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450 Years of Raku-Yaki Infinite Drama of Tradition and Innovation

Raku successive generations

The tradition is not only to be maintained.
What is essential in the tradition is eternally
evolving through eyes of the present.
What matters are those eyes that could perceive
the tradition from the present perspective, which
is a very proof of our existence.
Ameya, the forebear (date of birth unknown)
Ameya is the father of Chôjirô I, a potter of Chinese origin. As Raku techniques are evolved from Henan sancai ware of the Ming Dynasty China, Ameya is thought be have come from around Fujian Province of sothern China. No works of his are known to exist.
Works in the Collections
Chôjirô, the founder ( ? ~ 1589)

Black Raku tea bowl named “Kôtô”
Chôjirô is thought to have been a son of Ameya. He founded Raku ware under the guidance of Sen Rikyû who established chanoyu. Chôjirô established a unique aesthetic in terms of the form of tea bowls, reflecting most directly the ideals of wabi advocated by Sen RIkyû as much as the philosophy of Zen, Buddhism and Taoism. Chôjirô, through his negation of movement, decoration and variation of form, went beyond the boundaries of individualistic expression and elevated the tea bowl into a spiritual abstraction and an intensified presence.
Works in the Collections
Tanaka Sôkei (1535 ~ ? ,age 60 in 1595)

Black Raku tea bowl named “Isarai”
Sôkei was a grandfather of Chôjirô's wife and his family name was Tanaka. He had close contacts not only with Sen Rikyû but with Shun'oku Sôen (1529 ~ 1611), the abbot of the Daitokuji temple, and Hasegawa Tôhaku (1539~1610), a painter and the founder of the Hasegawa school of Japanese painting. The document shows that he was resident at Minamiinokuma-chô in Kyoto in the 4th year of the Tenshô era (1576). He directed the Raku workshop together with Chôjirô, producing Rikyû type tea bowls as did Chôjirô. The examples of his work that have survived include a three-colour glazed incense burner in the shape of a lion dog. Most of his works with some exceptions bore a Raku family seal, by which his works are distinguishable from those by Chôjriô.
Shôzaemon Sômi (date unknown)
Sômi was a son of Sôkei and a brother of Jôkei, the second generation. His daughter is married to Chôjirô according to the document left by Sônyû dated 1688. Some works attributed to Sômi have survived but need further studies regarding the definition.
Works in the Collections
Jôkei II ( ? ~ 1635)

Ido type tea bowl with kôro white glaze
Born a son of Sôkei. After the death of Chôjirô, he directed the Raku workshop, founding the base of the Raku tradition continuing till today. Since Jôkei, each generation has succeeded to the name, Kichizaemon. Some of his work is sealed while some not. His Raku seal was presented by the second Lord Tokugawa Hidetada. A white glazed incense burner in the shape of akoda gourd by Jôkei was found inside the Hidetada tomb at the Zôjôji temple, Tokyo. His work has more movement and variation of form, being occasionally deformed, which was never found in the work of Chôjirô, reflecting the Oribe taste prevalent during the Keichô period (1596~1615). He also invented the white glaze in addition to the red and black Raku glazes.
Works in the Collections
Dônyû III (1599~1656)

Black Raku tea bowl named “Zansetsu”
Born the eldest son of Jôkei. He is also known as Nonkô, later considered the most skillful Raku potter. He was in close friendship with Hon'ami Kôetsu whose tea bowls were fired in the Raku kiln with a help of Jôkei and Dônyû. He introduced a new style to that achieved by the workshop founded by Chôjirô partly under Kôetsu's influence. Especially by the application of white or transparent glazes on top of the black glaze, he introduced the decorativeness and spontaneous individuality into the Chôjirô's stylistic tradition of monochrome black that eliminated decoration.
Works in the Collections
Ichinyû IV (1640 ~ 1696)

