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Talk about a nightmare of a client. They expect deliveries tailored to their precise instructions — once every year. They send missives along the lines of, “You should be a bit more creative with your designs,” and then append them with casual reminders that they will be happy to vet any innovations. Oh, and then there’s the small issue of paying you for your deliveries: They don’t. They think they’re above that.

But, of course, when the “client” in question is the shogun, and you are the feudal lord of the Saga Domain, in what is now Kyushu, then complaining is not an option. In fact, it’s an honor that your ruler in Edo (present-day Tokyo) is interested in your annual offerings of ceramics at all. Yes, you push your craftsmen to ever-greater heights of creativity and quality. And yes, you meet the Shogun’s every request to the letter.

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