A Lifelong Journey of Creating Beauty through Porcelain
Behind Kinzangama Kiln’s intricately painted Kutani ware is a family’s pursuit of perfection and respect for tradition.
“Beauty is the end goal—the target. But you can’t just pursue beauty; there are many different intentions and steps to get there.”
For centuries, mastery of the arts has been central to Japanese culture. From ikebana to calligraphy, from lacquering to ceramics, devoted artisans have poured their hearts and souls into becoming connoisseurs of their crafts.
However, this lifelong pursuit of perfection hit a roadblock after World War II. Faced with an economic recession, artisans struggled to source even basic materials such as wood to light up a kiln.
It was at this time that Yoshita Minori, the third-generation owner of Kinzangama Kiln, decided he would create Kutani-yaki, a style of porcelain of such breathtaking beauty that the world would take heed.
“Beauty is the end goal—the target,” says Minori, who was honoured as a National Living Treasure of Japan in 2001. “But you can’t just pursue beauty; there are many different intentions and steps to get there.”
To realize this vision, Minori focused on refining the ancient Kutani-yaki technique; in so doing, he enabled artisans to create beautiful objects in ways they never had before.
Innovation through adversity
An art form dating to the mid-17th century, Kutani-yaki is a style of ceramics with glazed enamels produced in the Ishikawa prefecture of central Japan. As its processes became more efficient and its techniques further enhanced, Kutani-yaki became Japan’s premier ceramics export in the Meiji era (1868–1912).