanjin in Kamakura. He established his own kiln in 1933 and this is how the story goes.
Having been born in the Mino region he had a special affection for Shino pottery. Up until then Shino was thought to have been fired in the Momoyama period in Seto, not far from Tajimi but located in Aichi prefecture. In the book, 'Visiting The Mino Kilns' by Janet Barriskill, she translated the words of Arakawa thus:
My thoughts go back to that time in the fourth month of the fifth year of Showa (April 1930) when I discovered the ruins of the old kiln at Ogaya; it was at the time of the Nagoya exhibition by the Hoshigaoka kiln of Kitaoji Rosanjin. In Nagoya, I had the opportunity to see a cylindrical teabowl - decorated with a bamboo shoot- owned by the Sekido family. On the base of this teabowl featuring a bamboo-shoot motif drawn with the utmost simplicity, I could clearly see a red fire-coloured mark on the area where the hamagoro (circular fireclay pad used to separate the pot from the saggar during firing) had been placed. Looking closely, I noticed a small piece of clay adhering to this area; it was decidedly red in colour. Up until then it was commonly thought that this pot had been fired at the Seto kilns, but to me, this did not appear to be Seto clay.
That encounter was to change the history of Japanese pottery. Arakawa knew that in the hills outside Toki there was clay of that color. So the next day he trekked out to the old Momoyama kiln sites and excavated a shard with the exact same motif as the Sekido teabowl - he was ecstatic!
Robert Yellin (Legend in pottery knowedge)

Toyozo Arakawa 荒川 豊蔵
1894 Born in Tajimi, Gifu prefecture.
1922 Moved to Kyoto. Met Rosanjin Kitaoji.
1927 Moved to Kamakura. Worked at Rosanjin's Hoshigaoka Kiln.
1933 Quit Hoshigaoka Kiln. Moved to Mutabora in Mino Ogaya, Gifu prefecture, and built his studio.
1941 The first solo exhibition held at Umeda Hankyu department store. (Curated by Ginza Kuroda Touen)
1946 Built Suigetsu kiln in Tajimi.
1955 Designated the Living national treasure.
1971 Received the Order of Cultural Merit.
1977 Published a collection of essays.
1985 Passed away at the age of 91.