Black Raku tea bowl named “Kashin”
Born the eldest son of Dônyû. His work varies from those made in his youth influenced by his father Dônyû to later work stylistically closer to that of Chôjirô. In particular, his invention of a new type of glaze, shugusuri glaze, the black glaze mottled with the red, made a significant influence on the work of successive generations.
Works in the Collections
Sônyû V (1664 ~ 1716)

Black Raku tea bowl named “Kimô”
Born a son of Kariganeya San'emon and became an adopted son of Ichinyû married to Myôzû, Ichinyû's daughter. He succeeded as the 5th generation in 1691. In 1708 he took the tonsure, assuming the retiring name of Sônyû. His real father, Kariganeya San'emon was the youngest brother of Ogata Sôken, whose sons, Ogata Kôrin and Kenzan, were his cousins. Kôrin and Kenzan formed a unique, highly decorative style of paintings and ceramics called the “Rimpa School” during the Genroku period that reached the height of social and political stability. Nontheless, Sônyû pursued his creative inspiration more in non-decorative tea bowls of Chôjirô in his effort of establishing his own style. His dry, matt black glaze, commonly known as kase glaze, is a proof of Sônyû's inclination for the style of Chôjirô.
Works in the Collections
Sanyû VI (1685 ~ 1739)

Red Raku tea bowl named “Tôri”
Born a son of Yamatoya Kahei and later taken into the Raku family married to Myôshû, Sônyû's daughter. In 1708 he succeeded as the 6th generation. In 1728 he went into retirement, assuming the name of Sanyû. After retirement he continued his prolific production and a series of 200 red tea bowls made in 1733 known as “Sanyû's 200” were especially highly acclaimed among tea connoisseurs. As an adopted son, Sanyû studied the traditional style of Raku ware to begin with, making numerous copies of tea bowls by preceding Raku generations, Kôetsu and other ceramics. The characteristic styles of others are successfully merged into Sanyû's work to his stylistic merit, and his versatility is highly individualistic.
Works in the Collections
Chônyû VII (1714 ~ 1770)

Red Raku tea bowl with Sacred Gem Design
Born the eldest son of Sanyû, he succeeded as the 7th generation in 1728 and assumed the name of Chônyû at his retirement in 1762. His tea bowls are generally large and generous, rather heavily built and voluminous, as if reflecting his calm and composed nature. His black glaze is lustrous and pitch-black while his red tea bowls are characterized by a variety of tone from milky light red to vivid red, alternating the use of clay between white clay and red juraku clay. He manifests his bravura as an artisan particularly in the realistic sculptural objects producing various types of incense containers and ornaments.
Works in the Collections
Tokunyû VIII (1745 ~ 1774)

Red Raku cylindrical tea bowl
Born the eldest son of Chônyû, he succeeded as the 8th generation in 1762 and went into retirement in 1770, calling himself Sahei. The name, Tokunyû, was given at the 25th anniversary of his death. As he died of illness very young, only a few examples of his work remain, which all were made in his youth before the age of 25. Although the influence of his father is prevalent in his tea bowls, Tokunyû, following the fundamentals of the Raku traditional style, already accomplished a certain level of perfection. His red Raku tea bowl is particularly charming endowed with freshness and innocence of a young artist.
Works in the Collections
Ryônyû IX (1756 ~ 1834)

Red Raku tea bowl among a series of 70 red bowls produced at his 70th anniversary
Born the second son of Chônyû. As his brother Tokunyû retired in 1770 at the age of 25, he succeeded as the 9th generation when he was only 14 years old. He assumed the name Ryônyû at his retirement in 1825. Ryônyû's 65 years of prolific production of ceramics were dedicated to various stylistic developments according to his age and more spontaneous works made in his late career is a manifestation of his mentality and creative stance achieved through years of practice. Another importance of his achievements lies in the use of trimming to the advantage of modeling made by the hand-forming method. Ryônyû's trimming, boldly applied vertically, horizontally and obliquely, added dynamism as well as decorativeness to the form. It was an innovation of great importance newly added to the Raku tradition for the coming ages.
Works in the Collections
Tannyû X (1795 ~ 1854)

