Koito Taizan

Koito Taizan was born Nagakura Saburo in 1911 and died in 1997.  The Koito-yaki kiln was one of old kilns in Japan, and first opened in the Edo period, Kanei era(1624-1643).  Before the war, Koito Taizan returned to his hometown after an apprenticeship in Seto, in order to establish himself as a potter, and reconstruct the kiln of his forefathers. 

He asked Kyuzo Murata of Kyuka En in Omiya Village, his cousin, for assistance and guidance in reconstructing the Koito kiln, and completed the task in 1946.  If you’re not familiar with the name, Murata was a famous bonsai artist, and Koito Taizan began making small bonsai containers commissioned by Kyukaen.  In 1949 the first stage firing of 200 small bonsai pots was completed.  The containers fascinated enthusiasts from the start with their whimsy and charming decorations.  Shortly after winning the coveted Fine Arts Exhibition prize, Koito Taizan was forced to leave the kiln to his son as honorary director after a political appointment as Ethnic Director of Hida, and he never fired bonsai containers again.

Consequently, There exist only 200 total Koito Taizan bonsai pots….that’s extraordinarily rare.  Koito Taizan containers are valued for their simplicity, charming, and whimsy, unlike many if the other popular painters whose work we’ve looked at, which is judged on great detail.

Now, on to the pots!

   Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  A classically painted six sided pot In red showing excellent Patina.      Multiple views of a small rectangle with huge lip and various designs.  Charming.  An interesting rectangle with lip and cut corners.  Excellent patina and interesting flow to the painting.          Multiple views of a cut cornered rectangle with dragon.  Koito Taizan’s style is interesting and unique, and very apparent in this piece.    A Blue painted rectangle with birds and clouds.  Reminiscent of Okumura Shouzan.  A Simple rectangle with flowers and crackle glaze.  Colorful and whimsical.  A very simple rectangle with line designs.  Lovely and very unique pattern.  5 sided container with geometrics and kanji.  This foot style is very rare for Koito Taizan.    Another blue painted container similar to the one above, with birds offset in porcelain.   Only Koito Taizan and Okumura Shouzan use this technique well.  A soft red glazed rectangle with arabesques.  Simple and classical.  One of only a few glazed containers from Koito Taizan.  Very nice Ruri glaze.  Reminiscent of Tofukuji and Aiso.  Reddish Ochre rectangle with cut corners.  You’ll note that almost all of the Koito Taizan shown here are rectangles or squares.  Taizan used only press molding and carving, so there are very few ovals or rounds(real ones anyway).  Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  Octagon with a rich Oribe green and lovely patina.  Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  One of very few legitimate ovals that exist.  Marvelous patina and simple design.  A six sided contaner with patterned quince flower panels.         Another of the few ovals that exist.  Interesting pattern, like fluer de lis.      Another oval with an interesting fluer de lis pattern.  The patina on this piece is exceptional for a 65 year old piece of porcelain. And we’ll finish up our look at Koito Taizan with this cut cornered rectangle, photo courtesy Yorozuen.  Excellent patina and an interesting mountain and mist scene, reminiscent of Katsushita Hokusai.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the work of Koito Taizan!  

Thanks for Reading!

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Kutani Ikko 4 Part 2: Shunga Ten

For this section, I have to give a shout out to Fujikawa Koukaen apprentice and friend Dario Mader, who took excellent photos of this display of fantastic Kutani Ikko containers at this years Shunga Ten show and shared them with me for the post.  There were lots of other photos floating about but Dario’s are detailed and crisp.  

Thank you Dario!

Shunga Ten is one of the top 3 Shohin bonsai shows in Japan, and takes place in late March, in Osaka.  It is the spring show to late Winter’s Gafu Ten and Fall’s Shuga Ten.  Shohin compositions are all about expression of the season, so the different shows are really quite interesting.  In a given year you can often see the same, and the best, displays at Gafu, Kokufu, Shuga, and Shunga Ten and compare the displays with their appearance in different seasons.

