The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 4: The Brokering of the Einin

Chapter Four
The Brokering of the Einin

Thunderous applause swept Tokuro off his feet as he nimbly stepped away from the podium of the Tokyo Bijutsu Club. Ever so eloquently, infectiously ebullient, the preacher had made a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of the flock which assembled from throughout Japan to see and hear the latest archaeological finds of the Japan Ceramic Society in October of 1946. Shaking hands with contemporaries, historians, scientists and aficionados, Tokuro could not help but beam. With each word spoken and with each letter written concerning the Einin Tsubo and the Matsudome shards, Tokuro was in effect elevating his own status as a living legend in both the world of archaeology and of ceramic art.

In the November 1946 issue of the antique art journal Kobijutsu, Sato Shinzo, a founding member and passionate leader of the Japan Ceramic Society, wrote the following unequivocal commentary regarding Tokuro’s enigmatic Matsudome kiln.

“The number of elements, types and changes found in the works unearthed at Matsudome surpasses all other kilns from the same time period.”

And more.

“Dim and callous individuals may view the works produced in the Matsudome kiln and think them peculiar, simply because they have not seen similar works anywhere else, and will be quick to consider them awry or faulty. But it is far greater a crime to consider quality works awry than to label awry works as quality ones. In such a case, it is easy to discern this person’s eye for art.”

Sato Shinzo and Kato Tokuro were a formidable duo of great intellectual and artistic authority. If they were to call water wine, who could possibly disagree? The stage was set, thus, for the effortless brokering of the Tsubo and, ultimately, a movement spearheaded by Koyama Fujio to designate the two (yes, two) Einin Tsubos as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.

Shortly after Tokuro’s mesmerising soliloquy at the Tokyo Bijutsu Club, Tanabe Shichiroku, a former member of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) during pre-war Japan, informed Sato of his interest in acquiring the Einin Tsubo from Mayor Hasegawa. Big fish were now biting, and Tokuro and Sato were on the verge of making their first catch.

One should remember that Tanabe’s younger brother Katamaru was a founding member and director of the Japan Ceramic Society, and as mentioned in Chapter 3 of this tale, it was in Katamaru’s home in Shibuya where the JCS was first established. At the same time, Tanabe Shichiroku and Nezu Kaichiro, the founder of the Nezu Museum in Aoyama, both hailed from Yamanashi Prefecture (formerly called Koshu Province). It was the Nezu which had first been offered the Einin for 35,000 yen (12 million yen today) in 1943, and it is an interesting twist of fate to find that the Einin would entwine these men of Koshu together.

Perhaps more intriguing was the fact that Shichiroku’s elder half-brother was Kobayashi Ichizo, the legendary industrialist and founder of the impressive Hankyu conglomerate. Kobayashi was a key benefactor of the traditional arts, and his penchant for art collecting (an influence still visible today by the continued existence and legacy of the Hankyu Department Store’s Art Department) had undoubtedly influenced his younger brother Shichiroku. This artistic influence may have been hereditary, as Shichiroku’s second son and former LDP member Tanabe Kunio would ultimately rise to be the governor of Yamanashi, and when inaugurating Yamanashi’s prefectural museum in 1978, went out and purchased Millet’s famous “The Sower” and “The Return of the Flock” for an outstanding 185 million yen (approx. 370 million yen today). Of course, these precious paintings were not purchased from Kunio’s pockets but from the pockets of Yamanashi’s taxpayers. And so it goes.

Unlike his son’s extravagant acquisition, Shichiroku’s was hardly as costly. The selling price for Einin Tsubo #1 (with the Mizuno Shiro Harumasa inscription) was an unusually low 50,000 yen (approx. 3 million yen today). Content with his luck in acquiring such a historic piece for a relatively low sum, Shichiroku sent both Tokuro and Sato a bottle each of premium daiginjo sake as simple tokens of gratitude.

But who actually brokered the deal? In a September 25th, 1960 interview with the liberal-leaning Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily, in Paris (where he had fled to escape the media upon the national declaration that the Einin were fakes), Tokuro flatly denied his participation.

Recalled Tokuro, “When Mayor Hasegawa went and sold the tsubo, I hadn’t a clue! I heard of this fact much later.”

Yet Sato’s recollection was far different. In his memoirs, Sato clearly wrote that “Tokuro brought the Einin Tsubo to my home and asked if I could find a buyer for it. And so I did.”

In any event, art lover Tanabe Shichiroku was a happy man. Recalled his son Kunio upon his father’s passing in 1952, “my father was deeply enamoured with collecting tea ceramics in the later years of his life. This passion was greatly influenced by his brothers Kobayashi Ichizo and Tanabe Katamaru.” And the three art-inclined brothers would meet from time to time, comparing their art collections and enjoying the view whilst smoking cigars and sipping foreign spirits. Shichiroku’s pride and joy, in particular, was the Seto vase called the Einin Tsubo. Like many of the entrepreneurs of the Showa period, rich men were cultured folk, and the Kobayashi/Tanabe brothers were no different.

Compared to the 12 million yen that was the asking price of the Einin Tsubo towards the Nezu Museum, the 3 million paid by Shichiroku was a paltry sum. Yet this was largely in part due to the rampant inflation of post-war Japan, wherein the price of goods quintupled from 1945 to 1946, and later tripled from 1946 to 1947. The basic necessities of life such as fresh vegetables and medicine were scarce, and goods were often obtained through black markets that sprung forth throughout the decimated nation.

But what of the second Einin Tsubo and its selling? Two new characters must be welcomed.

Hasegawa Utako, Mayor Hasegawa’s single daughter, was a doctor, and running her own small clinic in Kasugai City, Aichi Prefecture, she was also a benefactor of the black markets, where she had no choice but to obtain her medicine from. Near Utako’s clinic was the home of Takahashi Shigeru, who owned a small factory that produced industrial grinders. Coincidentally, Takahashi was also a ceramic enthusiast, and in his youth, would frequent the Kamakura-based kiln of Kitaoji Rosanjin and befriended Rosanjin’s master craftsman Arakawa Toyozo, the future Living National Treasure for Shino ware.

As the fates would have it, Takahashi’s life would also cross paths with Kato Tokuro. In fact, shortly after the war, Tokuro would reside in Takahashi’s employee residence for several months, borrowing Takahashi’s industrial coal-burning kiln to fire his ceramic works. “Tokuro said that in return for putting him up and lending him my kiln, that he would give me half of the profits he earned from selling his pottery. Well, I don’t remember ever receiving a dime!” laughed Takahashi in his later years.

It is Takahashi’s testimony that helps shed light on the reasons behind the sudden emergence of the second Einin Tsubo and its subsequent retail.

‘Twas either the end of 1946 or the beginning of 1947. Takahashi, nursing a bad cold, stopped over at Mayor Hasegawa’s home in Shidami to say hello to Utako, his neighbour in Kasugai, and Tokuro, who was also spending time with the Mayor.

To his surprise, Utako was in tears.

“You two are just like the tanuki (raccoon) and kitsune (fox), constantly trying to scheme and connive,” cried Utako.

Frowning in consternation, Mayor Hasegawa and Tokuro looked at one another and sighed. Takahashi had not a clue as to what had taken place.

