Kawai Kanjiro’s House
The Memorial of the Master Potter in Kyoto
Kanjiro Kawai’s House is a museum dedicated to the life and work of the modern Japanese potter and ceramist (1890 - 1966) located in Higashiyama in the east of Kyoto. In a timeless and informal atmosphere, visitors discover the master’s well-preserved house, showcasing its creations, as well as his workshop and impressive kilns.
Kanjiro Kawai was born in Shimane prefecture and was one of the founders of the Mingei movement to promote Japanese folk crafts. He quickly became a famous master potter and ceramist of his times. He did not sign his creations, but his rare skills and poetic intuition make his style easily recognizable. He was inspired by Korean and Chinese ceramics as well as the Japanese traditional craftsmanship, emphasizing 3 ideas:
- Functionality, and,
The last part of Kawai’s career was called "infinity work" where he explored the parts of the human body, such as the hands, as well as the infinite range of human expressions. His fame exceeded the frame of the ceramic field, and he was also a talented and acknowledged writer, philosopher, sculptor and wood carver.
Fascinating closeness with the ceramic artist
In 1937, Kanjiro Kawai lived in Kyoto, not far from Sanjusangendo Temple, in a beautiful 2-stories residence that he designed himself. He also set up his workshop with a range of wood-fired kilns to fire 🔥 its creations. Preserved from the climatic events and the war, the house became a museum and memorial to the artist and opened to the public on February 1rst, 1973. The place is still managed by the Kawai family.
From the entrance, visitors are immersed in Kanjiro Kawai’s pleasant and calm universe. Daily-life items and other creations displayed throughout the house are highlighted by the chiaroscuro interior layout, with the ubiquitous dark wood of the furniture and the opaque rice paper windows. Take the time to admire the ceramic collection in window cases, the calligraphies, and the wood carvings with surprising curves. Refinement lies in the details of the decoration.
The whole residence, from the living-room to the bathroom 🛁 and the bedrooms at the first floor, is opened to the visit. The house has kept its coziness, especially thanks to the traditional hearth in the entrance and the fact that one can touch some of the authentic fixtures, and sometimes sit as if invited by the artist himself.
The workshop and the authentic pottery kilns
Kawai’s workshop is located across the inner courtyard as well as his impressive old wood-fired kilns used to fire the ceramic objects. Some rooms are not accessible here, but the attention is drawn by the traditional kilns with chambers of various sizes that can heat potteries to temperatures comprised between 850 and 1,150°C. Visitors cannot help but take a picture of this large and unusual construction. It is recommended to take a comprehensive tour of it and to explore the narrow alleys where unfinished creations are still left on the ground.
Kawai Kanjiro’s House is a beautiful surprise, hidden among the typical narrow and authentic streets of Kyoto. Its discovery is a nice change of scenery between the visit of two temples and is suitable for amateurs of Japanese aesthetics and interior design.