Sendai City, Miyagi, Japan


Tsutsumi-yaki Pottery is named after the Tsutsumi-machi area (Aoba-ku, Sendai), which was home to numerous pottery studios.
Although the style was established during the Edo Period as pottery to be presented to the lords of Date Domain, who were very enthusiastic about tea ceremony, Tsutsumi-yaki potters later produced goods for ordinary people such as pots, crocks and dishes. Thus, Tsutsumi-yaki boasts a history of around three and a half centuries.
The rustic features of the pottery are a product of the outstanding coarse local soil, and Namako-yu (‘sea cucumber glaze’: black and white glaze applied dynamically). The father of folk craft, Muneyoshi Yanagi, showed great interest in the Tsutsumi-yaki kiln as a typical private kiln of the Tohoku region, when he visited Tsutsumi-machi during the early Showa Era, highly praising the water jars, among other articles.
Although at the peak time there were 30 pottery studios, the ‘Tsutsumi-yaki Pottery Kenba Kiln’ is the only one that remains. Relocated to Marutazawa (Izumi-ku, Sendai), an area with a rich natural environment, the studio continues to preserve the old traditions and techniques.

Tsutsumi-yaki Pottery Kenba Kiln was opened when its founder—a well-known local master craftsperson—received the name ‘Kenba’ from Kenya Miura (a potter from Edo; also known as Kenzan Ogata VI), who was invited to Sendai.
On this occasion, Kenba was allowed to copy the ‘Kenzan Hisho’ book of secrets. Based on the book, he produced pottery utilizing the local Sendai soil and glazes, as well as by taking advantage of the local climate and culture.
To this day, the time of Kenba IV, the studio has continued to produce pottery using local soil and glazes.

Manufacturing process

(1) Soil preparation and elutriation
- Unearth clay from Dainohara Clay Strata, then pile it up and leave it.
- Remove clay from the clay pile, soak it in water and process it in a mixer.
- Screen it in order to remove impurities such as tree branches and roots and stones.
- Put it in a water tank, precipitate it and leave it for several months.
- Pour off the water in the tank, put the clay in unglazed crocks and dry it for several days in the shade.
- Put it in a kneading machine, bring it to a storehouse and leave it for over a year.

(2) Kneading the clay (Rough wedging and spiral wedging)
- Equalize the hardness of the clay and remove the air.
- Increase the density of the clay particles to prevent cracks.

(3) Forming
Small products (tableware, vases, etc.): Mainly formed with a pottery wheel
- Electric wheel: Rotated with a motor
- Kick wheel: Rotated by kicking
- Hand wheel: A bar is put into the hole on the top panel and rotated

Large products (large pots, large jars, etc.): Formed in coils
- Rings are made with clay bars, then twirled and stacked.
- The clay is beaten with a plate, the density of the clay particles is increased and the form is adjusted.
- In addition to the potter, an assistant rotates the wheel.

(4) Finish
- The piece is formed with water, dried slowly for two or three days and, when half dry, the foot is trimmed off.
- The piece is fixed on a sitter and shaved with planes and bamboo spatulas.

(5) Drying
- Small products are dried for around a week.
- Large products are dried slowly for over a month in a storehouse to prevent cracks.

(6) Biscuit firing
The pieces are fired at a temperature of approximately 800°C to prevent corruption in the glazing process and to facilitate the fixing of the glaze.

(7) Glazing
Pieces that have been through the biscuit firing process are glazed. Ingredients of the typical Namako-yu for Tsutsumi-yaki include:
- Amasa (a kind of natural mineral) from the Nankodai area
- Hayasaka Rock from the Nenoshiroishi area
- Sangamori Rock, Sagigamori Rock
- Rice husk ash
- Charcoal

(8) Firing
The pieces are fired at a higher temperature of around 1,250°C. Being fired, the glaze melts with the surface of the clay and is vitrified, preventing the penetration of water and staining.

Potters and Works

Kenba Hariu IV

Born in Sendai in 1928
Learned pottery from his father Kenba III (aka Ken-o)

1963 onward: Held solo exhibitions in Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo

1969 onward: Held exhibitions of tea ceremony wares in Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store, Tokyo (7 times)

1973: Received a prize in the Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition

1975: His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince (Prince Hiro at the time) visited the Kenba Kiln and made a tea bowl

1983: Designated by Miyagi Prefecture as a traditional craftwork

1983: Received the Minister of Education’s Award in the Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition

1985: Received the Prime Minister’s Award in the Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition

2000: Recognized by the Minister of Education as an Outstanding Contributor to Regional Culture

2001: Recognized by Sendai City as an Outstanding Contributor to Municipal Administration

2011: Received the Kahoku Cultural Award

Kyuma (left; first son of Kenba IV), Kazuma (upper right; second son of Kenba IV) and Shun (lower right; first son of the first daughter of Kenba IV) pass down the traditions and techniques of Tsutsumi-yaki.

Flower vase with handles, Namako-yu finish (By Kenba IV)

A flower vase with handles, finished with the traditional Namako-yu glaze of Tsutsumi-yaki.

White tea bowl with color variation (By Kenba IV)

Kenba IV is the only potter in the Tohoku region whose pieces are permitted to be put in wooden boxes signed by the head of the Urasenke school of Japanese tea ceremony.

‘Hozugawa River Cruise’, Sendo-mizusashi water bowl (By Kenba IV)

This piece depicts a sendo (boatman) wearing a woven hat on the Hozugawa River cruise boat heading for Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Copper turns into cinnabar through reduction firing. The color of this deep bowl changed in the kiln.

A large square dish with copper green glaze (made by oxidation firing of a white plate onto which copper is poured) and a large square dish with Namako-yu.

A flower vase with Namako-yu, made by Shun (Kenba IV’s first daughter’s first son)


Tours of the studio, kiln and exhibition hall are available. Visitors can also buy our products.

Our pottery studio is located adjacent to a camping site amid rich natural surroundings.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Note: Advance bookings are required for workshops.

Open hours: 9:00 – 18:00 (Other times by request)

Exhibition and sales venues are open all year-round. The studio is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Address: 8-4 Akasaka, Kamiyagari, Izumi-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 981-3121

By : Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association
Credits: All media
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