Some prominent & remarkable makers -3

Satsuma Exportware was made by thousands of skilled and unskilled potters and decorators working for  hundreds of smaller and bigger kilns, studios and workshops all over Japan. Most of them are anonymous and will remain anonymous for ever. Of those who have signed their worked at least we have a name, but often that is the only thing we know about the maker. Only of very few artists there are biographical data available and even about the life and work of some of the very best artists is not so much known. In  this section  we’ve tried to collect the data of some prominent or otherwise remarkable makers of Satsumaware. Although the true joy of Satsuma is in the  beauty of the item itself, it is for a collector always interesting to know a litlle bit more about the maker. Biographical data can also be useful to relate an item to the period in which it was created.Knowing that Taizan Yohei  died in 1922 means that there is nothing made by him after 1922. Knowing that Taizan closed his kiln in 1894, means that all items with an impressed Taizan potterymark was made not later as 1894. It also means that items with only a painted signature without impressed pottersmark or marked by another pottery, probably was made between 1894 and 1922. Combining data can therefore be useful in evaluating the age of an item. Since there were thousands of artists working in the Satsuma-industry, compiling this list is like telling a never-ending story.  If you think you can contribute to telling this story, please let us know:






You will find here some information about:  


NARUSE Naruse Seishi (1845-1923)  


Naruse Seishi may not be one of the most famous makers of Satsuma, but his work is much appreciated and sought after by collectors of Satsuma.   

Naruse Seishi (his real name was Kaoroku) was born in 1845 near the Nabusigawa River in Nakatsugawa city, located between Kyoto and then Edo. In 1858, when he was 13 years old, he became an apprentice potter with the local pottery industry. In 1866 he started to work as an independent potter, but only a few years later,  in 1871 he went to Tokyo, to work as a decorator in one of the many studios there specialized in painting Satsuma-style pottery for the export. The following year he started his own workshop near the Zojoji temples in Tokyo. Here he concentrated on miniature-painting on pottery, which would become widely known as Edo Satsuma. Chinese motifs are seen frequently on his work. The famous zoologist Edward Morse, also known as one of the first western collectors of Japanese ceramics, named Seishi Naruse as the ancestor of such miniature paintings on Satsuma-ware.

Seishi Naruse wanted to study not only the skill of potting, but also the production methods and pottery clay and glaze. For this reason he returned in 1886 to his native environment, near Nabusigawa River in search of a more authentic place of production. The region contains a special ceramic clay that was used in porcelain production. Here he founded a pottery named "Tohakuen" and around 1894 he developed a yellowish glaze called "Seishi colour".  Naruse Seishi was a very gifted artist, with great artistic skill but also with a great knowledge of the technological aspects of ceramics. He received great recognition for his work and would produce until his death in 1923 at the age of 78.

For more Naruse Seishi, click here: Satsuma on Display

Naruse Seishi signed with his name Naruse or the name of his workshop Tohaku-en, and sometimes both. Noot always did he sign his work, but it is (for experts) possible to recognize his work based on his style and the colours he used.

A wonderful example of Naruses work. Although this koro is not signed, it is 'signed all over' and based on style and colours it was confirmed by Louis Lawrence as made by Naruse Seishi.

A wonderful example of Naruses work. Although this koro is not signed, it is 'signed all over' and based on style and colours it was confirmed by Louis Lawrence as made by Naruse Seishi.

Some more examples of work by Naruse Seishi, signed with his name and the name of his company.

Some more examples of work by Naruse Seishi, signed with his name and the name of his company.

Impressed mark of Seifu Yohei III

Impressed mark of Seifu Yohei III


清風 与平

 Seifu Yohei is a family workshop of several generations of potters and ceramic artists, all working in Kyoto. The first Seifu Yohei was born in 1801, the last known representative is Seifu Yohei V, who died in 1991. All of them were very skilled craftsmen in their fields. However, it is especially Sofei Yohei III who is best known.

