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Fujiwara Kei: living national treasure for Bizen ware

 

Fujiwara Kei (1899-1983) was a Japanese potter certified as a Living National Treasure (Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder) from Bizen City, Okayama.

 

Considering that he became a Living National Treasure after getting his start with Bizen ware at the late age of 39, we can say that he was quite a unique potter.

 

Fujiwara Kei The Man
Fujiwara Kei was born in 1899 in Bizen City, Okayama. He originally directed his abilities towards things like novels and haiku, rather than pottery. He started reading magazines as a boy and even wrote his own contributions. Later, he would leave for Tokyo with his mind set on the world of literature and found employment at an editorial office.

 

He is said to have had contact with a wide range of arts around this time, including movies and plays. Then in 1922, he released his first published work, Yū no Kanashimi (The Sorrow of Evening). Afterwards, he even went so far as to leave his publishing company and make the transition to being a writer.

 

However, he started to feel limited in making a living in the world of literature, so in 1937 he gave up on the literary path and returned home. The following year, he started producing Bizen ware.

 

He received guidance from the first Living National Treasure for Bizen ware, Kaneshige Tōyō, and went on to learn the techniques. Despite his late start, having learned literary arts allowed him to incorporate an artistic sense into his Bizen ware.

 

Fujiwara Kei’s advantage that allowed the artistic abilities he had cultivated over the years to blossom was bigger than the disadvantage he had of being a latecomer to Bizen ware.

 

Whereas Kaneshige produced elaborate Bizen ware like that made in the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603), Fujiwara Kei’s style was powerful, imposing, and rustic. Even while using Momoyama Bizen techniques, he added creative contemporary touches to his works.

 

The distinctive shape of Bizen ware that is taken almost for granted today is said to not even have existed before Fujiwara Kei – that is how extraordinarily groundbreaking his works were at the time. Since he had learned art in the literary world, we can assume that his style was bred out of a fusion of two different fields coming together.

 


* Works of Fujiwara Kei

 

Then, in 1970, Fujiwara Kei was certified as a Living National Treasure (Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder).

 

The Fujiwara Kei Memorial is located in Bizen City, Okayama, where works left behind by Fujiwara Kei and many Classic Bizen works are on display. In 1976 Fujiwara Kei became an honorary citizen of Bizen City, and in the same year the Fujiwara Kei Memorial Museum was built.


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