“A junior high school student encounters Satsuma porcelain”

“A contemporary craftsman,” Takafumi Saigo……..

Kagoshima is a place with various natural features in which took roots many traditional craft items. A typical example is Satsuma porcelain made in Kagoshima prefecture. Satsuma porcelain is separated into white Satsuma porcelain (white articles) and black Satsuma porcelain (black items). The white Satsuma porcelain is made from white material on which is painted various figures. It has wonderful and delicate patterns. On the other hand, black Satsuma porcelain is rich in iron content. It has simple patterns and it is burned thoroughly, making these article hard and usable in daily human activities. We have to remember here the black dyoka, an earthenware teapot which is an essential recipient for drinking shochu (Japanese spirit distilled from sweet potatoes).

We wanted to find everything about Satsuma porcelain, including the furnace from its production place, so we went to Hioki Nanshu kiln, a pottery workshop situated in the mountainous areas near Ijuin. Here we have found Takafumi Saigo, the potter, and we asked him a few things about Satsuma porcelain. Mr. Saigo has been awarded many times for his porcelain works. He is known as the "Contemporary craftsman" in the traditional handicraft industry. He is also the board chairman of Satsuma Porcelain Cooperative in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Saigo continued: "In 1970 my teacher retired from high school teaching and took over Chotaro kiln. The next year we went together to a Japan Fine Art Exhibition. I was fascinated by the way art works were made from clay. On this occasion, I finally decided to follow an apprenticeship at Chotaro kiln, where I learned everything about Satsuma porcelain, from A to Z." Saigo retired from Chotaro kiln and became independent. At the end of year 1976 he established Hioki Nanshu kiln.

Satsuma porcelain was brought in Japan in the 16th century by a Korean potter. It has a history if more than 400 years. "Observing the long history of Satsuma pottery, we see how it produced an original style through the perseverance and hard work of many potters, resembling Kagoshima climate. In Kagoshima Prefecture we have now many potteries, with articles devoted to various techniques," emphasized Mr. Saigo. "For me, even if its past has a great importance, I want to develop a new technique which resembles ‘tataki’ an old technique which implies force," concluded Mr. Saigo.