There were many notable entries other than the winners this year, a couple of which would definitely have been in contention for gold had it not been for accidental breakage before judging.
Roy Minarai In the 14th Competition, American Roy Minarai took home the silver prize. Accidental breakage before judging but after setup squashed any hopes of placing this year. Still, the display reflects the great skill we have come to expect from Roy. A good variety of glazes and shapes in a nice display. The sango yu(coral red glaze) oval with the sculptured flowers is especially nice, both carving and glaze. Even with damage to the flowers, it was rumored that this display barely missed placing for the bronze award.
Tsunei Made by Taiwanese professional photographer Thou Okuma, these intricate root stands caught my eye immediately. The excellent and consistent carving and variety of hardwoods used impress, especially given that he is self taught and has only been carving root stands since 2014.
Yoshiyuki Kawada A great artist whose work only improves with time. One of the best carvers of his generation. Amazing that American popularity and a new kiln helped to accomplish this for such a worthy and talented artist. He took the gold prize in 2019 so was ineligible at this exhibition for award, but there’s no doubt these would have been contenders had they been in competition.
Sanzou. These unglazed containers were some of my favorites in the show. Takuzo Kishida has had a celebrated millennium, some of the highlights of which include multiple solo and duo exhibitions at the prestigious Takagi Bonsai Art Museum. Innovative details and highly technical precision characterize this display. The centerpiece handles really drew my attention, reminiscent of details of some of the more decorative antique Chinese containers.
Kiyoshi Koiwai A friend on Facebook I recommend following. I always admire his work when he posts it. His shapes, while often classical, are not standard, sometimes bearing huge lips, and always great glazes. His recent microcrystalline glazes have brought him great accords. Gold award winner at the 12th Kobachi exhibition.
Shigeru Zyubei Coming off of last years gold prize winning exhibit, his second, Zyubei was not eligible for award this year, but was guaranteed in to display. A favorite on the blog here, these Zyubei show a couple of the new glazes he has been featuring, and are available(as are others if you shoot me a message or email). Pictures never do Zyubei pots justice, they look much darker than they are and don’t show highlights, especially in a poor lighting environment like this.
Shosui. A former student of Ishida Shoseki who began his apprenticeship in 1996, Hiroko Hanawa, who goes by Shosui, also studied with her daughter in law and successor Yuuki Shoseki beginning in 2007. A very colorful go-sai(5-color) duo of Wind and Thunder, Raijin and Fujin, classical deities and common subjects in Japanese bonsai pottery painting motif.
Jean-Philippe Koenig Hailing from the Alsace region of France, Mr. Koenig is one of five Western potters to participate this year, a record! In the 1980s he began bonsai and pottery in Japan and then spent time in Australia, where he worked as a pastry chef to fund his pottery studies. A nice trio of rounds with a distinctly European vibe to the glazes.
Haruhisa Totsuka The form and clay color of this potter’s work is always excellent. In 2013, he inherited the kiln of his late teacher, the best bonsai pottery sculptor of his generation, Sruga Yamasyou. After winning 2018’s 13th exhibition silver prize, he went home empty handed. The trio is fantastic though, the feet and bases are especially unique and special.
Boris Lomov Another entry from a Western artist, the first I believe, from down under. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Mr. Lomov’s entry fared very well in comparison to the other category entries. Nice glazes and I really like the painted Chojugiga(Japanese classical anthropomorphic animal motif) painting on the center pot.
Kouhouko Kiln Given name Fānglǐyǒng, was trained in the famous Jingdezhen kilns in China. A great presentation of containers with charming decorations. A good variety of shapes and painting techniques are shown as well. A whimsical and simple trio that reminds me of older containers. He wants his work to reflect the harmony of Chinese and Japanese pots studied in exhibition books.
Tomatsuri Shunpou At 87 years old, Tosai Tokeshi, whose kiln name is Tomatsuri Shunpou, has been practicing Satsuki bonsai for 57 years, and has been a certified instructor since 2010. He began making pots for his own Satsuki under the guidance of Shigeru Fukuda(Bushuan) in 2009, at 76 years of age! He entered the Kobachi in 2018 and won silver prize for unglazed containers in 2019. The influence Sensyu and Syuzan have had on his work is always very clear.
Martin Englert Germany again represents the West, as our greatest bonsai container painter. Sadly, after 14’s Silver Award no prize was awarded in the 15th Kobachi, but his presence alone is important, and he certainly didn’t rest on his laurels and phone it in! Fantastic pieces.
Akiyama Fabulous Shudei vermillion red clay make up these pots by Akio Yama, who has been making bonsai containers since 2012. A great variety of shape and technical precision. The display itself is also tastefully presented, showcasing the containers to best effect.
Shun The entry from perennial entrant and sometimes winner Shigetoshi Yamada. He studied to become a professional potter specializing in non bonsai items like “umbrella stands, ikebana, etc.” Shun has been painting bonsai pots since 1995, and is self taught as a painter. A much better effort from this artist than the 14th Kobachi, which I felt were busier and darker than his usual style.
Ruban Yu A threesome from Taiwanese painter and potter, a friend of the site, Ruban Yu. Unfortunately, I heard that he had some shipping difficulties and minor damage, which certainly hurt his chances for award.
Toshimine One of my favorite entries this year. Such a wide variety of shape, style, and technique. This artist never ceases to impress. Perhaps a better display showing the pots to best advantage would have been more effective at catching the judges’ eye.
That’s it for my coverage of the 2020 Annual Contemporary Kobachi Artists Exhibition at Gafu-Ten. I hope you enjoyed seeing the containers from these artists as much as I look forward to seeing them every year!
In the coming weeks, the regular Monday posts will have a good mixture of articles on aesthetics and history, as well as the site’s usual artist profiles. Some articles to watch out for over the next couple of months include: Patina, Cost and Value, Joshu Katsuyama, And Zyubei; as well as a surprise article featuring Japanese Recognized Masterpieces and a certain well known pottery dealer. So stay tuned and subscribe! As always, thanks for reading!
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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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