Red Raku tea bowl with Turtle Design done by the Lord Tokugawa Harutomi
Born the second son of Ryônyû, he succeeded as the 10th generation in 1811. He took the name of Tannyû at his retirement in 1845. He started frequenting the Kishû province from 1819 onwards to serve for the Kishû Tokugawa family. He established Kairakuen kiln as well as Seineiken kiln to produce Oniwayaki, household ware for the feudal lord, inside the premises of the Tokugawa family villas at the service for both the 10th Lord Tokugawa Harutomi and the 11th Lord Tokugawa Nariyuki. The stylistic influence of his father, Ryônyû, is clearly visible in his work. The trimming effect is technically more elaborated and varied, setting off the details of the tea bowl. His red tea bowls are characterized by the acquired vividness of tone caused by firing change.
Works in the Collections
Keinyû XI (1817 ~ 1902)

White Raku tea bowl named “Shiohi”
Born a second son of Ogawa Naohachi, a sake brewer from Tanba, the present Kameoka city in Kyoto, he was adopted in the Raku family as Tannyû's son-in-law. He succeeded as the 11th generation in 1845. He retired in 1871, assuming the name of Keinyû. The period he lived through was an age of transmission from the feudalism of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the modernization of the Meiji government introducing the modern cultural prospects from the West. At the same time he saw the collapse of traditional culture including the tea culture. Over 70 year long production of ceramics under such unfavourable circumstances, Keinyû, however, vigorously made a variety of ceramics, not only tea bowls but other tea utensils as well as decorative objects, considered as the most versatile among all the Raku generations. His work is endowed with a high quality of artifice as well as a poetic sensibility.
Works in the Collections
Kônyû XII (1857 ~ 1932)

Red Raku tea bowl named “Kamese”
Born the eldest son of Keinyû, he succeeded as the 12th generation in 1871 at the age of 15. He took the name of Kônyû at his retirement in 1919. He was confronted with difficulties together with his father when he succeeded to the house, since the tea cult was still in decline at the dawn of the modernization of the Meiji period. His stylistic characteristics are less varied, and his work is over all rather reserved, though the use of trimming to the decorative effect as well as his red Raku glaze, varied in tone and shade, is highly characteristic of Kônyû's work.
Works in the Collections
Seinyû XIII (1887 ~ 1944)

Tea bowl with Daimonji Design
Born the eldest son of Kônyû, he succeeded as the 13th generation in 1919 when he was 32 years old. Although Seinyû's lifetime was not the happiest with the outbreak of two successive world wars, he nonetheless pursued his various interests, being well versed in calligraphy, waka poetry, Chinese literature and yôkyoku of the Noh theatre and furthermore contributed to the enlightenment of the tea culture by publishing an innovative journal called “Chadô Seseragi”. His work principally followed the traditional style of Raku tea bowls, reflecting his serious, diligent personality. He was also an enthusiastic researcher on glazes, applying various minerals from different sources in Japan for the experimentation of glazes.
Works in the Collections
Kakunyû XIV (1918 ~ 1980)

Red Raku tea bowl named “Sai-I”
Born the eldest son of Seinyû, he graduated from the Sculptural Department at Tokyo School of Art (present Tokyo University of Fine Arts). He succeeded as the 14th generation in 1945 at the end of the Second World War after returning home from the military service. He established the Raku Museum in 1978, which consists of the family collection of works of successive generations as well as various related documents that were passed down in the family. The basic knowledge of modern art that he gained at Tokyo School of Art helped him to establish a unique style of his own, clearly distinguished from those of the past generations. His trimming is more precisely applied to the purpose of giving structural power to the composition of tea bowls. In his later red tea bowls in particular, Kakunyû took the effects caused by the kiln change or firing change to the best advantage to achieve an innovative pattern in glaze texture. The modern interpretation of tea bowls is well incorporated into the Raku traditional style in the work of Kakunyû.
Works in the Collections
Kichizaemon XV (1949 ~ )

