Mino ceramics

Ryotaro Kato

4th November, 2022

Mino ceramics originate from Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture. Its birth dates back more than 1300 years and today it is the most prolific Japanese pottery. 
The Koubei kiln is one of the most famous potteries in Mino. It was founded in 1804 by Koubei Kato in Ichinokura-go at the end of the Edo period (1604-1868), and soon became the official supplier to Edo Castle.

While the second generation distinguished itself by the finesse and aesthetics of its ceramic painting, its successor became passionate about the study of Chinese ceramics, deepening his knowledge and techniques. The fifth generation (1893-1982) inherited the virtuosity of their predecessor and created pieces of extreme beauty by mastering to perfection the wide range of Chinese ceramic glazing techniques. The Koubei pottery has built its foundations, generation after generation, with the creation of many masterpieces.

 After years of research, Takuo Kato, the sixth in line (1917-2005), reconstructed the techniques of Persian ceramics and polychrome glaze. He brought his creativity to life by producing pieces based on these methods, combining blue glaze, metallic lustre glazes and sancai. For these achievements, he has been recognised as a living national treasure of Japan.

Today, the Koubei Pottery is run by both Koubei Kato, the seventh generation, and Ryotaro Kato, the eighth generation. They are both ceramic artists and are surrounded by more than twenty skilled craftsmen. The workshop produces mainly tableware. In addition, the area around the gallery where the ceramics are displayed has been awarded two stars by the Michelin Green Guide of Japan.  

Ryotaro mainly creates ceramics for tea. He carries on the ceramic tradition of Mino Momoyama. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Mino ceramics produced excellent tea ceramics such as Kizeto, Setoguro, Shino and Oribe, known as Momoyama pottery, which are now recognised as "national treasures" and "important cultural properties".

For a long time, Chinese ceramics were particularly appreciated and embodied elegance in the field. Subsequently, Mino ceramics pioneered a uniquely Japanese pottery aesthetic, contributing to wabi-sabi, and greatly facilitated the popularisation of the tea ceremony. Ryotaro admires Mino Momoyama pottery, but he is constantly exploring the fundamentals of tea ceremony ware to bring them up to date. For him, flame is an energy of nature and pottery is an art form that combines nature and artifice.

"My work only exists before the firing. What follows is the work of the flame. Through the fire, something new is born, a unique piece that is beyond mankind. This is my joy, and I believe that this is what touches people.
He heats his wood-fired kiln to 1300°C over five days, then lets it cool for a week. This slow firing gives him a soft, bouncy surface and a colour that is both soft and vibrant.

From another anagama, heated to 1200 degrees, Ryotaro takes out tea bowls. This rapid cooling allows the black colour to be sublimated. He tries many techniques and mixes glazes to obtain, among others, turquoise blue or Seto black. 
After the firings, the ceramist regularly organises tea ceremonies. He is also a passionate calligrapher.

Ryotaro Kato not only reproduces the ceramics of Mino Momoyama, which ceased to exist during the Edo period, but also draws an extension of them into the present and beyond. To this end, he organises solo and group exhibitions abroad, including in the UK, Italy and China, and makes Mino Momoyama's ceramics known around the world.

Thus, Ryotaro is a representative ceramic artist of the next generation. For this, he was awarded the Gifu Prefecture Art and Culture Encouragement Prize in 2021.

(English version available.)

Ryotaro Kato


Born in 1974, he is the eldest son of Kato Koubei, the seventh generation of the Koubei kiln, which has been in existence for over 200 years, since the late Edo period. His grandfather is Takuo Kato, a living national treasure. In 2000, he completed his postgraduate studies at Kyoto City University of the Arts In 2012, he participated in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial In 2014, he exhibited at the Paramita Ceramic Grand Prix In 2015, he succeeded to the eighth generation of the Koubei kiln In 2016, he exhibited at the Furukawa Art Museum and the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of Ceramic Art In 2017, he designed an anagama that opens like a drawer In 2018, he exhibited at INAX Live Museum, Gifu Museum of Fine Arts, CASA GIFU and Ginza Wako His pottery is used at the Nara Sansai Tenmoku during the tea ceremony presided over by Master Sen Soya at the commemoration of Kofuku-ji temple in Nara In 2019, he exhibited at the Goldmark Gallery in England and held a tea ceremony there, and his work was exhibited at the Toshin Mino Ceramic Museum and the Furukawa Art Museum In 2021, he was awarded the Gifu Prefecture Prize for the Promotion of Art and Culture