Utako, calming herself, then began to explain to Takahashi how the Mayor, who was also the head of the local farmers union, was recently the victim of a scam to acquire fertilizer. Agricultural materials were extremely hard to come by in Japan after the war, and a lawyer named Morita had approached him with an offer to acquire 60,000 yen (approx. 3.5 million yen today) worth of ammonia on the black market, for the use of the entire union. Morita then took off with the funds, or so the story went, and as Hasegawa had withdrawn the money from the union coffers, and as the fiscal year was coming to a close, he had no choice but to borrow funds from his daughter Utako in order to balance the books.

“But Takahashi-san, I desperately need my money back so that I can purchase medicine for my clinic. My patients can’t wait,” pleaded Utako.

Takahashi, taken back by this sudden and unexpected turn of events, didn’t know what to say.

Sternly, Tokuro spoke as he pointed to an ash-glazed tsubo resting in the tokonoma alcove of Hasegawa’s guestroom.

“Takahashi-san, the fact of the matter is that I’d like to travel to Tokyo so that I can sell this tsubo for Hasegawa-san and return the money to Utako. But to be frank, I don’t have enough money to cover the travel costs. Can you do me a favour and lend me 10,000 yen so that I can make it to Tokyo?”

This tsubo, it turns out, was Einin Tsubo No. 2 (with the Mizuno Masaharu inscription). Takahashi agreed to dole out Tokuro’s travel expenses as an act of friendship. And with the 10,000 yen in travel fees covered by Takahashi, Tokuro would travel to Tokyo with the tsubo and visit the home of Sato Shinzo. Subsequently, the clever Sato would successful sell the Einin Tsubo No. 2 to his friend and colleague Fukada Yuichiro, a wealthy businessman from Yonago (Tottori Prefecture) who had also attended the Tokyo Bijutsu Club presentation. The price paid by Fukada was 70,000 yen, or approx. 4 million yen today.

Fukada had fallen in love with ceramics during his time spent in pre-war Tokyo, where he ran a company manufacturing activated carbon used in gasmasks. The end of the war marked a fitting end for the need for gasmasks, and Fukada would return to Yonago, his ancestral home, to create activated carbon used instead in the making of sake. His passion for collecting ceramics would grow together with the size of his company, and he would eventually become the first director of the Yonago branch of the Japan Ceramic Society upon the Society’s inception. Fukada was personally close with Kato Hajime, the artist who would eventually become a Living National Treasure for enamelled porcelain, and had even visited the kiln of Bizen’s Living National Treasure Kaneshige Toyo several times together with his JCS colleague Sato.

Upon Sato’s proposition to acquire a magical second Einin that had never before been publically recognised in any form or manner, Fukada’s only request was that Tokuro would authenticate the piece with a hako-gaki (a paulownia box with calligraphy attesting to a work’s title and authenticity).

“Certainly,” Sato replied, and days later, visited Tokuro to ask for a hako-gaki. Tokuro obliged without hesitation, and in his now-legendary masterful brushstrokes, wrote the following words on the lid of a wooden box.

Top of Lid: Einin Mei (Engraved Einin) Kizeto (Yellow Seto) Heishi (Vase/Flask)
Bottom of Lid: Tokuro Shi (Authenticated by Tokuro)

Not once did Fukada question the ambiguous origins of the second Einin Tsubo. Rather, most antique ceramic collectors and cultural historians were privy to the fact that heishi-shaped sake flasks for Shinto rituals were almost always made in pairs. If Tokuro would attest to the fact that the second Einin Tsubo was also unearthed by Mayor Hasegawa in Shidami Village, who was to disagree? The existence of Einin Tsubo No. 1 was already an unmovable, infallible fact, and although Einin Tsubo No. 2 was never presented in archaeological journals or discussed by the JCS, one could simply assume that the second jar was hidden from publicity as it was intended to be held privately by its discoverer. Until, of course, its owner suddenly needed fast cash.

Upon careful inspection, it is easy to find grave discrepancies between the two works. In particular, three major differences can be brought to light.

1) Einin No. 1 had the erred inscription Hyakuzan, whilst Einin No. 2 was correctly engraved the words Hakuzan, the correct geological reference to a nearby mountain and Shinto shrine.
2) Einin No. 1 referred to a samurai with the full title “Mizuno Shiro Masaharu,” whilst Einin No. 2 abbreviated his title as “Mizuno Masaharu.”
3) Einin No. 1 correctly features the word “Nen” (Year) after the mention of the time period Einin, whilst Einin No. 2 incorrectly leaves the word “Nen” out.

Despite these seemingly blatant errors, the handwriting found on both vases was unquestionably the work of the same artist. Yet why the discrepancies? Were the works made at different points of time? Or were they skewed on purpose? Yet regardless, such details could not hide the fact that the overall balance of the glazing, the form and the firing of the second Einin Tsubo paled in comparison to the beauty and grandeur of the original Einin.


Like falling water, the memories of men drip quickly from our minds. Only five years had passed since the War to end all Wars was effectively nipped in the bud, and now the Korean War had again brought death and despair to the Far East. Was peace really so elusive? Yet ironically enough, the travesty in the Korean peninsula was a heavenly blessing for Japan’s distraught economy. What Japan was about to witness from the early 1950’s was the dawn of perhaps the greatest economic miracle of the 20th century. Indeed, the sun would rise once more.

In the midst of war, the owner of Einin No. 1, Tanabe Shichiroku, would pass away in 1952, shrouding the whereabouts of his treasure in foggy mist. And in 1954, a year after the Korean War would end, the old Mayor of Shidami, Hasegawa Yoshitaka, would also pass. An anonymous ex-member of the Seto Historical Committee who was a friend of Hasegawa would testify many years later that the poor Mayor would not live to see a yen from Tokuro’s brokerage of either Einins.

1954 was also the year that Tokuro would publish his famous Toji-Jiten (Dictionary of Ceramics), still found in major bookstores throughout Japan (and even online). The dictionary was originally a series of six rather large books first published in 1937. Tokuro would leap at the chance to edit the separate dictionaries into a single, abbreviated version that also happened to be in colour. Of course, editing was only half the story. The artist would also gain the golden opportunity to add and rewrite respective entries of his choosing.

In the 1954 edition of the Toji-Jiten, the images of six historic works would be featured in full colour. Among them were the “Momoyama Period Oribe Lion-Shaped Incense Container”, Nonomura Ninsei’s “Tsubo with Young Pine Motif”, and perhaps not surprisingly, two works that hailed from Tokuro’s mysterious Matsudome kiln - - the Flower Vase with Willow Pattern, owned by Tanabe Shichiroku’s younger brother Katamaru, and, of course, the Einin Tsubo no. 1.

The commentary on the Einin, written by Kato Tokuro himself, went as follows.

“Kamakura Period Seto Heishi (Jar/Flask)”

“Its base clay is gray and fine, while its glaze is a clear amber colour, similar to many early-period ash-glazed works. It is built by coiling, and then forming and smoothing upon a potter’s wheel. The work is representative of the Seto heishi style, and contains a powerful energy. On its body is written the following inscription. Offered to the Gods at Hyakuzan Shrine, Dedicated by Mizuno Shiro Masaharu, of Mikuriya in Seto, Yamadanokori County, Bishuu Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture), Second Year of Einin, A Day in November. In the Western calendar this date refers to 1294, or the late Kamakura Period soon after the Mongol Invasion; although the level of ceramics in Japan was commonly thought to have deteriorated greatly during this period, the quality of this work makes it extremely rare. Furthermore, this work is now considered to be the oldest remaining Seto pottery that features an inscription of a historic time period.”

“Owned by Fukada Yuichiro.”

