Okamura Sozan(奥村宗山)

Okamura Sozan(奥村宗山) was born in 1916, and his real name was Soichiro Okamura(奥村宗一郎). He was responsible for the restoration of the Koto Hikone feudal kiln(湖東彦根藩窯), and to the best of my translation skills, would have been the 15th or 16th lord of the Koto Feudal Clan(湖東藩). The Kiln was founded by the 14th Koto feudal lord, but by 1896 had become a trustee of the people after just 20 years.
Okamura Sozan studied pottery from a very young age with Okamura Matsuyama(奥村松山), and in 1970 Sozan was very involved in the creation of the Japanese organization dedicated to the preservation and recording of masterwork bonsai pottery. In 1985, the kiln was moved, and from that point on his signature and name changed to “宗鳳園”(Sohoen).
His work is highly varied: from intricate and often relief carved painted pots, to glazed pieces, unglazed pots of black and gray using both native and Chinese clays, to whimsical carved pots. Let’s take a look at some of his work.

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A porcelain relief carved window pot with cloud feet. I love the playful Tanuki in the window….incidentally, the sack above and behind the Tanuki? His gigantic scrotum, which is magical in Japanese Folklore…
Please see this slideshow for more about the Tanuki’s Kinbukuro(nut sack, literally!).
Tanuki Kinbukuro

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Another relief carved window pot, this one an oval with painted rim and decorative border to the window.

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A third relief piece, this one a round with a carved tree in the inset window. The other windows show bamboo and plum, so I think this image is meant to be a pine: pine, bamboo, and plum are symbolic of good fortune in the new year. Very nice patina on this pot.

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A painted and relief carved mokko shape with children. Like many Sozan pots, this one feels whimsical and playful.

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A painted porcelain pot with many holes. Very nice and intricate, a delicate rectangle.

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A bird painted into a swirling blue sky. This is a common motif of Sozan pots. The swirling blues of the sky, like an impressionist painting, are very distinctive and unique to Sozan painted pots.

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A painted cascade pot showing a scholar arranging flowers in a vase.

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Another painted porcelain piece with a figure in the window surrounded by geometric patterns. Syozan’s painting style is clearly very unique and charming. Although, there’s nothing charming about that kid…I’m pretty sure he’s giving us the finger! Ha!

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A crackle white glaze over brown clay. A skillful crackle with nice patina.

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A brilliant yellow with braided rim and center band. I love bright yellows, and this one is very nice.

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A simple unglazed round with some stain.

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A gray unglazed rectangle with lip and cut feet. Very clean lines, and a nice texture to the clay.

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An unglazed riveted drum in brownish red clay.

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A really lovely pear skin dark brown clay pot with deeply incised indents, somewhere between a mokko shape and a round. This would be lovely with a semicascade pine or juniper!

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And we’ll finish up with a very simple unglazed round with a braided rim. A very nice and subtle pear skin to the rustic clay body.

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And the porcelain painted signature on the above pot, which reads, left to right, “Sozan Made” and “Koto”. Sometimes Sozan signatures will have “Okamura Sozan Made” and “Koto” also.
Thanks for reading!

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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 gastrognome@aol.com
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