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)