Fukada, of course, did not own Einin Tsubo No. 1. Rather, he had purchased the unspectacular Einin No. 2. But why did the dictionary name Fukada as the owner and still feature an image of the Einin owned by Tanabe Shichiroku? Was this an honest mistake on behalf of Tokuro? Or did he simply not want to disclose an image of a faulty work?

Both Tokuro’s third son Shigetaka and Hayashiya Seizo, currently the honorary director of the Tokyo National Museum, recall Tokuro in later years adamantly denying that the words to the commentary were his. In a recorded public discussion with art critic and philosopher Aoyama Jiro, Tokuro said, “It wasn’t me that put that photograph in the dictionary. The damn publisher had put it in to sell more copies!”

Interestingly, within the dictionary is featured a list of several prominent individuals who had written words of praise in testament to the exceptional quality of Tokuro’s opus.

Takahashi Seiichiro, Chairman of the Japan Art Academy
Asano Nagatake, Director of the Tokyo National Museum
Ueno Naoaki, Chancellor of the Tokyo University of Arts
Umezawa Hikotaro, Director of the Japan Ceramic Society
Kawabata Yasunari, author and future recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Matsunaga Jian, wealthy entrepreneur and one of the greatest Showa tea masters

Last but not least, we can find the name of our unknowing protagonist, Koyama Fujio, on the list as well: the man who would, in the following chapter, effectively, strategically, and ultimately tragically, designate the Einin Tsubo an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

(Continued in Chapter 5: The Birth of an Important Cultural Property)
Due in February
(Continued in Chapter 6: In Doubt and Shadows)
Due in March
(Continued in Chapter 7: Koyama Tomio’s Fall from Grace)
Due in April

(Titles of Chapters subject to change)

Written by Wahei Aoyama, based on the book "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin

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The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 3: A Sunny Afternoon in Seto

Chapter Three
A Sunny Afternoon in Seto

Falling like rain from darkened skies, the ferocity of the firebombing of Tokyo intensified as the pages of the calendar turned to 1945. Hasegawa Shuko, the young wife of Mayor Hasegawa’s son Torao, prayed to herself as she slept in her futon, wishing she had the warmth of her husband next to her on such snowy January nights. Their baby daughter, still 3 years old, slept softly beside Shuko.

It was in 1944 that Torao the newspaper reporter had been drafted to the war at the relatively late age of 32, and was stationed on a secret air force base in Oita Prefecture. Shuko dreamt each night that her husband would return home safely. And so he would.

Ever the good wife, the responsibility was upon Shuko’s shoulders to protect the family home in the absence of its patriarch. Yet with the bombs hitting Tokyo in sporadic tangents, even the exemplar wife could only hope and pray for the devastation to fall elsewhere. Moreover, even more worrying for Shuko was not the fate of her Meguro home or their property therein. The somber words of her father-in law rang through her ears. “Protect this tsubo with your life!”How could Shuko possibly sleep at night when her husband's father's dearest treasure was in danger of obliteration at any moment? Worrying for the safety of herself and her child was an entirely different matter.

The next morning, Shuko’s mind was made. Wrapping the Einin Tsubo in a furoshiki linen for carrying goods, she clenched the tsubo in both arms and embarked for Nagoya on the Tokaido line. Behind her, Shuko’s small child clumsily followed her mother. Train, run faster, faster, Shuko thought to herself. Each and every second she held the tsubo felt like years. But the persistent air raids had already expanded their radius to the outskirts of Tokyo, and as a result, the Tokaido line would stop repeatedly until she would reach the central city of Nagoya. From Nagoya, Shuko, the tsubo and child would transfer on the Chuo line to Shidami Village, and greeted by Mayor Hasegawa at the nearest train station, Shuko would safely carry the tsubo back to Hasegawa’s home. Proud of his son’s loyal wife, Mayor Hasegawa was all smiles. And the tsubo, safely in Shidami, finally rested in the place where it would be widely recognised by the leading ceramic experts of Japan for the first time.

January, 1946. Half a year had passed since Emperor Hirohito broadcasted his surrender on national radio to his disheartened denizens. The war had decimated Japan to smoke and rubble, and its people were beginning to slowly pick up the broken pieces to their tattered lives. Yet from such desolation would be born an association of academics, artists, collectors and dealers who would bring a glimpse of hope to one small sector of Japan: the world of ceramic art. Established on January 20th, 1946 at the Shoto, Shibuya-ku home of Tanabe Katamaru, an entrepreneur who would eventually become the president of the Toho movie studio, was the Japan Ceramics Society (JCS). Not by mere chance alone, Tanabe’s elder brother Tanabe Shichiroku, a heavyweight politician in the Seiyukai (predecessor to the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan), would be the first (and not the last) person to purchase the Einin Tsubo.

Sato Shinzo, a founding member of the JCS who would become a central figure in the selling of the Einin Tsubo, poignantly wrote in the February 1946 issue of the antique journal “Kobijutsu” on the raison d’etre of the JCS, which continues to exist today, albeit with a largely diminished presence.

“(JCS) must proceed with all its might to help foster and guide the birth of a new age in ceramics. It is without question that we must invest our energies into the research of old ceramics, but simultaneously, we must extend such energies towards the creation of a new kind of ceramics that can one day be representative of Japanese culture as a whole, and can be something that we can proclaim and present to a global audience.

Such a role, in both pre-war and post-war Japan, should have been promulgated and fulfilled by the bureaucrats associated with cultural affairs, yet unfortunately they continue to have no greater plan or vision for the future of ceramics. The melancholy that inhibits the ivory towers of the old guard, or in other words, the status-quo of the oh-so-important art-related senseis associated with the Ministry of Education, are far from being in tune with the needs of the masses. With but one step taken outside of their ivory tower, they put on the arrogant face of the powerful bureaucrat and spit out their special privileges as if it were their birthright. Not only this, the many museums that were built to house the wonders of modern civilization are simply housing such wonders in the ineffectual quagmires of eternal sleep, largely due to the inability of their directors to take risks, much like snug cats locked up in the soothing warmth of conservatories.

With its inception, the Japan Ceramics Society will attack and expunge the traditional and conservative hierarchical thought that pervades Japan, and will persevere to promote the true and greater good of the world of ceramics, and as an organisation that places a premium on research, will devote its entire energies to research, creative guidance and the promotion of ceramic art.”

Along with Tanabe Katamaru, Mitsuoka Tadanari and Sato Shinzo, several other founding directors of the JCS would become central characters to this saga of the Einin, in particular the likes of Koyama Fujio and Kato Tokuro.

Soon thereafter in May of 1946, the newly founded JCS quickly embarked on their pursuit of ceramic enlightenment by organising an inaugural expedition to research and excavate the medieval Konagaso-gama kiln in Seto. Wrote participant Mikami Tsuguo, a leading expert on Chinese ceramics and the future director of the Idemitsu Museum, in his diaries, “(The Konagaso expedition) took place not long after the war, and at that time, we Japanese in many ways had lost a sense of direction. For this reason, the researching of Seto’s old kiln sites helped us find and understand an important cultural heritage that Japanese civilisation had left behind, and this brought a sense of great pride and satisfaction to us research members. At the same time, it placed in us a sense of responsibility in communicating, loud and clear, to the Japanese citizens of the value of their cultural heritage that still remains to this day.”

