Masao Nakajima Shino Chawan

Potter: Masao Nakajima

Approximate size: W4.5″ by H3.5″ or 12.7 by 11.5 by 8.8cm

This is a flawless Shino chawan by one of stars of Gifu prefecture, Intangible Cultural Treasure potter Masao Nakajima (1921-). He studied under master Hineno Sakuzo (1907-1984), after which he went independent. Working from his kiln Gazan-gama in Gifu prefecture, he received the title of Human Intangible Cultural Treasure of Toki City in 1987. He worked in an amazingly wide range of styles, including but not limited to: Shino, guro-Seto or black Seto, ki-Seto or kuro hikidashi-Seto (yellow Seto), oribe, over-glaze enamels and at one time even produced Goryeo-style celadon porcelain. His tea bowls are well regarded and this particular chawan substanciates the notion.

The first Shino ware was developed during the Momoyama period (1568–1600), in kilns in the Mino and Seto areas. The glaze, composed primarily of ground local feldspar and a small amount of local clay, produced a satiny white color. It was the first white glaze used in Japanese ceramics. Wares decorated with Shino were fired in the anagama kilns used at that time. Anagama kilns were single-chambered kilns made from a trench in a hillside that was covered with an earthen roof. As the anagama kilns were replaced by the multi-chambered noborigama kilns during the first decade of the 17th century, Shino was supplanted by the Oribe ware glazes used in the newer kilns. Shino enjoyed a brief revival in the 19th century, but then seemingly faded into obscurity.

Masao Nakajima‘s work was first selected at the prestigious Nitten Exhibition in 1956. In 1957, his work was selected for the Asahi Modern Ceramics Exhibition and the year after he won an award at previously mentioned exhibition. In 1963 his work was officially purchased by emperor Showa and he was appointed as a selection committee member at the Asahi Ceramics Exhibition. In 1987 he was designated as an Intangible Cultural Treasure of Gifu Prefecture by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and formed the Mino Ceramics Association.

Pottery has been produced in the Mino area of Gifu prefecture since the Kamakura period (the end of the 12th century). The main names synonymous with Mino are Oribe, Shino and ki-Seto. It is said that Shino was the first ware to decorate its pieces with brush-drawn designs as shown on this example. Before the use of brush-drawn decorations potters had been carving, incising or were appliquéing their designs and fantasies.

The chawan is devoid of chips and cracks and condition is mint. Studying the interior, specifically the texture, appearance and condition of the glaze this work is unused. Accompanied by the original paulownia tomobako or storage box that bears the artist’s calligraphy and seal on the lid.


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Mino ware refers to pottery produced in what was formerly the old Mino Province. Early examples of Mino ware were predominantly ash-glazed stoneware pieces. Later however the use of the potter’s wheel, as well as a greater variety of glazes, began to characterize what is often thought to ideally represent Mino pottery today. Larger production kilns like Kozangama in Gifu Prefecture produce wares similar to Imari and Arita-ware. Various other kilns specialize in producing budget priced tableware, along with high end wares for various brand name stores and franchises around the country such as Tachikichi in Kyoto.