Now….on to the pots!     An overview of the display of 12 containers from Kutani Ikko and Kutani Ai at Shunga Ten.  The reds are all Kutani Ikko and some of the blues are Kutani Ai.  For more information on her, check out Part 2 of the post on the 10th Modern Bonsai Potters exhibit.  Sizes, shapes, styles and color are all variable, creating an impressive and well balanced display.  The balance in the display shows an interesting playfulness with symmetry: reds on one side, blues on the other, and a mix in the center.  Ikko is as famous for his five color pots as any other, so this dichotomy of Ikko reds and Ai Blues is quite intentional on the part of the display creator.  Demon footed Akae landscape round.  Rectangle with lip, red landscape, and cut feet.  Red dragon mokko with impressive arch feet detailing.Sometsuke landscape square.    Mokko with lip and inset painted cloud feet with Akae cliff side landscape.    A really interesting mokko with a river valley scene in red.     Small sometsuke Oceanside landscape rectangle with cloud feet.  Sometsuke landscape rectangle with lip and cloud feet.  Purse or bag shaped round with lip, full cloud feet, and distant view sometsuke landscape.  Square with lip, half-cloud feet, and sometsuke landscape with figure on Panel.Six sided container with small lip, chrysanthemum panel, sometsuke landscape, and full cloud feet.  Small traditionally painted square with sometsuke landscape panel and geometrics.  

A really fantastic display showing the talent of a contemporary painter whose work is rapidly increasing in popularity and value.

Another look at a Famous Collaboration

We’ve looked at this famous collaboration before, but for those just now coming on board with the site I thought we’d take another look, since it was recently offered for sale.  A collaboration piece dating to the late 1980s: painted by Kutani Ikko and the body created by the greatest of all Japanese painters of bonsai containers, Tsukinowa Yusen.   


Views of the container, from multiple angles: a small rectangle with typically Yusen flared feet and go-sai overglaze enamel.  Yusen is considered the representative painter in the Japanese Bonsai canon.  For more on his work, follow these links:

Tsukinowa Yusen Part 1
Tsukinowa Yusen Part 2

Detail views. The thick overglaze enamel and use of negative space and proportion creates a marvelously three dimensional image with movement and visual power.  Yusen would have been in his early 80s when this piece was made, and Kutani Ikko just beginning his career as a painter.

From the opposite side, a calmer image and opposing directionality creates an impressively usable container.   

A true masterwork and continuing evidence of Kutani Ikko’s greatness in the canon of Japanese Bonsai Container Painters; Yusen deigned to work with but a few painters and potters whose work he admired and respected.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two part look at contemporary master Kutani Ikko!  Up next we’ll take a look at the charming containers of Koito Taizan, stay tuned and better yet, subscribe!

Thanks for reading!


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Kutani Ikko 4, part 1

This will be a two part post,  there are just too many images for a single article.   To see the previous posts on Kutani Ikko, with his background and history, follow this link:

Kutani Ikko 1-3






Multiple views of an incredibly detailed sometsuke dragon pot.  The painting is surreal and realistic, and the rim detail and Rakkan mouse are lovely. 


Really nice demon footed round go-Sai with lip and traditional Kutani images of playing children.


Vented six sided pot with classical stylized dragon.  An interesting mix of trafiotnal and contemporary.  The geometrics and feet are especially nice.



Mokko pot in Akae with landscape and figures.  Another collaboration piece with Takao Koyo.  The detail creates a great sense of dimensionality.




A third collaboration piece with Takao Koyo, mokko shape landscape in red.  The Koi Rakkan painting and arch feet are especially nice.






Multiple views of a smaller round sometsuke with landscape and figures.  Again, the level of detail is incredible.




Another 6 sided vented pot with landscape.  The feet are awesome and the color mix is lovely.




Very traditional Kutani style overglaze enameled piece.  Busy and very intricate. 


A go Sai rectangle with landscape and figures.  Incredible depth to the landscapes and the willow is pretty and well detailed.


Raijin and Fujin, storm gods.  Classical subject matter.


A five color demon footed round with landscape and figure.  The landscape in this piece is interesting: less detailed, more impressionistic.

Small round with plum and sparrow.  Nice use of negative space.


An oval mokko with Yusen style turtle doves in red.  Another excellent use of negative space.