(Mikami Tsuguo)

Other than Mikami, the ceramic experts who undertook lead roles in the research trip to Seto were Sato Shinzo and Koyama Fujio. Other members included the first Chairman of the JCS Board, art critic Isono Nobutake, Nezu Museum’s Mitsuoka Tadanari and Okuda Naoshige, architect Horiguchi Sutemi, Sato Shinzo’s son and the future dean of Kyoto City University of Art Sato Masahiko, and locals Kato Tokuro, archaeologist Akatsuka Mikiya, future Living National Treasure Arakawa Toyozo, Tokuro’s third son Kato Shigetaka, entrepreneur/ceramic connoisseur Honda Shizuo, and Seto potter Suzuki Seisei. Quite simply, an extraordinary group of individuals were assembled to excavate the old kilns of Seto. The majority of participants even slept under the same roof at the Zen temple Unkoji, which was adjacent to several key kiln sites. Although food was scarce, the wealthy Honda donated a bale of rice to feed the researchers during their studies. Suprisingly, access to camera film was incredibly difficult even a year after the war, and the researchers were armed only with pencil and paper, and made it their regimen to sketch each and every shard that they unearthed.

The excursion to Seto, which began on a bright Spring morning on May 11th, 1946, would ultimately end on a sunny afternoon on May 19th at the home of none other than the home of mayor Hasegawa.

Mikami’s remaining diaries illuminatingly chronicle this important excursion to Seto.

(Konagaso today, with a roof over the kiln remains)

May 11th, 21st Year of Showa (Extremely Clear Skies)
Early morning, arrived in Seto with Koyama Fujio. Stopped over at glass artist Sato Junshiro’s home. After a short rest, travelled north-west of Seto to visit Tokyo University’s Seto office director, Inui-san, and inquired about the geology of the Seto region. Borrowed a theodolite from Inui.
After returning to Seto, united with Sato Shinzo and Kato Tokuro, and Kato Tokuro enlightened us with tales of his earlier experiences in excavating old Seto kiln sites.
After preparing various materials needed for excavation, left Seto with Koyama, Sato Shinzo, glass artist Sato Junshiro, and Mikami, and after stopping over at Akazu, reached our lodgings at the Unkoji Temple.

(Image depicting the medieval kiln)

May 12th (Cloudy, Then Rain)
After preparations, all members left Unkoji at 10am, passing 20 villages until reaching the Konagaso kiln. Borrowed various tools for excavation through the kindness of Tokyo University’s Akazu office, and immediately began research soon thereafter. Kiln is an anagama tunnel kiln dug into a small hill sloping southwards. The left-hand side of the ceiling part of the inner firing chamber had completely collapsed, and its state of ruin is not good. Office chief Inui-san joined in the excavation in the morning, and told the research members of the state of the kiln during 1933 and 1934. All members helped remove the earth that had filled the right-hand side of the firing chamber, and excavation began in full. As a result, the condition of the shoehorn-shaped shelves near the kiln floor and the the pillars that separate the left and right side of the kiln near the mouth of the kiln became evident. From the left-hand side, unearthed from various shelves, saggars and stabilizing rings was found one oblong-shaped shelf featuring the kamajirushi kiln mark of the Konagaso kiln.
The dig continued even with the rain, which began to fall from 3pm. Work finished at 5pm.

(Inner Firing Chamber of Kiln)

“May 13th (Drizzle, Then Clear Skies)
Clouds hung low in the morning, and with the incessant rain, all excavation work was cancelled. After waiting for the rain to end, the members left Unkoji slightly before noon, and I headed to the Konagaso kiln with the Satos. Excavation on the inner chamber began soon after arrival, and the majority of excavation was completed by the evening. Shards of a black Old Seto tea caddy, flower vase, and Yellow Seto works were found in the lower half the right side chamber, and kiln paraphernalia such as a triangular shelf and a chunk of feldspar were discovered…. Kato Tokuro entered the locale at night, and we listened to his lecture on the general state of Seto’s old kiln ruins.

May 14th (Sunny)
With both Satos, we researched the chimney shaft of the Konagaso kiln, and the surveying of the kiln in its entirety was completed by evening.
In the afternoon, Sato Shinzo left the kiln site. Koyama together with Kato Tokuro began composite research on the ruins of old kiln sites in the Hakuzan/Akazu region. Kato stayed the night with us at Unkoji.

(Remnants of Chimney Shaft)

May 15th (Sunny)
Early morning we went to Konagaso, and with the help of Sato Shinji, we completed a geological survey in a scale of 1/1000 of the entire area surrounding the kiln. Sato Shinzo researched the “monohara” area where damaged pottery were thrown away. Koyama and Kato Tokuro continued to research the other Seto kiln sites. After work, Kato left the kiln site and did not return to Unkoji.

May 16th (Sunny)
By going south down the Akazu River flowing in front of Unkoji Temple, we discovered a small patch of irrigated land surrounded by small hills to its east and west. This area is called Kanda, and we discovered the ruins of an old kiln in the middle side of the western hill. Currently this hill is used as an underground storage by the locals, and we named the kiln Kanda Nishi (west) kiln. As research progressed we discovered that this kiln was unexpectedly important, and we expanded our research area to the best of our abilities. I worked in excavation with Koyama until day’s end, and by evening we were able to grasp a great deal about the kiln. Immediately, we made an exact survey chart of the kiln.
In the evening, chairman of the board Isono Nobutake, Professor Horiguchi Sutemi and Sato Junshiro joined us at Unkoji.

(Geological survey of Konagaso and its surroundings, all images of Konagaso taken from the site http://www.geocities.jp/shimizuke1955/2215konagaso.html)

May 17th (Sunny)
Departing from the others, alone I visited the Seto Juvenile School to research the remnants of three kilns on the Seto school property associated with Sue ware. The main kiln was very large and in a decrepit state, and I felt that further study was extremely difficult. In the afternoon, through the kindness of the School, seven juveniles helped carry earth and gravel from the larger kiln, and with their help I was able to create a survey map of the remaining kiln sections. However there were parts that were unable to be surveyed, and thus the map was far from perfect. Due to the lack of time and manpower, it is with regret that I could not complete research of the other two kilns.
On this day, the other members visited the kiln sites in the Hakuzan area, and participated in a panel discussion organised by Seto City at Unkoji. In the afternoon, Mitsuoka Tadanari and Akatsuka Mikiya joined us at Unkoji, and the research group grew far more lively.

May 18th (Rain)
Torrid rain prevented further study, and taken by the kind associates of Unkoji, we took a look at the remains of kilns found in the hills located behind Unkoji and survey the area. After returning to the temple for a short break, in the evening we entered the hill once again with Chairman Isono and tried to dig in front of the ruins. Aside from fragments of kiln tools, we could not discover any shards. Later, Cho Takisumi and Mino’s Arakawa Toyozo entered Unkoji.

May 19th (Sunny)
Today we concluded research, and left the premises. We bid farewell to several members at Seto City, and after this, we visited the homes of Hasegawa Yoshitaka and Takahashi Shigeru, who helped us study their Old Seto collections. With these final visits, the curtains on this expedition were closed.”

On that sunny afternoon at Hasegawa’s home did Mikami first witness the Einin Tsubo. Curiously, visiting Hasegawa was actually not included in the JCS schedule for the day. Yet after lunch on the 19th, one member brought up this peculiar proposition. This member was none other than Kato Tokuro.

Honda Shizuo recalled the following conversation.

“May I suggest that we visit a man called Hasegawa Yoshitaka of Shidami Village, just off of Seto. This area is a part of Yamada no Kori county, and was a stop for carrying works fired in Seto along the Tamanogawa River. Observing the area’s geography may be interesting, and what’s more, Yoshitaka-san is in possession of a flask with the inscription ‘Einin’. I believe this tsubo may possibly be the oldest existing Old Seto work to feature such an inscription.”

