今村隆光  光雲窯 

Takamitsu Imamura

Founder of Koun Kiln, Mikawachi

Certified 1st Class Ceramics Artisan

Certified Mikawachi Traditional Craftsman

Nagasaki Meister

MIKAWACHI - The Hidden Gem

Among the famous Arita, Imari, Hasami porcelain towns, in the old region of Hizen, is a village named Mikawachi. 

Mikawachi was established in the mid 1600s as a pottery town funded by the Feudal Lord of Hirado.  The sole purpose was to produce high-quality porcelain ware for the elite class and diplomatic gifts for the European guests of the clan. Unlike neighboring Arita or Hasami, sales of Mikawachi-ware was strictly prohibited. This allowed the artisans to focus in advancing their techniques and styles of work with the finest material. Techniques developed were guarded as top secrets.

 

It wasn’t until Meiji Restoration that it started producing for the general market and exports.  There are about 12 family-run  kilns still actively producing in the quaint hill village.   Today, we should feel privileged to own Mikawachi-ware because of its history, artisans' dedication and fine workmanship.

 

It is a hidden gem not any less reputable than its neighboring towns.

Mikawachi ware is recognized as Japan Heritage.

rural japan-mikawachi-porcelain
Deep in the mountain in Nagasaki, a small hidden village, named Mikawachi, has some of the most skillful artisans in the porcelain history of Japan. 

Out of the "Cobalt Blue"

Some of the typical motifs of Mikawachi-ware are landscape, plants, and "Karako" children.  But whales?  

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Years ago, Mr. Imamura met a whale researcher in Tokyo, which got him interested in studying the big mammals.  Over the years, he met more whale-lovers and has gained more knowledge about whales.  The whale-research community has eventually become his resource and “critics” for his artwork. Even though Mr. Imamura has not seen a real whale, he started painting whales, fusing Mikawachi motifs and techniques in it.  Whale underglaze painting 鯨絵has since become the signature work of Koun Kiln.

 

The light-weight delicacy of Mikawachi-ware,  and whiteness of fine porcelain, the range and depth of cobalt blue that Mikawachi's artisan has perfected, the skillful brushwork of Japanese wave motif 青海波, all provided the perfect backdrop for Mr. Imamura's subject matter. 

 

Mr. Imamura captured the plump and beautiful form, liveliness and playfulness of the big mammal. He celebrates the lives of these wonderful sea creatures, through his passion, his imagination and his exquisite skills. 

japan-porcelain-mikawachi-koun-imamura

For finer quality and detailing

For 400 years, pottery towns in the old Hizen region have developed a robust process of mass hand-production.  Artisans’ duties are assigned by work-types: formation, painting, glazing, firing. Due to the intricacy of patterns and motifs, underglaze painting tasks are defined.  Each artisan may handle only a portion of an overall paint work.

At Koun Kiln, Mr. Imamura manages the entire process on his own, from claywork to final finished product. Although this limits his capacity to produce abundant works, but crafting slowly allows him to enjoy the process of seeing his own work comes to life.

While many works are molded by mechanical pottery jig for efficiency, Mr. Imamura sometimes thr