Pottery with a strong, simple taste
“Incorporating newness into tradition to create easy-to-use, beautiful vessels.”
Shodai ware / Takemiya Kiln
Shodai ware is a type of pottery that has been produced in the northern part of Kumamoto Prefecture for about 400 years. We interviewed Shinji Chikashige who is the owner of Takemiya Kiln in Shodai ware.
Shinji Chikashige Third generation of Takemiya Kiln, Shodai ware. Born in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1954, he began his career in ceramics at the age of 22.
Developed as a kiln for the clan
Shodai ware is said to have originated in 1632, when potters following the Hosokawa family, who became the lords of the Higo domain, opened a kiln at the foot of Mount Shodai in northern Kumamoto. As the official kiln of the Higo clan, tea ceremony utensils and daily use vessels were produced.
―What are the characteristics of Shodai ware?
Shodai clay has a high iron content which is used as raw materials.Straw ash and other materials are used as a glaze. Even if the same glaze is used, the color will change depending on how it is fired and where it is placed in the kiln, resulting in a wide range of colors called blue Shodai, yellow Shodai, and white Shodai.
―The main method of making Shodai ware
Mix the raw clay with water, remove stones, and let it dry. Knead the clay and shape it using a potter’s wheel, by hand, or by forming it into plates. Dry the clay and bake it at around 800 degrees Celsius. The clay is then glazed with a mixture of straw ashes and wood ashes and some materials, and fired at a high temperature of 1,240 to 1,250 degrees Celsius.
※There are many other processes involved in this process as well.
90 Years of Reviving Shodai ware
Mr. Chikashige’s grandfather, Jitaro, the founder of Takemiya Kiln, revived Shodai ware, which had almost ceased to exist after the Meiji Restoration. In 2003, Shodai ware was designated as a traditional craft by the government.
―How did “Takemiya Kiln” start?
My grandfather was from Shimane Prefecture and was born into a family that made pottery. After training at other kilns, he became independent and opened his own kiln in Arao, northern Kumamoto Prefecture. Through trial and error, my grandfather learned the techniques of Shodai ware and moved to Kengun in Kumamoto City, where he opened his kiln.
―Takemiya Kiln celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2021.
Since my grandfather reestablished Shodai ware, The number of kilns has increased to 12.(now 11). We are still not very well known throughout the country, so we would like to become known better together.
All of my children are daughters, and so far no one has decided to take over the business. The work is not compulsory, so the most important thing is the individual’s motivation, but since the business has been going on since my grandfather’s generation, I am hopeful that someone else, whether a daughter or a grandchild, will want to take over.
―What do you keep in mind when making pottery?
My grandfather used to tell me, “You have to make pottery by putting yourself in the user’s position,” so I always consider the ease of use, such as the size and ease of holding. I am most happy when customers tell me that they are satisfied with my work.
He turned his family’s pottery business into a career.
After graduating from university, Mr. Chikashige chose the way to the ceramics in his family’s Shodai ware business.
―Did you plan to work in this field eventually?
When I was young, I didn’t think I would get into this business, but since I was a child, I would play with clay using ceramic materials and spin the wheel on my grandfather’s lap. By the time I was in junior high school, I could at least make teacups, and during long vacations at university, I would help out at home.
I started working when I was 22 years old, after graduating from university, when my father asked me to work with him because the products were selling well at souvenir stores and there was a shortage of workers.
―Has what you make changed over time?
I have been in this business for about 45 years now, and things have changed a lot. Recently, mugs are selling better than teacups and coffee cups.
Incorporating newness into tradition
While preserving the traditional techniques, we are also developing new products.
―What are your thoughts on tradition?
Tradition should be handed down to future generations as it was in the past, but I think it is important now to incorporate new, modern things into the tradition.I don’t think it would be right to bring another technique directly into the Shodai ware technique. If we can harmonize it with the Shodai ware technique and glaze in our own way and preserve it as our own Shodai ware, we think that will also become tradition.
―Is there anything you would like to make in the future?
I decided to make something different from teacups and coffee cups, so I created a new product in 2020. It is a cup with a small bottom and a round shape so that people can enjoy whiskey and other beverages while shaking it in their hands, and I named it “YURAGI”. I would like to make more products like this in the future.
―For the future
The number has been gradually increasing since my grandfather revived them. So I think it is also a good way for young people and those who have never done Shodai ware before to start.
Shodai ware has a history of 400 years, so it will never disappear, and I hope it will continue to do so.
※The contents of this website are current as of December 2021.
※Some of the images in the video are courtesy of Takemiya Kiln, Shodai ware.
The color of each vessel is different and the shape is slightly different, which is the charm of handmade. I bought a mug from a variety of vessels and found it to be easy to use.
■ Shodai ware, Takemiya Kiln Takemiya Kiln was established in 1931.The first generation revived Shodai ware, which had almost died out. Continuing to create beautiful and easy-to-use wares which is a simple yet dynamic style. Location：2222 Kita-Amagi, Kamimashikigun-Kashima Town, Kumamoto Prefecture URL ：http://www.takemiyagama.co.jp/