Surprised by the sudden prospect of coming face to face with such an important work, the JCS members looked at one another in curious amazement. How could they possibly pass this opportunity up? Of course, Koyama, Sato Shinzo and Mitsuoka, among others, had already seen the Einin Tsubo several years earlier at the Nezu Museum. But the other members had not even heard of its existence, and their curiosity was peaking.

Tokuro was in unusually good spirits on this sunny afternoon in Seto, and grinning along the way, the JCS group found their way to the home of Hasegawa. Hasegawa smiled as he greeted the famous scholars at his front gate. Inviting them inside, Hasegawa offered them tea and sweets, and after brief chatter, the mayor of Shidami brought out his prized possession.

Gasps of astonishment could be heard leaking from the mouths of the JCS members. An old Seto flask with an Einin engraving in such a fine condition! The men huddled close to the jar, which was placed in the center of the tokonoma alcove of Hasegawa’s tatami guestroom. The first Chairman of the JCS, Isono Nobutake, recalled his first meeting with the Einin.

“I was an uneducated philistine, and all I could do was gaze at the tsubo in wonder and adoration. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined at the time that the tsubo I was admiring would, several years later, become such a major dilemma that would inflict a devastating blow to the life and career of Koyama Fujio.”

When asked how Hasegawa could have possibly stumbled across such a historic find, the mayor calmly explained that he dug it up himself from a road construction site near his home. Hasegawa even took the time to walk the JCS members to the exact location of his find in Shiratori, Shidami Village.

Tokuro was literally chirping as he explained to the group the history of Old Seto flasks such as the Einin. His sunny afternoon excursion to Shidami had paid off in spades.

Autumn winds blew briskly in Tokyo, as bright yellows and reds coloured the still heavily-damaged Tokyo skyline. On October 16th of 1946, the Japan Ceramic Society organised a special meeting at the prestigious Tokyo Bijutsu Club (Toobi) to report its findings from Konagaso, with Mikami Tsuguo and Koyama Fujio as principal lecturers. A total of 150 JCS members travelled from the furthest reaches of Japan to participate in the event, hailing from such distances as Miyazaki and Sadogashima. Company president and ceramic enthusiast Fukada Yuichiro, who came from distant Yonago in Tottori Prefecture, was exuberant in his hunger to learn more about the history of Old Seto. Little did he know that his life would soon become deeply entwined with the fate of the Einin Tsubo.

(Koyama Fujio)

To coincide with the lecture, the Einin Tsubo and several other famed works of Seto were physically exhibited at the Tokyo Bijutsu Club. It was Tokuro’s role to passionately reminisce his experiences on researching Old Seto kiln sites to the JCS members, and provided in-depth commentaries on each exhibited work. He made it an irrefutable fact that each and every work exhibited by the JCS was a masterpiece of historic proportions. And so did each and every member of the JCS eagerly believe its charismatic preacher.

(Continued in Chapter 4: The Selling of the Einin)
Due in December
(Continued in Chapter 5: The Birth of an Important Cultural Property)
Due in January
(Continued in Chapter 6: In Doubt and Shadows
Due in February

(Chapters of titles subject to change)

Written by Wahei Aoyama, based on the book "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin
posted by Toku Art Limited at 11:53| Comment(0) | Einin Tsubo Incident | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 2: Into Literature, Enter Infamy

Chapter Two
Into Literature, Enter Infamy

January 7th, 1943. In just seven days, the New Year had already aged a darken gray upon the islands of the Japanese Empire. War was in the winter air, war was in the snow that fell. This snow, bleak and sombre, monotonous and monotone, fell softly but surely, piling layers upon layers of sadness immersed in an empty hope for a victory that was far too elusive to even fathom.

It was on this day, several months before the Matsudome shards were donated by Kato Tokuro to the Nezu Museum in March of 1943, that a small and erroneous article appeared in the pages of the Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) edition of the Chubu Nippon Shimbun (Central Japan Newspaper) which marked the first appearance of the Einin Tsubo within the watchful eyes of history. In the article it was written:

“Earthenware from the Muromachi Period
Found During Road Repair in Shidami Village

A mysterious vase was unearthed during construction and repair work on a road in Shirotori District, Shidami Village, Higashi-Kasugai County at around 10 o’clock on the morning of the 6th. Approximately 18.8cm in diameter and 27.9cm tall, it is fired with ash glaze in a style commonly associated with “Toshiro-yaki,” or ceramic jars used to store sake for Shinto rituals. On its body is vividly engraved the following three lines.

Treasure Offered in Holy Ritual to the Hakuzan Shrine
By Mizuno Yonen Masaharu, of Mikuriya in Seto, Yamadanokori County, Bishuu Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture)
Second Year of Einin (1294), Lucky Day in November

According to the appraisal of Mr Hasegawa Yoshitaka, a regional historian and mayor of Shidami Village, the ceramic work was made approximately 450~60 years ago in the Muromachi Period, and Mr Hasegawa claims it is an extremely important artefact for archaeological research.

Mitsuoka Tadanari.jpg
(Mitsuoka Tadanari, Curator at the Nezu)
Image taken from "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin

Mt. Togoku is famous for being the origin of Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) civilization, and many kofun-style ancient tombs have been found in this region along with many artefacts. In Shirotori can there also be found old kofun-style tombs, yet where this particular artefact was discovered is slightly separated from such a location. However, other shards have been unearthed from this site during repairs of the local road, and as this particular vessel is especially grand, it can be said that a truly fine material for research has been excavated.

A shrine has been located in this area for centuries, and this vessel is most probably a jar to hold sake to offer to the gods. It is unclear whether the jar was fired by a member of the Mizuno clan, whose name is indicted on its façade, or if a member of the Mizuno family had commissioned its creation to a local potter and then subsequently offered to the shrine.”

The snows of war would ultimately blot out the many blatant errors made therein. For example, engraved on the tsubo are the words “2nd year of Einin,” or 1294. An elementary school child, with a bit of research, could easily deduce that the work therefore could not have been made in the Muromachi Period; rather, it should have derived from a far older period, or more specifically, the Kamakura Period. Yet such snows would also erase the immense nature of the find -- an elegantly ash-glazed vase in pristine condition which explicitly states that it was made in the Kamakura Period in a style unlike any other work found in that specific era. The general public did not seem to notice the gravity of the discovery as they were so fully immersed and interested only in the news of war.

Although Hasegawa Yoshihiko, the mayor and local historian of Shidami, had been questionably quoted as attesting to the jar as a Muromachi piece, it was without question that he understood the magnitude of the Einin Tsubo. He would tell his son Torao, a future foreign correspondent for the Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper, “This tsubo is, without a doubt, an extremely important work in the history of ceramics.”

Not only did Hasegawa believe the jar to be important, it was his.

Shortly after the article was published and before the Matsudome shards were installed within the walls of the Nezu Museum, Kato Tokuro invited two curators associated with the Nezu, the young curator Mitsuoka Tadanari and Seto archaeologist (and future principal of the Seto Ceramics Institute) Akatsuka Mikiya to Hasegawa’s home in Shidami. For the first time ever, the infamous Einin Tsubo would be witnessed by a 3rd party. In fact, Tokuro had eloquently explained to the two researchers that Hasegawa himself had unearthed an amazing ceramic artefact from a construction site, directly contradicting the newspaper article’s claim that a 3rd party had excavated the work and that Hasegawa had merely appraised it. Already, one could find that the tale of the Einin was beginning to slowly fall apart.