Another mokko in red with highly detailed landscapes.   A spartan scene with good negative space.

A small whimsical round with stylized geese.  


Another small round with a far view landscape.  The level of detail is most impressive for a 3″ container.



An incredibly detailed cascade dragon pot in red.  Breathtaking.

A very classical Kutani style piece with stylized dragon and geometrics.






And we’ll finish up up with this wonderful hexagon landscape.  A facinating and unique piece, from the uncharacteristically impressionistic landscape to the highly detailed feet.  A true modern masterpiece.

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for part 2, published later tonite!

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Kutani Aritomo

Kutani Aritomo was born in Hokkaido in 1984, making him 31 years old this year.   Once we take a look at his work, you’ll see that that is very relevant.

Aritomo earned degrees from the Hokkaido University of Education in Arts and Culture, and the Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani technology Training Institute, in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

His work at the IshikawaPrefectural institute and personal home work earned him his independence(as an apprentice would earn) in 2008.

His works are both unique, and classical, and use primarily the Akae and go-Sai that Kutani Yaki is famous for.

Now, on to the pots!


Aritomo’s Silver medal award entries in this year’s Pottery Exhibition at Gafu Ten.   Great diversity of form and subject.

The Demon footed pot above.  Outstanding detail and crisp painting.   



A few views of the oval from the show.  Again, wonderful landscape painting and very fine line work.  The flower motif encroaching from the side is original and a great, unique detail.




The round from the show.  Another excellent piece with marvelous and small details.  





A few views of another fantastic oval.  The five color flower motif encroaching from the side is gains spectacular.





Four sides of another impressively detailed rectangle.  Great use of negative space creates a tranquil landscape.





Another marvelous Akae rectangle.  The shading really creates a sense of depth.


A heavily detailed 5 color landscape.  The small details in this piece are marvelous, and the rim and feet details really make the pot.



A tall cascade with an Akae landscape. Great details and depth.


Last up, two views of another cascade or semicascades round.  The shading and perspective creates great depth, as in the above pieces.  Truly a masterpiece.

I hope you’ve enjoyed This look at up and coming master Kutani Aritomo!

Next up, Kutani Ikko part 4!

Thanks for reading!  

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Hayashi Mokuu

Well, spring sprang with a vengeance this year!  I don’t know about you guys, but I managed to finish everything I had planned for the season, from repotting, to grafting, to styling and on down the line….well, almost everything…I’ve been remiss in updating the blog with all the hubbub of spring, so now that everything is done, I’ll be playing catch up and posting twice weekly for a while.  First up, Hayashi Mokuu!
Hayashi Mokuu, whose real name was Hayashi Yoshikazu was born in Kyoto in 1901, and passed away in 1999.  He studied pottery under his father, who worked at one of the large Kyo Yaki kilns.  At the age of 20, he took a position with the Imperial Household Kiln, to acquire skills with porcelain.  After this, he studied with famous Kyoto craftsman Shimizu, where he began creating bonsai pottery. 
Mokuu was close friends with Heian Tofukuji, and they often created bonsai together, and also traded secrets and critiques of each other’s pottery works.  Some Mokuu even use Tofukuji’s glazes.  
Mokuu’s work is pretty varied, from charming small painted pieces, to odd figurines, to simple unglazed Nanban.
Now, on to the pots!

First up, here’s a very brief look at the types of wares Mokuu is known for, in his day job as a classical Kiyomizu style potter.   Interesting, and sometimes odd, figurines, tea and sake wares, and other assorted Kyo-Yaki ceramics.

   Three views of an akae painted paneled green round.  The paintings are both detailed and simple, the type of charming scenes Mokuu is famous for painting.   

 A very simple cut foot, glazed rectangle.  Fantastic patina.  I think this is a good example of one of those pieces Tofukuji may have had input on, perhaps even a shared glaze.  

