13th Nakazato Taroemon Karatsu Set: 4pc e-Garatsu Kashiki

Potter: Nakazato Taroemon, 13th generation

Approximate size: W5.9″ by H2.0″ or 15.0 by 15.0 by 5.0 cm

The noborigama kiln used by the Taroemon potters

This is a kashiki set consisting of 4 Karatsu tea plates by the famed 13th generation potter Nakazato Taroemon (1923-2009). Of moderate size they’re finely modeled and decorated by brush called e-Garatsu. The plates are decorated with a floral motive and lines resembling the stamen of a flower running outwards, towards the 4 fluted corners. Nakazato Taroemon officially became the head of the family as the 13th generation in 1979, when his father, the 12th generation, a Living National Treasure of Karatsu ware became a monk.

Born as the first son of the 12th Taroemon (1895-1985), he graduated from the design department of the Tokyo Advanced Technical School. In the period before succeeding the name he apprenticed himself to Kato Hajime, who like his father awarded the distinction of Living National Treasure for their craft. He first entered the world of competition and exhibitionism in 1951 and was selected at the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition. This short biography marks some key moments which lead to a long and successful career as the 13th generation Nakazato Taroemon.

Brush decorated Karatsu ware or e-Garatsu

Patterns such as plants, trees, flowers, birds and people are painted on the raw clay using Oniita (one of the minerals including iron compound). Feldspathic and limestone glazes are poured over the clay mixture before it is fired to produce e-Garatsu. 

Karatsu ware is one of Japan’s most famous types of pottery and no name is bigger in Karatsu pottery than the Nakazato Taroemon lineage of potters. The unbroken lineage of fourteen generations are one of the reasons of the continued success of the Karatsu style. The kiln lies in the heart of Karatsu and it’s long history spanning 14 generations is well documented. Located nearby is a Edo period kiln, designated a historic monument that is great to visit if you find yourself in this beautiful country. The importance is hard to overstate as the Taroemon name is almost synonymous with Karatsu pottery and has been detrimental in it’s survival. Even the emperor of Japan has made a personal visit to the kiln.

While there are many accounts about the origin of Karatsu ware, it is regarded to have been first created in the territory of and under the protection of Hata clan who were settled at Kishidake Castle from the end of the Muromachi era to the Momoyama era (16th & 17th century). Thereafter production of Karatsu ware increased with the influx of potters from Chōsen (nowadays better known as Korea), who were brought back to Japan after Japan’s Chōsen expedition by Hideyoshi Toyotomi during the 1590’s.

The 13th generation first submitted his work at the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition in 1951 and was awarded with the Hokuto Prize. Received the Prime Minister’s Prize, the Japan Ceramics Association Prize and the Japan Arts Academy Prize. His works have been procured by the Kyoto National Art Museum, the British Museum and innumerous other collections. Often held solo exhibitions and held a notable father-son exhibition at the Seoul National Art Museum. Served as a judge at both the Fine Arts Exhibition and at the Japan New Crafts Exhibition.

Clay used for making Karatsu ware is mainly clay from Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, southern Japan, known as “Suname” (in Japanese, “suna” means sand and “me” means eye). The name “Suname” arises not because sand is mixed into the clay but derives from the rough texture of the material. The second most commonly used clay is fine “Suname”, which is strongly adhesive. This clay has constituents that are rich in iron and others that are not. The former becomes blackish brown after the firing process. As the latter becomes close to white upon firing and pictures drawn on this part of the clay develop a vivid colour.

All pieces are stamped by the potter and condition is excellent, no chips or cracks. Comes with the original quality paulownia tomobako, storage box with kiln stamp and calligraphy on the inside of the lid.

€360 + shipping cost

There is a saying attributed to several tea masters (including Sen no Rikyu), regarding the ranking of tea ware. “First Ido, Second Raku, Third Karatsu —when referring to ceramic ware used for the Japanese tea ceremony. It is considered one of the top styles of pottery for use in tea ceremonies in Japan. Ido referring to Ido style chawan from Korea.

A variation of the above can be seen in the Japanese proverb on topic of wares used in the Tea ceremony. “Ichi-Raku, Ni-Hagi, San-Karatsu.” Loosely translated, here the saying ranks Raku first, followed by Hagi and thirdly Karatsu utensils.