Mitsuoka was certainly impressed with the tsubo. “This is a rare jar indeed!” he exclaimed. Yet the young Mitsuoka would garner the same impression when he would come into contact with the Matsudome shards several months later. Akatsuka, however, was dubious, tilting his head in thought as he examined the work. At this time, Akatsuka would sketch the first image of the Einin for archaeological research, as well as sketching the images of various shards that would mysteriously be reconstructed to form another yet lesser-known relic of infamy, the Yokoku Renben-mon Flower Vase.

Several months later in early Spring, Hasegawa further invited Mori Toku-ichiro, the village archaeologist, to his home, along with 50 local teachers and historians, to confront the object of his affection. Huddled together in a small room within his rather large traditionally Japanese-style home, Mori recalls their conversation in a letter he had written, which remains today.

Hasegawa asked Mori, “Mori-san, what do you think of this tsubo?”
Mori: “This is an absolutely incredible thing; how did you find it?”
Hasegawa: “Oh, I’d dug it up at the place where they were doing road construction. There were actually two tsubo, but this one was more interesting, so I took this one.”
Mori: “This is truly magnificent, but I wonder why its owner wasn’t able to safely deliver the jar to the Hakuzan Shrine…. Of course it wasn’t easy to reach the shrine in those days. Especially considering that engraved in the jar is the month of November, the weather would prevent a safe journey from this time to December and New Year’s. Or does the month of November mean that the proprietor had passed away in the wintertime? In any event, they must have buried the set of vases together in prayer. But this is such a magnificent discovery. Are you not going to announce this find?”

Hasegawa: “I haven’t yet, but do you think you will be able to? You are far better at announcing these things than I.”
Mori: “I understand. Then I’ll bring this up with the Koko-gaku Zasshi (Journal of Archaeology), but I don’t know a thing about ceramics or the Mizuno family. And there’re too many people here today, and I wouldn’t even have the time to write down its proper dimensions. Can you do the research and send it to me?”
Hasegawa: “Of course.”

A week later, Mori received a write-up on the Einin Tsubo from Hasegawa. Yet in the letter, Hasegawa had chosen to exclude his name as the owner of the vase. Asked why, Hasegawa curiously explained to Mori that, “I haven’t paid the full amount for it yet, so it’s hard for me to say that it’s already mine. I wouldn’t want to publicise it and see its price inflate, so can you do me a favour and exclude my name from the article?” Mori didn’t think much of it, and did as he was told.

Interestingly enough, Hasegawa had mentioned the existence of two tsubos. As if predicting the future, the Einin Tsubo would indeed become a pair.

April, 1943. The cherry blossoms in the Minami-Aoyama district were in full bloom, and painted the gardens of the Nezu Museum in champagne pink. Although Hasegawa had just written a letter to Mori alluding to his lack of possession rights to the Einin Tsubo because of his inability to pay for it in full, astonishingly, Kato Tokuro would approach Mitsuoka Tadanari with the following proposition. With a wide grin as bright as the sun, Tokuro said to Mitsuoka, “Hasegawa Yoshitaka wishes to donate the Einin Tsubo to your museum.”

Mitsuya Miyamatsu.jpg
(Mitsuya Miyamatsu, Director of the Nezu)
Image taken from "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin

Mitsuoka had already been basked in the presence of the jar during his visit to Hasegawa’s home in early January, and without question, the young curator thought it was too good of an offer to pass up. Encouraged by the warmth of Spring and the scents of sakura, Mitsuoka asked Hasegawa to send the tsubo to the Nezu. And on a glorious Spring day, the Tsubo was delivered to the museum by Hasegawa, who took his leave soon thereafter.

Koyama Fujio, our unknowing protagonist, wrote excitingly in his memoirs about the jar that would skew the balance of his life forever. “I first saw the Einin Tsubo together with Okuda Seiichi, the head of the Oriental Ceramics Research Institute (and Koyama’s “sensei,” in a sense), Sato Shinzo, owner of the Mingei shop Minato-ya in Ginza (and a future key figure in the Japan Ceramics Society), and the young curator Mitsuoka.” Sato, it should be said here, would eventually play a pivotal role in brokering the sale of both Einin Tsubos (yes, there were two) to various collectors. Yet at this time, the man was innocently passionate. Wrote Koyama, “In my long career of researching old kilns, I’ve never been so excited in my life.”

Mitsuoka understood that with this donation the issue of gratuity would again arise, much like how the Nezu had thanked Tokuro with 2000 yen (or 1 million yen today). Mitsuoka thus consulted various dealers for an appraisal of the Einn Tsubo, and reported his findings to Mitsuya Miyamatsu, the director of the Nezu. Mitsuya replied, “Very well, in any event we must repay Hasegawa for his graciousness.”

Mitsuoka soon contacted Mayor Hasegawa, telling him that, “We would like to repay your kindness. Please come to the museum at your earliest convenience.” Hasegawa travelled from Aichi to the museum immediately after receiving word from Mitsuoka, and when introduced to Director Mitsuya, exclaimed, “The Matsudome shards were Tokuro’s, but the Einin Tsubo is unequivocally mine. I would like to sell the Tsubo to you for 35,000 yen (or approx. 12 million yen in today’s currency). An air of silence tinged with disbelief rang through the meeting room of the Nezu. All were completely flabbergasted. Mitsuoka had only prepared 10,000 yen as gratuity, thinking this was more than a fair price for the Tsubo.

Director Mitsuya, a former chief of the Police Department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, flushed sanguine as he banged the table in front of him with the palm of his hand. “This is absurd!” he howled as he ran out the door. Mitsuoka bowed once to Hasegawa in apology, and quickly ran after his superior. “I was briefed by you that this was to be a donation! What the hell is he thinking, asking us to pay him for the work?” barked Mitsuya. “People from Owari (Aichi Prefecture) can’t be trusted. These talks are finished.” And that was that.

Akatsuka Mikiya.jpg
(Akatsuka Mikiya, Seto Researcher)
Image taken from "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin

Koyama was nonetheless disappointed in his Director’s anger. In his memoir, Koyama wrote reluctantly, “A deal could not be reached regarding price.” And the same went for Mitsuoka, who thought at the time that “the price was a small sum in light of our endowment, oh what a waste!”

Deflated, Hasegawa carefully packaged the tsubo in a box and a wrapping cloth, and left the museum for his son Torao’s house in O-kayama, Meguro Ward, where he placed the vase for safe keeping.

But soon thereafter, the existence of the Einin Tsubo would garner national acclaim amongst researchers when the July 1943 issue of the Koko-gaku Zasshi (Journal of Archaeology), a monthly journal published by the Japan Archaeological Society, ran an article on the Einin Tsubo within its “News” column. Complete with a photo image of the magnificent tsubo, in the article, titled “Second Year of Einin-Engraved Seto Flask,” was written:

“Unearthed February, 18th Year of Showa (1943), in Shirotori, Kami-Shidami, Shidami Village, Higashi-Kasugai County, Aichi Prefecture
Height: 27.9cm Diameter of Mouth: 5.2cm Diameter of Body: 18.5cm
In the shape of a flask with a widening base, a transparent amber glaze covers the entirety of its body, with the following words engraved within its left-hand side.

