The museum opened in 1982 in order to promote the further development of Kutani Ceramics. Famous works of art, including Ko-Kutani (“old Kutani”) from the Edo period, over all periods are permanently exhibited so the visitor may appreciate the origin and history of Kutani Ceramics and its transition over time. There are also exhibits on the history of the production process and the brushwork technique.
Additionally, the works of modern artists abounding in ingenuity and individuality are displayed in occasional special exhibitions, bringing a breath of fresh air into modern Kutani.
The origin is Ko-Kutani.The history of Kutani ceramics dates back to the early Edo period, around the year 1655. Maeda Toshiharu, the first Lord of Daishoji (belonging to the Kaga-han), focused his attention on the development of pottery, although in the territory of Kutani (today: Kutani,Yamanaka Town,Ishikawa Prefecture) gold mines have been found. Toshiharu dispatched Goto Saijiro, who had been engaging in mining development and industry, to Hizen Arita, so that he could master their pottery technique. The establishment of an own Kutani kiln began with the adoption of this new skill.
The kilns in Kutani suddenly disappeared in the early 1700s but the reasons for this are still not exactly known. The ceramics fired during this period are now known as “Ko-Kutani”. Representing Japanese Iro’e (multicolored over glazed) porcelain, it is highly rated for its unique, vigorous, formal beauty.
Approximately 80 years after the vanishing of Ko-Kutani, the revival era of Kutani began with the opening of the Kasugayama kiln in Kanazawa(part of the Kaga Han). Many different kilns appeared, each with their ownstyle of design. There is the Mokubei style of the Kasugayama kiln, the Yoshida kiln which tried to echo Ko-Kutani ware, the fine drawing in red of the Miyamoto kiln and the red and gold highly figured designs (“Kinrande”) of the Eiraku kiln.
One other painter named Kutani Shoza has left a famous design called “Saishiki-kinrande”, a design that mixes all Kutani styles and uses modern paint. This period is also the beginning of the export of Kutani wares to Europe.The true intrinsic quality of Kutani is its multicolored over glaze enamel images. Today production is flourishing more than ever before.
This style prospered under the guidance of Morikage Kusumi, expert of the Kanoschool of Japanese painting. Its characteristics are a mighty and lovely design and flowing hairline with five colours of paint (green, yellow, red, purple, dark blue). The style attracts by its dynamic subtle charm.
Approximately 80 years after the decline of the Ko-Kutani, the Kasugayama kiln was founded in Kanazawa(Kaga Han). Aoki Mokubei introduced the Mokubei style. The figures, generally drawn in the five Kutani colors, are suspended on a red base layer. This overlaze is Chinese style.
This style restored the painting style of Aote Ko-kutani. Yoshidaya painted the surface of the plate completely using only the 4 colors, yellow, green, dark blue and purple and never red. Its detailed patterns and the complete painting give Yoshidaya ware a dignified style and a unique feel.
Detailed figures drawn in red, fine patterns for the rim and some added golden ornaments are characteristic of this style. The detailed drawings in the Akae style are truly remarkable.
This style compounds all techniques (Ko-Kutani, Yoshidaya, Akae, Kinrande) and also uses western material for the paint. The detailed Saishiki kinrande technique is characteristic. It has been the main style of Kutani production since the Meiji Era.
Eiraku Wazen used the Kyoyaki kinrande technique, which is gold decoration on a red base layer. This style shows a luxuriously gorgeous colouring coupled with the refined beauty of the Kyoyaki style.
The museum exhibits the magnum opus of the ceramic artist Asakura Isokichi (1913-1998) who was born in Terai, Ishikawa prefecture and decorated with the “Order Of Culture” in 1996, with the main focus on the Heisei Period. The building, designed by Ikehara Yoshiro to whom Asakura had a close friendship, has an atmosphere that reflects the spirit of Asakura and his works. The simple exterior is made of natural wood and the round pond arranged near the main entrance gives the illusion of depth and width. Ikehara won the Chubu Architecture Award in 1994 and the Award of the Japan Building Contractors Society in 1995.
Whilst remaining linked to the long history and traditions of Kutani Pottery, Asakura has built up new methods of design, technique and form and has opened the door to a new world of original composition which brings to life modern day senses.
From the beginning, the topic of his works was consistently that of the grandeur of nature, but he challenged himself with variation. After reaching perfection in one style, he moved on to the next step with completely new colours, forms and techniques.Looking at the works of Asakura one gets the strong feeling that he never dwelled on his successes, but constantly strived towards new challenges.Unsparing in his efforts, he was sticking to his will with unbending determination as an independent artist.
TheKutani Ceramics Center was opened as an annex of the Kutani Ceramics Museum in 1990. Not only can the visitor admire Kutani ceramics there but can get to know Kutani ceramics a little better by having a go himself. Decoration workshops, learning how to make a piece starting from scratch, and workshops using the potter’s wheel are all available. Beginners can also enjoy any of these without hesitation.