   Another very simple and charming painted pot, this one sometsuke with black feet.  The patina really adds character to the piece.  A soft cornered rectangle with frogs.  Charming and whimsically painted.  A simple cream round.  Very nice, classical and clean.  A much more detailed landscape in red on rectangle.  The Kyoto style geometrics on the feet are a great touch.  A really marvelous celadon porcelain piece in antique mirror shape.  This is a nice container, but in this lighting it seems to positively glow.  A dark blue glazed ect angle with flower panel in go Sai.  Very interesting, very unique.  Only a couple of potters made pieces like this: Mokuu and Koito Taizan.    A personal collection of 9 Mokuu, really showing the diversity of form, shape, and color that Mokuu used.  The belt painted piece(top, top left) and sometsuke rectangle (bottom,bottom right) are especially nice. 

 A really simple, really tiny “round”…at least from this front…. But turn it over and….   A taller round with carved landscape.  Very nice and rustic  If pressed, I would have guessed this was Koito Taizan.  His style, and the style of Mokuu, are often very similar.  

An odd and rustically painted black on crackle rectangle.  Butterflies and flowers.  Very modern. 

Four views of a more classical landscape in black.  Nice details and an excellent form, clean lines.   

    Our last look at the containers Alone of Hayashi Mokuu today is this excellent conch shell piece.  Really unique and interesting for a small Kusamono or shitakusa for Shohin display.

And before I leave you….how about some trees in Hayashi Mokuu containers?




Kuchinashi (gardenia)


I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the pottery of Hayashi Mokuu. 

Up next, Kutani Aritomo on Monday, more from Kutani Ikko on Friday, and several more posts are written and in process, 2 per week, throughout the next month!  Stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading!

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Imaoka Machinao

Imaoka Machinao was born in 1925 in Tokyo, and uses his given name for his kiln. He began making Bonsai pots in 1964, and in1972 he moved his kiln to Ito, in Shizuoka.  A short 9 years later he had closed that kiln, and passed away in the mid 90s. 

 Imaoka has had a significant impact on other contemporary potters, especially makers of mame and Shohin pots.
He is recognized for works in celadon, cinnabar, Ruri, and white porcelain pieces, but is considered the master of “apricot skin glaze”(which I refer to affectionately as “brain glaze”) 

Imaoka’s Shohin pottery book.

 Now, on to the pots! 

Apricot Skin Glaze 

Kairagi Yu(梅花皮 釉), or Apricot Skin glaze, is a kind of extreme crackle style glaze, where the glaze separates into pieces and puddles, forming an intricate tracing of glaze over the body.
First off, I’d like to thank my friend Gerry Novotny for the stunning images of his Apricot skin glaze Imaoka collection. This is a small portion of those that he has, and it’s still probably the best there is.  All of the photos in this section are from Gerry’s collection except the last.

Kairagi Yu can come in many colors, but peach and cream are the most common.  Metallic gold, silver, and hematite colors are quite rare, making this collection all the more exceptional. 

Four metallic Apricot Skin glazed rounds, showing a variety of textures: flat plates, rounded bubbles, stone like texture, and a rather reptilian skin.A similar trio in Gold Kairagi Yu.

Four different views of a larger gold apricot skin glazed rectangle.  The texture is exceptional, and even the underside is glazed.  Truly a masterpiece.

A pair of more conventional Kairagi Yu glazed rectangles, both showing excellent patina.

Another pair of taller cascade Kairagi Yu.  

This one is fascinating.  A taller cascade with two tone apricot skin glaze and panel.  Really awesome.

This apricot skin glaze round is perhaps the most commonly seen color, and illustrates why I refer to it as “brain glaze”.This is the only piece in this section not from Gerry’s impressive collection.  It’s multi toned Apricot skin glaze makes it worth including.

Other Glazes

A five piece boxed set with a nice range of Imaoka Glazes and included stand.  Cool small collection.

