‘Takaukibori’ Technique in Makuzu Kôzan’s Ceramic Art: Transformation of Traditional Japanese Aesthetics of Meiji Era

Dilruba Sharmin

Assistant Professor, Department of Japanese Studies, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email:dsharmin.jsc@du.ac.bd


This paper examines the transformation of pottery art during Meiji Japan by discussing a unique technique called ‘Takaukibori’ created by Makuzu Kôzan, an official potter of the Japanese Imperial householdAgency. The ceramic art of the Meiji era was the turning point of Japanese individualism, and this paper will discuss one of the examples of that creation with other classifications. Makuzu Kôzan was a Kyoto native who started his early career in the Gion area but soon moved to Yokohama. In 1876, he broke into the international scene when his work was featured at the Philadelphia world’s fair. Makuzu’s move from Kyoto to Yokohama—from the tranquillity of the old capital to a turbulent port city—shaped his approach to ceramics. Makuzu decorated the surface of his artwork with depictions of both natural flora and fauna and therianthropic figures in a way quite different from any previously produced works of Japanese art. He had created the unique and artistic technique in a ceramic decorative style known as ‘Takaukibori’ or ‘Sculptural Relief’. This decorative technique is visible as a three-dimension style, and its intangible beauty has gained popularity worldwide. That being the case, Makuzu’s work never imitated Western models, and he has been most appreciated for his willingness to burrow into the surface of his ceramic ware, not just work around it. This essay will discuss how Makuzu Kôzan’s experiences across the Meiji transition shaped his art and how his work influenced unique forms of Japanese ceramic art and aesthetics more broadly.

Keywords Ceramic art . Japan . Meiji . Taisho . Makuzu Kôzan . Yokohama port, and Kyoto . ‘Takaukibori’ Technique . Cultural heritage .