Tsutsumiyaki started out as a side business of some feudal retainers in the strategic zone under the rule of Sendai Castle. The rich soil speaks of the full history of this land. Kenba Gama uses the rocks and rice husks from the region in the glaze and the local red pine as firewood. The variety of pottery they make covers everything from enormous pots to tableware, a collection of hand-crafted everyday items rooted in the culture of the region. The black-and-white, bold, robust appearance of the Tsutsumiyaki reminds people of the winter landscape of the Tohoku district.
The first master of Kenba Gama was a feudal retainer in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Ever since the conferral of master craftsmanship by Ogata Kenzan, Kenba Gama has always been in the thick of historical turmoil. During the Boshin Civil War, Kenba Gama made cannonballs. During the Sino-Japanese War, the third master potter left for military service. After the second World War, Kenba Gama built earthenware pipes for the reconstruction of Sendai, which had been destroyed by aerial attacks. As urbanization crept in, Kenba Gama, in need of soil and nature, left for the outskirts. In 1978, an earthquake off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture hit all climbing kilns, damaging it beyond recovery. In 2011, Kenba Gama got hit by an earthquake again—the Great East Japan Earthquake. Unflappable as always, the family cared for those who suffered serious damage.
While following tradition, the fourth master has continuously tried to make his ideal tea sets. In his late sixties, he made 1000 tea sets in response to the Ura Senke (master school of tea ceremony)'s order for 100, in the hope of there being 100 of those 1000 that the Ura Senke would prefer. As a result, this act won the unyielding trust of the Ura Senke. Now, even with his deteriorated eyesight, the master continues to turn the potter’s wheel until his mind’s eye tells him to stop. His creative spirit is unrelenting as he thanks the people and nature, infusing his gratitude into his works.

Kenba Hariu

Born in 1927, in Sendai City. His official given name is Yoshiaki. In 1960, he succeeded the master name “Kenba” and became the Fourth master of Kenba Gama. He is the only potter in the Tohoku region that is allowed to have Ura Senke master’s signature on his consigned works. He has held numerous private exhibitions at Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi main store and held an exhibition at Sendai Mediatheque commemorating his 77th birthday. The Kenba Gama was restored two years ago, and his eldest son Kyuma and second son Kazuma, and recently his grandson Shun, work on carrying forward the art and tradition of Tsutsumiyaki.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)