ABOUT Kokuji ware
Kokuji pottery is a steady and beautiful ceramic ware, made for the local Kuji people.
The kiln where Kokuji ware is made is in the coastal area of Iwate, Kuji city. A main characteristic of this pottery is a simple lipped bowl with long skinny lip. Muneyoshi Yanagi, a leader of the folk art movement in Japan favorably reviewed its simplicity and beauty.
The origin of Kokuji ware was its use as a daily ceramic ware used by common people, made from clay produced abundantly along the coastline. The very first mention of Kokuji ware was from writings in 1813. It was written on the Hachinohe federal clan’s note that Jinnemon Kumagai, the first generation Kokuji ware craftsman, invited the potter Yoshizo from Soma, Fukushima for a visit and learned the technique. It is notable that while Kuji is not the perfect region for pottery production because it gets really cold in the winter time and the clay can freeze, this craft tradition has continued to thrive. The craftsmen trained and studied hard to create a good quality of Kokuji ware and their efforts resulted in becoming a designated kiln of Hachinohe federal clan.
However, Kokuji ware production declined rapidly under the influence of life style changes and World War Ⅱ. Finding a successor to continue making the pottery was a problem but Takeshi Shimodake, who learned his technique at Aizuhongo ware kiln in Fukushima, and Ryutaro Kumagai, the sixth generation Kokuji craftsman, revived Kokuji ware with the support of Kuji city. Now, Takeshi continues the tradition as the seventh generation, and his son Satomi inherits the eighth generation.
Kokuji ware has a history over 200 years, and there are several details of its crafting that has never changed. One is to use clay produced in Kuji, and the other is to continue making the ceramic ware which the common people of Kuji can use on a daily basis. Kokuji ware has become part of the life style of the Kuji people and they even give Kokuji ware as a present or a souvenir. Most families have Kokuji ware in their cupboard at home and this principle to use things which were made in their hometown leads to protecting the tradition of Kokuji ware.