National

Potter takes up ‘unfinished’ Arita tradition

by Ayano Shiraishi

Kyodo

Sakaida Kakiemon XV first took on the challenge of producing Arita pottery in Saga Prefecture at the age of 26, when he finally decided to learn how to use a potter’s wheel.

The 45-year-old assumed the title in February after his father, Kakiemon XIV, who was designated a living national treasure, died in June last year.

As the eldest son in the family, “I had known that I would have to inherit the pottery someday,” he said.

“I hope to work in a way that will not disgrace this name, which has been handed down for many years,” Kakiemon XV said.

Kakiemon XV is preparing for his first solo exhibition, which is to be held in a department store in Tokyo in July.

“I want to create as many satisfying pieces as possible,” he said.

But the new Kakiemon had almost nothing to do with pottery in his youth, being more interested in hurdling in junior and senior high school.

He entered Tama Art University in Tokyo to study Japanese painting on the advice of his father, but left after only a year.

In the following years, he just hung around in Tokyo, visiting art museums, until he decided to return home at the age of 26.

“I thought it’s about time I should start learning,” he said.

The Kakiemon style, dating back to the mid-17th century early in the Edo Period (1603-1868), is known for combining a milky white base called “nigoshide” with colorful painting.

Although Arita porcelain has received international recognition, Kakiemon XV said he has come to think of it as “an unfinished work.”

In a speech to around 40 potters at a ceremony to celebrate his assumption of the title, Kakiemon XV said he wants to return to the 17th century style, which he believes achieves a sense of unity with its nigoshide-painting mix.

After several trials, he decided not to use red, which is symbolic of the Kakiemon style.

Kakiemon XV said his father was too busy to spend much time with him when he was a child, but he remembers often being told by his father to draw.

He said he has followed his father’s advice and believes drawing is the basis of creation.