Offered to the Gods at Hyakuzan Shrine
Dedicated by
Mizuno Shiro Masaharu, of Mikuriya in Seto, Yamadanokori County, Bishuu Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture)
Second Year of Einin (1294), A Day in November

Shidami Village is adjacent to Seto, and was under the control of the Mizuno family along with medieval Seto, Mizuno, Shinano and Asahi Villages. Records regarding the Mizuno clan can be found in the Jisho and Juei Periods, and they also appear in the (historical text) Azumikagami. In regards to Seto flasks that have explicit engravings of historical dates, a pair with the engraving “First Year of Showa (1312)” belonging to the Hakuzan Shrine in Nagataki, Hokuno Village, Gujo County, Gifu Prefecture has been designated National Treasures; however this particular flask with a key historical engraving is now considered to be the oldest in existence.”

It is hardly difficult to point out the many discrepancies between the facts stated in the Koko-gaku Zasshi article and the earlier Chubu Nippon Shimbun article. The latter article states that the shrine in question was a so-called Hyakuzan Shrine, whereas the earlier article had named the Hakuzan Shrine. In fact, there is no Hyakuzan shrine in Gifu or Aichi. The donator is named “Mizuno Shiro Masaharu” in the latter article, which correctly depicts the engravings, whereas the earlier article misreads the words as “Mizuno Shiro (Four Years) Masaharu.” And the latter article correctly alludes to the engravings as being made in “A Day in November,” rather than “Lucky Day in November.” Both articles, thus, are helplessly erred.

More bizarre is the fact that until recently, it was thought that a man named Ono Katsutoshi had written the Koko-gaku Zasshi article, as his name lies next to the article itself. In fact, Ono the archaeologist was in Beijing for 9 years, including the year 1943, and could not have returned to Japan to research and write about this utterly fascinating tsubo. Rather, the true author was none other than Mori Toku-ichiro, who was commissioned by Hasegawa to write about a subject he had no clue about. And strangely enough, his name was excluded from the article, which was a first for the prestigious journal.

Dejected that his offer to sell the Einin Tsubo was equivocally eschewed, Hasegawa travelled slowly and with heavy heart to his son Torao’s home. Leaving the tsubo in his son’s hands, Hasegawa told his son to “protect this tsubo with your life!” Torao did not question his father’s orders, and his wife Shuko heeded his request close to her heart. It would be Shuko who would rescue the Einin Tsubo from the inferno that was the great Tokyo fire bombings and return the vase to Shidami during her husband’s absence in the war. Yet Torao, who would become a leading member of the then-prominent Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper, would later speak these words that would shed light on some of the shadows surrounding the Einin Tsubo.

“My father genuinely believed the Einin Tsubo was real, and treated it as if it was a real treasure. It was Tokuro who told my father that it actually came from the repository of a shrine. But he had asked my father to say that my father had dug it up, and this is why the story of the road construction site was made.”

How did Hasegawa really obtain the Einin Tsubo? And what was Tokuro’s relationship with the mayor of Shidami? Like how darkness leads to further darkness, the trail of questions left behind by the Einin Tsubo only splinter further into a blurred kaleidoscope of lies.

(Continued in Chapter 3: A Sunny Afternoon in Seto)
Due in November
(Continued in Chapter 4: The Selling of the Einin)
Due in December
(Continued in Chapter 5: The Birth of an Important Cultural Property)
Due in January

Written by Wahei Aoyama, based on the book "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin
posted by Toku Art Limited at 20:59| Comment(0) | Einin Tsubo Incident | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 1: Prelude to a Myth

Foreword and Chapter One
A Prelude to a Myth

The Einin Tsubo 1.jpg

For many years, I had wanted to write about the Einin Tsubo. Unfortunately, each attempt ended in failure. The reasons for this are plenty.

One reason was a lack of time to properly research the subject (this continues to elude me), and another was an uncertainty towards my own ability to write about the Einin Tsubo with enough eloquence and faithfulness towards the subject matter to give it the proper treatment that it so rightfully deserves.

I remain uncertain as to whether there is a "proper" way to write about this sensationally fugacious subject, and the Einin Tsubo to this very day continues to abound in a plume of fabrication and libel. Will the truth out? Perhaps more fascinating than adjudicating the colours of truth are the characters that colour the tale itself. I find it is extremely easy to become lazy with protagonist depictions and assign them to becoming mere caricatures, that there are merely foils to one another, polar opposites, as different as night and day, sun and moon -- the brilliant culpability of Kato Tokuro, the insipid gullibility of Koyama Fujio, the greedy arrogance of Tokuro, the untainted innocence of Koyama. Yet I would like to stress and make clear within the following story is that such one-sided parsimony hardly does justice in portraying and unlocking the complexities that simmer within the two lead characters. Man is known for carrying the weight of contradictions within one’s self, and these two men were hardly any different. In each lies the seven seas of lies and truth, and none are infallible, as are none more innocent than the other. And what of Kato (Okabe) Mineo? Victim or culprit? Honest angel or shrewd strategist?

In any event, I only wish to assume the role of the storyteller and eschew that of the arbiter, and hope that the following dramatic essays (which will be published within this blog in separate and somewhat sporadic monthly instalments that I estimate will end with 10 or so chapters) will be read with a sympathetic pinch of salt. Most importantly, and perhaps with the hope of exonerating my own biases, I wish to make claim that the onus lies with the reader to discern between the plethora of lies and truth that shroud the Einin Tsubo in both mystery and myth.

* Disclaimer *

The following chapters are narrative fiction (or is it called dramatised non-fiction?) based on a true story with researched facts taken and supplemented from the book by Matsui Kakushin entitled Einin no Tsubo -Gisaku no Tanmatsu, published by Asahi Shimbun Publishing in 1990. By interpreting and re-organizing the telling of the events by the author through the kaleidoscope of fiction, I have taken the liberty in creating a dramatization of the events and characters pertaining to the Einin Tsubo Incident. In no way do I lay claim to any of the assertions and research laid down by Mr Matsui, and I wish to make clear that the following chapters are inspired in full by the work of Mr Matsui. Factual credit, therefore, is given to Mr Matsui and his meticulous work in researching this particularly nebulous subject, except in areas where facts have been added for narrative coherence. The overwhelming majority of the narrative and the sequence of events are predominantly my own making.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited/Yufuku Gallery
September 28th, 2009

Chapter One
Prelude to a Myth -- The Nezu Gifts

February snow fell softly upon the elegant garden grounds of the Nezu Museum in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo. It is 1943, and the Japanese army, already demoralized by a string of defeats in the South Pacific, had recently been decimated in Guadalcanal. This particular museum was hardly oblivious to the workings of the war, as the Doolittle Raid, the first air bombing of Tokyo, had nearly punctured the institution on April 18th, 1942. The Nezu was in the midst of displaying an exhibition of exquisite Chinese celadon on this fateful day, and Mitsuoka Tadanari, a young curator who would eventually become a leading member of the Japan Ceramic Society, panicked as the bombs struck at Tokyo’s heart. The artworks were unscathed, yet many of the citizens of Tokyo were hardly as lucky.

If piety had a Japanese incarnation, Koyama Fujio (b.1900 – d. 1975) was it. A third-generation devout Christian of Quaker affiliation who grew up going to Sunday school, Koyama in 1943, often dressed in tie and tweed, was not only an advisor to the Nezu Museum, but was also the editor of the prestigious bimonthly ceramic journal “Tohji” published by the Toyo Toji Kenkyusho (Oriental Ceramics Research Institute) and a researcher at the Tokyo Imperial Museum (the present Tokyo National Museum). Koyama at the time was straight as an arrow, diligent and devoted, studiously passionate when deep in research. He was a potter/scholar with a knowledge and vision beyond his years, and was a formidable authority to be reckoned with. Ultimately, the Koyama of then was a very different man from the incomprehensible drunk which devoured and overshadowed the latter years of his life.

