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AN ENCOUNTER WITH MR. NAKAHARA, A POTTER FROM HAGI

23 July 2015

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Here’s a text from our new book ’Green Tea: The Quest for Fresh Leaf and Timeless Craft freshly translated into English and now on sale.

Mr. Nakahara, how did you become a potter?


In Hagi, pottery is a local industry. Since I grew up in this city, I have always been close to this art. Many artisans lived close to my home. When the time came to choose a career, I naturally thought of becoming a potter.

Some Hagi pieces have a notch on their bottom. Why is that?

There was a period during which people were not authorized to use the same pottery as the emperor. To identify the bowls that were not intended for him, potters inscribed a notch. This tradition is still alive today.

In your opinion, what are the qualities of a good potter?

To begin with, to make good pottery, you must be skillful. You must have agile fingers. I believe that dexterity is a crucial part of pottery technique. You must also know how to use the potter’s wheel. When I work, I think about pleasing my clients, about what format would be most useful for them, and so forth. The elegance and beauty of each piece are things I am very concerned about.

I also believe that one can sense an artist’s humanity through his work. Analyzing a work of art is difficult for amateurs as well as professionals.à 

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Even if they are not experts in pottery, most people feel something mysterious when they see or touch a piece. I believe that they can intuitively feel what kind of a person made the piece. So I think a good potter should have a positive outlook in his everyday life.

People say that the present-day Japanese have neither beliefs nor principles. I don’t agree; I think that we all believe in something. Pottery is the mirror of an artist’s way of life. I don’t think that a buyer chooses my pieces randomly. I believe that you recognize me through my work.

How do you view the art of pottery in contemporary Japan, com- pared with the period when you began?


The pottery industry in Japan is very respectful of tradition. That being said, young potters have more difficulty if they don’t come from a family of artisans who pass the torch from generation to generation. Maybe young artists are not given their fair due. Potters who have been established for a long time are highly respected by people in the industry. Their pottery is very expensive. This is how it was in the past and the situation has not changed.

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