History of Takemoto

Takemoto Masanori was born in 1848 Japan. This was only a couple years prior to U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853. Perry forced Japan to open its borders after 220 years of isolation. This event would change Japan and Takemoto’s life forever.

Takemoto’s father was a Hatamoto samurai that directly served the Tokugawa Yoshinobu shogunate. Takemoto also served the Shogun in his early life as okugushou. Like his father he was a part of the samurai class, but soon this all came to an end.

Many Japanese saw the opening of Japan’s borders as an attack on traditional Japanese values. The Satsuma and Choshu regions began to rebel but failed to fight the western modernized military. The Shi Shi samurai of these regions decided that to remove the foreigners from Japan they must modernize. The slogan of the time was “Japanese spirit, western technology”. The Satsuma and Choshu regions began to weaponize with modern weapons. Civil war broke out through the country. In 1867 Saigo Takemori leader of the Shi Shi samurai defeated the Shogun’s army near the old capital city of Kyoto. The new capital became Tokyo. Meji only a young boy became emperor. The Samurai elites drafted ideas for a new modern Japanese government. The country was in chaos and they decided that the only way to bring order was to destroy the feudal classes so people felt equal under the new government. This meant the Samurai class had to be destroyed. The samurai did not take this reform kindly and many rebelled. In response general Saigo the man who usurped the previous Shogun now waged war against the very goverment he helped create. The Satsuma insurgency was the last stand for the Samurai way of the life. After fierce fighting the samurai were defeated by the new modernized Meji army. This was the end of the samurai forever.

Takemoto during this time became unemployed and impoverished because of the Meji restoration. He decided to relocate to Zoshigaya near Tokyo. In Zoshigaya he met ceramic artist Inoue Ryosai. Inoue Ryosai encouraged Takemoto’s fascination with ceramics. Together they constructed an Owari-style (old fashioned) kiln to fire their ceramics works. This event marked the beginning of the Takemoto yaki (Takemoto style pottery) era. Together (1st generation) Inoue Ryosai and Takemoto started a new robust pottery business. They employed many potters to create Harima style pottery. They also embraced the slogan “Japanese spirit, Western Technology” by implementing Western pottery techniques like top down firing and the cast molding method. Their kiln’s success won them the Kamon-sho award in 1877. They continued to work together to research and discover new glazes and kiln designs. They became recognized for their works and their prestige grew in Japan.

Takemoto’s bonsai pot style predominantly included semi-porcelain, celadon, and soba glazes. Takemoto also produced fabulous cochin pottery with its increased popularity around 1879. He also made intricate hexagonal pieces and Chinese inspired square pots. Enthusiasts and aficionados loved his works. Count Matsudaira a philanthropic aristocrat from the south especially loved Takemoto’s works. Matsudaira in exhibitions displayed many of his shohin/mame trees in Takemoto’s bonsai pots. This collaboration between Takemoto and Matsudaira tremendously advanced the development and interest of mame/shohin bonsai in Japan. Thanks to these men shohin/mame bonsai has now become a well-established art form of its own.  After incredible contributions to the world of ceramics and bonsai Takemoto Masanori died young in 1892.

Translations are Copyright (2/24/2021) by (Paul Stephan)

Reference material: 盆器大図鑑盆栽鉢の集大成 , Book of Count Matsudaira’s Collection.