Nakazato Yoshitaka Karatsu Kawa-Kujira Guinomi

Potter: Nakazato Yoshitaka

Approximate size: W2.5″ by H2.0″ or 6.3 by 5.0 cm

This is a fine Karatsu guinomi or saké cup by the famous potter Nakazato Yoshitaka (1958-). He studied under his father Shigetoshi and works from the Sangen-gama or Sangen kiln in Karatsu. The Nakazato name is sort of a staple in and around the area of Karatsu and certainly the most famous of this kind of pottery in Japan.


One of the decorative techniques of Karatsu ware. The blackened rim of the vessel’s mouth is painted with iron-based pigment. The name comes from comparing the black of the rim to the skin of a whale (“kujira” is the Japanese word for “whale”, and “kawa” for “skin”), and the colour of the vessel itself to the whale’s body.

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. This clan was located at Kishidake Castle from the end of the Muromachi to the Momoyama era (approximately 16th, 17 century). Thereafter, the production of Karatsu ware increased with the influx of potters from Chōsen (today’s Korea) who were brought back to Japan after Japan’s Chōsen expedition by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (in 1590’s). These potters started their own potteries in various areas across Japan.

Clay used for making Karatsu ware is mainly sourced from Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture and surrounding area. 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.

The guinomi is signed inside the koudai or foot ring and there are no chips or cracks. Condition is mint, unused. Comes with the original paulownia tomobako or storage box of which the lid bears the potter’s calligraphy and seal. The box is wrapped with a good quality cord.

€150 + shipping cost

The glaze used for Karatsu-yaki or ware is “wood ash glaze”, which, as the name suggests, is made of wood ashes. It is used as the basic glaze for e-garatsu (brush decorated Karatsu ware), and muji-garatsu (plain Karatsu ware), as well as most other types of Karatsu ware. The second most commonly used glaze is straw ash glaze, which makes use of the cloudy nature of straw ash. It is used for madara-garatsu (mottled Karatsu ware), and for layering with black amber glaze when making chōsen-garatsu (Korean-style Karatsu ware). Apart from these types of glaze, iron glaze is also used.