Koyama Fujio.jpg
(Koyama Fujio)

Koyama’s personal story may be summed up by a single word, tsubo (jar), a word he himself so aptly composed in calligraphy shortly before his death. Little did Koyama know in 1943 that the Einin Tsubo was one of those utterly magnificent, beautiful yet ominous works of art that would become the Pandora’s Box of his own self-destruction. We do not know or realize these things at such times, but upon closer, careful inspection, one would discover that the strings of our tightrope were already unravelling right before our very eyes.

Kani-Kosen, or the Crab Cannery Ship, was an influential Socialist novel written by Kobayashi Kitaji in 1929 which idealized the class struggles of the proletariat (workers on ship) versus the bourgeoisie (owners of said ship), and which recently has seen a revival in popularity, in particular due to the increasing inequalities between the supposedly “middle” class structures of our modern age. Socialism was in true vogue at the time of Kobayashi’s novel, and Koyama himself, tickled by socialistic tendencies during the rise of Taisho Democracy in 1921, renounced his studies at the present-day Hitotsubashi University and boarded a crab cannery ship off the coast of Kamchatka Peninsula in 1923, perhaps to feel the pain of the working classes. On board, the educated Koyama served as a translator between the Japanese and Russian crewmembers, and the sturdily built and strapping lad, a health fanatic and sports aficionado, would even overpower the muscular Russian sailors in bouts of sumo.

The Kanto Great Earthquake in September of 1923 would provoke Koyama to cancel his 3-month infatuation for an ascetically difficult working-class existence, and the young man would soon return to Tokyo as a volunteer worker to help victims of the disaster, perhaps also to satisfy his Christian beliefs of self-sacrifice and service to society. This insatiable idealism for a “greater cause” would lead Koyama to enlist in the military, and it was there that the impressionable Koyama would be introduced to the works of Rosanin and Chinese ceramics by his colleague, the aristrocratic Okabe Chosei, born the wealthy son of former feudal lord Okabe Nagahiro.

Inspired by the beauty of Japanese and Chinese ceramics, Koyama headed straight to the library. Night and day, he would study the histories of ceramics from different ages, and view the photographic images of masterworks. Yet mere knowledge was not enough to satisfy his voracious hunger for beautiful objects, and he quickly decided to begin an apprenticeship at Yano Toto’s kiln in Seto in 1925, and soon thereafter, with Kyoto’s Mashimizu Zoroku II to create works of his own liking. The following year, Koyama opened his first independent kiln in Kyoto near the kiln of Ishiguro Munemaro (1893-1968), the future Living National Treasure. They would remain friends for life.

Yet Koyama’s fledgling fascination with creating pottery soon dwindled, perhaps due to his inability to throw and glaze works with the prowess of his Kyoto contemporaries. Rather, Koyama realized that his raison d’etre was not in creating ceramics (of which he would return to in the latter stages of his life), but in the archaeological research and excavation of ancient and medieval pottery. Returning to Tokyo in 1930, Koyama would become a member of the Oriental Ceramics Research Institute and begin a productive and prominent career as an archaeologist/art historian. His studies would bring forth a flurry of important articles on the subject of Chinese ceramics in particular, and after joining the Tokyo Imperial Museum in 1941, Koyama would travel to China in the midst of the Sino-Japanese War and make the most important discovery of his career -- the unearthing of the Song Dynasty white porcelain kiln at Ding Yao.

Koyama built the foundations for scientific research of Japanese and East Asian ceramics that placed prime precedence on evidence. In other words, archaeological findings such as shards were considered by Koyama to be the greatest infallible evidence of a certain style or ceramic period, and it were shards which revealed the skills and techniques of peoples and cultures past. His research would influence a legion of academics, and many of his scientific findings live on today.

The already-influential Koyama, then, trembled with excitement upon hearing that Seto’s Kato Tokuro, also already a prominent scholar and potter, had excavated what appeared to be approximately 700 Old Seto shards (Kamakura period 1185-1333) from the remnants of a landslide-stricken cliff after a powerful typhoon on August 15th, 1925.

In his diary, Koyama wrote:

“In February of 1943, Kato Tokuro explained to me how he discovered the remains of the Seto Matsudome kiln.” Kato said, “That year (1925) after the strong winds had passed I went to the woods where the remains of Seto’s Old Kilns were located, and saw that a cliff had collapsed, and lying in the rubble were shards with beautiful carved patterns that I had never seen before. I’ve never been so exhilarated in my life, and proceeded to excavate hundreds of shards. But I felt that it would be best that these are documented for the public good, and that’s why I decided to donate these shards as gifts to the Nezu Museum.”

Tokuro’s eyes sparkled as he spoke passionately of his find to Koyama. Kato Tokuro (1898-1985) was already well-respected in artistic circles for his Shino chawan that embodied the aesthetics of the Momoyama, in particular his magnificent 1930 opus, Tsurara (Icicle), owned by the great Masuda Donnoh. Yet not only known for his mastery of Shino, his fame (or infamy) was further bolstered by his scientific research into the old kilns of Seto, even writing a book in 1933 called “Ki-Seto” which effectively refuted the existence of Kato Shiro Kagemasa as the founder of Seto ware. For this sensational new take on Seto, Tokuro’s house was burned down by arsons unhappy with his findings, and his standing in Seto was precarious at best. In this light, Tokuro could be seen as unafraid of controversy.

Kato Tokuro.jpg
(Kato Tokuro)

Mitsuoka Tadanari approached the museum director, Mitsuya Miyamatsu, for his opinion after hearing that Tokuro wished to donate the Matsudome shards. “Why shouldn’t we?” was Mitsuya’s reply. Indeed, none had an inkling of doubt towards Tokuro’s findings. And why should they? Works that were thought to have been born from the Matsudome kiln during its heyday were already known to exist, including a vase, jar and bowl.

The records that remain at the Nezu show the following:

Seto Matsudome
Discovered by: Kato Tokuro
Donated by: Kato Tokuro
Date of Donation: March 31st, Showa 18 (1943)
Number of Items: 690

For his kind generosity, the Nezu Museum would pay Tokuro 2000 yen or approximately 1 million yen in today’s currency.

After the shards were delivered safely to the Nezu, Koyama and Mitsuoka took their time to study each and every fragment to learn more about this mysterious and little-known kiln in Seto. Koyama said to Mitsuoka as he examined the shards of a gourd-shaped flower vase much like vases discovered from the end of the Goryeo Period in the Korean Peninsula, “I’ve never seen anything like these shards in any of Old Seto works. The Matsudome kiln must have been an advanced kiln.” Mitsuoka, mystified, replied, “It’s baffling to think that someone in Seto during the Kamakura Period could have copied such a work during this time.”

The curtains of winter would soon melt away to the warmth of Spring, and soon after the shards were deposited by Tokuro, the Einin Tsubo would be delivered to the Nezu Museum by the mayor of Shidami Village in Aichi Prefecture named Hasegawa Yoshitaka.

‘Tis then, a brilliant Spring morning in April of 1943, that the Einin Tsubo and Koyama Fujio would fatefully first meet.

(Continued in Chapter 2: Into Literature, Enter Infamy)
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