The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Made in Japan Kakiemon and 400 years of porcelain

23 June – 21 August 2016

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Celebrate the art of Japanese porcelain making through 15 generations of the Kakiemon dynasty.

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of porcelain production in Japan. It is said to have started in 1616 in Arita, a town on the southern island of Kyushu near Nagasaki. One of the major styles of porcelain from Arita is known as Kakiemon. The Kakiemon style dates back to the 1670s and was made for a largely European market. It originated with Sakaida Kakiemon I, who learnt the secrets to overglaze enamelling possibly from a Chinese specialist in Nagasaki in 1647. He then introduced this technique to Arita, earning the name ‘Kakiemon’, which derives from kaki (persimmon) after the orange-red colour of the enamel.

More about the exhibition

The Kakiemon kiln has continued to produce porcelain for fifteen generations, and today is still modelled on the traditional Japanese early modern workshop system. Succession is based on the principle of iemoto or ‘head of the household’, the oldest son inheriting and sustaining the brand and workshop. Sakaida Kakiemon XV (b. 1968) is the latest to hold the prestigious title – the fifteenth generation of this famous dynasty.

Central to this display is a remarkable film revealing how porcelain is made by Kakiemon XV’s workshop today. Exclusively shot in the Kakiemon kiln earlier in 2016, it brings the creation process to life. Examples of the finished products on display include works made in the Kakiemon kiln over hundreds of years, from an exquisite late 17th-century figurine of a boy on a Go board to a spectacular large dish made by Kakiemon XIV, and an octagonal lidded bowl produced by Kakiemon XV in 2016 specifically for this display. The show also includes examples of European wares made in imitation of the Kakiemon style.

As well as highlighting the importance of continuity across fifteen unbroken generations, the display also shows how Kakiemon XIII and XIV revived the traditional Kakiemon style following the Second World War, but with their own individual twists. Discover how the current Kakiemon kiln, led by Kakiemon XV, is adapting to modern changes in living and dining, while preserving past practices, and get a behind-the-scenes insight into how this compelling porcelain style is created.

Explore Boy on a Go Board in 3D


Related display

Japan (Rooms 92–94)

The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries present the long history of Japan from prehistory to the present. Until 10 October, see a special display that celebrates 400 years of porcelain making in Arita. Historical Nabeshima wares are shown alongside their contemporary counterparts made by the Imaizumi Imaemon family, and other works made in Arita. You can also see a work by contemporary ceramic artist Hosono Hitomi in the galleries.


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