The Unglazed Pots of Heian Tofukuji

While Tofukuji is certainly most famous for the quality, variety, and depth of his glazed pots, his unglazed pots are equally well appreciated, listed in the ranks with the best unglazed potters of Japan. Tofukuji used several types of clay for his unglazed pots, probably local, the most easily identified of which are a rich light red and and a deep brown, almost black, both often with flaws leading to “pear-skin” appearance.

12.1 x 4.5 cm Copyright Yorozuen

A smooth round with cloud feet, very clean lines and a much smoother appearance than many of Tofukuji’s unglazed pots.

21.2 x 8.1cm Copyright Yorozuen

Similiar to the pot above, but with slightly darker clay and more rounding to the body.  The multiple decorative feet are quite nice.

12.5 x 6.7cm Copyright Yorozuen

A rich reddish brown pear skin square with cloud feet.  Typical of Pear skin pots with Tofukuji’s signature “Rihidei” clay.

9.9 x 5.2 cm Copyright Yorozuen

A primitive drum with overhanging lip and sharpened rivets.  The more rustic appearance, both of the pot style and the finish, are far more typical of the bulk of Tofukuji’s unglazed pots than the clean, modern pots above.

11.1 x 3.1cm Copyright Yorozuen

Round drum with flattened rivets and cut feet.  In a greyer clay than many of Tofukuji’s pots, I find this unique.

16 x 3 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Rustic round in the dark brown, almost black clay used by Tofukuji.  Often seen with pear skin texture, this single color clay pot is outside the norm.

10,2 x 3.5 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Round drum with with flattened rivets and cut feet.   A style with matching clay color often imitated by Heian Kousen, who is said to have spent a full two years attempting to duplicate the clays of Tofukuji.

4.5-5 x 2.4-2.6 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Three hand formed small rounds, the most common shape and style of Tofukuji pots…also the most forged.  Shown here to illustrate the three most common clay colors in Tofukuji pots.

12 x 9.8 x 4.2 cm Copyright Yorozuen

A Tan rectangle with clean lines and very smooth finish.  Here one can see the rather unreal “glow,”  the form very old patina can take on lighter unglazed pots.

36.7 x 23.4 x 8.7 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Another Beige/tan with very clean lines, cut feet, and thick walls.

12.8 x 2.2 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Light brown oval with cut feet and carved details and a marvelous patina.

16.4 x 12.2 x 3.2 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Another oval in slightly darker clay with carved relief center band and cut feet.  Another marvelous patina here, this center band also makes this pot unique.

13 x 9.5 x 3.4 cm Copyright Yorozuen

Tan pear skin with cut feet.  In the three pots above, its easy to see how age and patina affect different colors and textures of unglazed pots.

In the next post I’ll take a look at the Hanko and Rakkan of Tofukuji, who used no less than 12 different stamps plus his signature.  As can easily be seen from this post, while familiarity with the clays used by Tofukuji is a good indicator of authenticity, study of the stamps is often the easiest way to spot a fake.  While locally dug clays may differ in shade and texture, the stamps used by Tofukuji were always the same, and the depth, shape, and consistency of their impressions is a sure tell.



About japanesepots

I've been collecting Japanese Bonsai pots for a few years, and feel that the famous, and some of the lesser known but great Japanese pot artists could do with a little more writing and exposure in English. Additionally, this blog will feature My own And others bonsai for discussion. The purpose of this blog is to further knowledge of Japanese pottery and Japanese style bonsai. If you have any questions about Japanese bonsai pottery, or would like to acquire pots by some of the potters presented in the blog, feel free to email me at
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