The technique of Raku ware was developed by a potter named Sasaki Chojiro (長次郎). Chojiro came under the patronage of the tea master Sen-No-Rikyu (1522-1591), the "official aesthete" of “shogun" Toyotomi Hideyoshi(1537-1598), the leading warrior statesman of the time (and eventually “Lord Chancellor of Japan”). Sen-no-Rikyu was the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony and was largely responsible for bringing the sensibilities of Zen and Taoism to the Japanese tea ceremony. Sen was among the first Japanese aristocrats to recognize the beauty in "wabi-sabi" 詫び寂び (humble simplicity) aesthetics, which celebrate simplicity and imperfection in the things created by man. At first, the tea ceremony was performed with smooth ceramic天目茶碗 (tenmoku tea bowls). Sen commissioned Chojiro to design stoneware bowls that would match the aesthetics the Japanese tea ceremony.
At that time three-coloured glazed potteries, san-cai ware, based on the technology originating from the Fujian region of China were produced in the region of Kyoto. Chôjirô employed this technique to produce tea bowls for the tea ceremony. The exclusive use of monochrome black or red glazes - in marked contrast to the brightness of the generic san cai wares from which they evolved became one of the main characteristics of this ware. That Pottery was well suited to the wabi-sabi aesthetic, and was naturally favoured by Sen no Rikyu. Thus Raku ware came into existence.
|Tea bowl with designs of pine boughs and interlocking circles|
At first however, this special type of san-cai wares, made by Chôjirô, were not called Raku wares, but Ima-Yaki, literally means "now wares" or "contemporary ware", that is to say, wares produced at the present time. Subsequently, They were distinguished as Juraku-yaki ("juraku wares") derived from “Ju-raku-dai”, the name of a palace in Kyoto built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the great symbols of the Momoyama period.
Hideyoshi presented Chōjirō with a seal bearing the Chinese character for Raku. (The term Raku is a shortened form of Rakuyaki, derived from the term “Jurakudai”). Chojiro adopted the name Raku as his family name, as well as started stamping the emblem into all the new pottery. Both the name and the ceramic style have been passed down through the family (sometimes by adoption) to the present 15th generation in an unbroken line. Raku Cho-jiro's descendents still make these tea bowls, although they are extremely expensive. The current Raku headship is with Raku Kichizaemon XV. The house and the workshop are located on the west side of the former Imperial Palace in Kyoto.
|Raku Hagi Karatsu|