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Isezaki Jun: living national treasure for Bizen ware

 

Isezaki Jun (1936-present) is a potter certified as a Living National Treasure (Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder) from Inbe, Bizen City, Okayama.

 

In stark contrast with the other Living National Treasures for Bizen ware up to this point who had recreated works from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Muromachi Period (1336-1573), and the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603), Isezaki Jun strove after modern and innovative Bizen ware.

 

Isezaki Jun The Man
Isezaki Jun’s father was Isezaki Yōzan, a certified Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder for Bizen ware in Okayama Prefecture. Yōzan used to stroll around the mountains to research old kilns used to fire Bizen ware.

 

During one of his strolls, in 1959, on Mt. Koya in the town of Inbe, he discovered an old kiln constructed in the middle ages.

 

The ancient kiln from the middles ages was a semi-subterranean kiln (“semi-subterranean hole kiln”) that made use of an incline. The kiln was used to fire Bizen ware by digging out the incline of a hill and covering the hole with dirt. Since half of this type of kiln is buried underground, it is known as a “semi-subterranean hole kiln.”

 

The ancient kiln discovered by Yōzan was upwards of 12 meters, and he worked on its restoration. His oldest son, Man, and younger son, Jun, helped him with the process.

 

At the time, Isezaki Jun had graduated from the Art College of Okayama University’s Education Department and was working as an art instructor at Bizen High School.

 

Then, the following year, in 1960, the group became the first to succeed in the restoration of a semi-subterranean hole kiln in Bizen. Afterwards, he would go on to continue researching the restored kiln, and in 1962, he and his brother were the first to successfully fire ceramics in an ancient hole kiln.

 

While he sought after the old techniques and history of Bizen ware, his actual style was different as he made efforts to create cutting-edge works with a touch of contemporary art; he was trying to breathe new life into the old.

 

Taking a look at his works will reveal a wide diversity – from traditional tea utensils to sculpture-like pieces. Isezaki Jun’s most definitive features are his creative works that mix tradition with innovation, with innovative designs that have never before been seen with Bizen ware.

 

Then, in 2004, Isezaki Jun became the fifth person to be certified as a Living National Treasure (Important Intangible Cultural Asset Holder).


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