Black Raku yakinuki type tea bowl named “Hakuraku”
Born the eldest son of Kakunyû. After he graduated from the Sculptural Department at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts in 1973, he went to Italy for further studies. He succeeded as the 15th generation Kichizaemon in 1981. In 2007 he designed the architecture and the tea room of the Raku Kichizaemon Kan, Raku Kichizaemon Pavilion at the Sagawa Art Museum in the Shiga Prefecture. He stepped further forward in modern interpretation of the Raku tea bowls though keeping the fundamentals of the Raku tradition. His avant-garde style is characterized by the sculptural modelling achieved by a bold trimming and a high command of yakinuki firing.

Raku Related PeopleRaku Related People

Works in the Collections
Hasegawa Tôhaku (1539~1610)
Hasegawa Tôhaku is a painter and founder of the Hasegawa school of Japanese style painting active during the Momoyama period. He was born in Nanao, a town in Noto province (present Ishikawa prefecture). After studying painting in his home province, he moved to Kyoto to develop his own individualistic style. He is particularly renown for his Ink and wash painting, bird and flower genre and portraits.
In 1595 he was commissioned by Tanaka Sôkei to produce a seated portrait of Rikyû (the collection of the Omote Senke), which shows that he was on friendly terms with the Raku family.
Works in the Collections
Raku Dôraku (dates unknown)
Dôraku is a brother of Dônyû, the third generation. He is supposed to have worked in Sakai, making Raku tea bowls. It is said that he used the Raku reverse seal, but not clarified. The survived examples of tea bowls attributed to Dôraku are stylistically all varied with major inconsistency in the style of the seal used.
Works in the Collections
Hon'ami Kôetsu (1558 ~ 1637)
Hon'ami Kôetsu was born into a prominent merchant family in Kyoto professionally engaged in the forging and connoisseurship of swords. He was a typical man of culture of his period, developing various cultural activities. In 1615 Kôetsu moved to a place called Takagamine in the northwest of Kyoto granted him by Tokugawa Ieyasu, where he started making Raku tea bowls assisted by Raku Jôkei II and Dônyû III. The letters written by Kôetsu have remained in the Raku family archive in which he asked them to prepare the clay or to glaze the bowls. Kôetsu tea bowls are renown for their spontaneity absent of stylistic restriction. His black Raku tea bowls are supposed to have been fired in the Raku kiln because of the similarity in glazing quality.
Works in the Collections
Ichigen, the founder of Tamamizu ware (1662 ~ 1722)
Ichigen was an illegitimate son of Ichiniyû IV. He was raised in the Raku family until he was in late teens but later moved to Tamamizu village (present Idecho, Tsuzuki-gun, Kyoto), the hometown of his mother, and started Tamamizu ware mainly producing tea bowls. Some of these ware are marked with the Raku seal. After the direct family line from Ichigen had ceased, the Tamamizu kiln went on operating till the end of Edo period but now it has ceased to exist. Ichigen copied some of Ichinyû glaze such as shugusuri glaze and it is sometimes difficult to tell one from the other. However stylistic characteristics between the two are quite varied, with a strong distortion and heavy trimming characterizing Ichigen's work.
Works in the Collections
Ogata Kenzan (1663 ~ 1743)
Born the third son of Ogata Sôken of Kariganeya, a textile-manufacturing family. His elder brother was Ogata Kôrin, a famous Rimpa school painter. He is a cousin of Sônyû V. He learnt pottery under Nonomura Ninsei. In 1699 he established the Narutaki kiln in Kyoto, continuing his pottery making in Edo in his later years. In contrast to Sônyû's attachment to the style of Chôjirô inspired by Rikyû's wabi ideals, Kenzan established his unique style in colourful overgalze enameled pottery and produced numerous tea bowls with iron paint.
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