This two toned small cascade piece is a really wonderful example of Imaoka’s work with cinnabar.  A really excellent mix of colors.Another cinnabar glazed piece.  The two toned appearance is common for certain glazes, the red side faced the fire in the kiln.A small porcelain piece with cut feet and two small highlights.This porcelain crackle with it’s excellent patina and even craze is quite lovely and easily usable.A similar crackle, this one showing no patina.  Still as shiny as the day it was made.Edit

A pair of smaller rounds in cinnabar and porcelain.  Both would make for nice Shohin shitakusa.A rarity, for sure.  This carved design porcelain Imaoka is one of a kind, which is a shame, as the carvings are very nice.Edit

Another cascade, this one showing a myriad of greens with blue highlights.A really nice canton style blue rectangle with geat depth to the glaze.Another tall cascade in multi toned green and brown.Edit

Two views of a rather exceptionally glazed lipped square.  The glaze has a feeling of Namako to it.These cinnabar Edit

swyares with dancer carvings are probably the most common Imaoka one sees around.A very small round with cinnabar and porcelain.And we’ll finish up today’s look at Imaoka with this awesomely glazed cinnabar and porcelain rectangle.  Absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for reading!  Up next, an article on Kyoto potter Hayashi Mokuu!

Before I let you go, here’s a small plea for assistance.  Simon Jones is an English bonsai enthusiast who has been at it for thirty years.  A couple of weeks ago, the heater in his greenhouse malfunctioned, burning the building to the ground, and destroying his 30 years of bonsai work, and his hands as well, trying to save what he could.  He lost an impressive collection of Shohin and Chuhin native material, along with his tools, and many containers.  If you can, I’d urge you to donate an item to help get his collection back on track, contact me for an address, or if you’d like, you can donate to this paypal address: 


Photo Credit Will Baddeley

It’s times like these that bonsai enthusiasts worldwide band together to lend some support and assistance.  I have, and hope you will as well.

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Glazed Pots by Zyubei 3

I first wrote about Shigeru Zyubei in my third article here, all the way back in May 2011, in Glazed Pots by Shigeru Zyubei. Since then, his star has certainly risen, taking first prize in the 2014 Modern Shohin Potters Exhibition at Gafu-Ten for glazed containers.
From Zyubei 2: “His name is 濱田 重章(Shigenori Hamada) and his kiln named Hin Zyubeiei though his pots are commonly referred to simply as Zyubei. He was born in 1946 in Osaka and began creating shohin bonsai in 1972. By 1973, he was teaching classes in shohin at Shunshoen. In 1981, he began making bonsai pots, and purchased an electric kiln in 1989. After retirement in 2009, he began making bonsai pots professionally.”
Zyubei is obsessed with the old Canton Ao(green), Ruri(indigo) and Shiki(multi color) type glazes and has sought to reproduce them in modernity, to great effect. All of the containers(or similar) are available if any of you readers are interested in acquiring a piece(or 3!). Special thanks once again to Rie Aketo for the photos!
Now, On to the pots!


Zyubei’s Gold award winning entry in the 2014 Modern Small Potters Exhibition.


Two sides of a flambé glazed riveted hexagon. Really nice random mottling.

A fantastically thick glazed small square showing multiple colors and some pitting. Vibrantly Tofukujiesque.

For comparison, here is a famous Tofukuji showing similar warmth and glaze.


A very interesting oval! This glaze is utterly unique, and it’s understated swirling complimentary colors are sublime.

A reddish ochre glaze shot through with streaks of black and cream speckles. Another unique Zyubei glaze.

This is one of my favorite Zyubei glazes. A canton style glaze with running multiple blues. Absolutely gorgeous. One can easily see in this container that Zyubei is quickly approaching Tofukuji’s mastery of Canton style glazes.

A green Tofukuji with similar streaking, in Canton style Oribe.



3 different versions of a swirling Kinyo type glaze. Really interesting patterns that come up like reptile skin or swirling water.



Another of my favorite Canton blue style glazes, Ruri. Zyubei’s Ruri type glazes are often shot through with steaks light blue, green, or white, like lightning, or sometimes running water.




Five different versions of another unique Zyubei glaze. This one is like wave crests at night to me, or a starry sky far far away from the city.






And we’ll finish up with something new from Zyubei. These 6 super mini shitakusa containers are made by Zyubei, and painted by his wife, Momoka(百花). Very quaint and charming.
For the last month my free time to work on articles has been greatly taken by travel to clubs near and far to lecture on bonsai containers, so, sorry for the dearth of new articles!
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be finishing up several, including Imaoka Machinao and Wazyaku, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

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