 Seifu Yohei I

SSeifu Yohei I was born in 1801 as the son of Yasuda Yahei, assumably a samurai in Kanazawa. He began his training in ceramic arts in 1815, as an apprentice of Ninnami Dohachi (1783 -1855).  After his study Ninnami Dohachi allowed him to build a kiln in the Sanyaso district in Fushimi Momoyama, south of Kyoto, where he mainly produced raku ware. In 1828 he moved his business to Gojozaka, Kyoto and concentrated on kinrande ware, as well as celadon and blue and white porcelain. In 1847 he was ordered by the Daimyo of Bizen to instruct the artisans at the local kilns the art and production of blue-and-white porcelain and various types of stoneware. He died in 1861. 

Seifu Yohei II

Seifu Yohei II was born in 1845, and studied under the painter Maeda Chodo (1817-78. He succeeded his father after his death in 1861and became as Seifu Yohei II the head of the family business. Seifu Yohei II called himself Gokei and produced various porcelain wares. As he also was a skilled painter, some of his works incorporate his paintings. Yohei II introduced the low relief technique on white porcelain wares but became famous for his sometsuke porcelain, what is ceramics with designs painted in cobalt blue on a white ground and with transparent glazes on it before it is fired, producing a vivid shade of blue. At the end of the Edo period, already from 1858 on Japan started international trade with Western nations, opening up the possibility of international trade for the Kyoto ceramic industry. Seifu Yohei II was one of the first potters in Kyoto who was aware of this chance for the ceramic industry to produce for the foreign market. In 1873 he became a purveyor to the industrial center of Kyoto prefecture.
Seifu Yohei ll, who was a heavy drinker, died already in 1878, at a young age of 33 years. Since he had no son, it was his intention that his nephew Baikei, the son of his sister and her husband, the talented potter Okada Heikichi should succeed him. But at the time Yohei II became very ill, Baikei was only eight years old. Knowing that he would die he asked asked Baikeis father Okada to be Seifu Yohei III.

Seifū Yohei III

Seifu Yohei III was born in 1851 Harima, now Hyogo Prefecture. His real name was Okada Heikichi. He was the second son of the painter Okada Ryōhei and studied ceramic art with Tanomura Chokunyū (1814-1907) in Osaka. In 1866,when he was 15 years old, Okada Heikichi started his career as a apprentice at Seifu Yohei II workshop. In 1871 he was accomplished and was allowed to call himself an independent ceramic artist. Heikichi married Seifu Kuma, a younger sister of Yohei II in 1872. From that time he called himself Shinka Seizan. After the death of Seifu Yohei II in 1878, he took over the family business and became Seifu Yohei III. Seifu Yohei III became famous for his beautiful celadon products, and for ivory-white wares with delicate carvings, covered with a transparent, slightly pink tinted glaze and overglaze polychrome decorations. He also devoted himself to the development of new types of clay and glazes, and studied and wrote about Chinese porcelain techniques.In contrast to many other artists of his time Seifu Yohei III work was not especially made for export but designed according to Japanese taste and also sold and admired within Japan. Seifu Yohei III was a very celebrated artist. He won numerous prizes including the itto myogi shohai (first prize for technical excellence) at the third National Industrial Exposition in 1890, and was represented with three pieces at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. Seifū Yohei III became the first ceramicist to be awarded the prestigious title of Imperial Household Artist in 1893 and received another Imperial distinction in 1895, the Green Ribbon. Although in the west Miyagawa Kozan is generally considered to be the best ceramic artist of his time, in Japan however this honour is attributed to Seifu Yohei III.
Seifu Yohei died in 1914 at the age of 63 and was succeeded by his son Baikei

 Seifu Yohei IV

Seifu Yohei IV was born in 1871 as the second son of Seifu Yohei III. He was brought up in the Kiyomizu-Gojo district and being the son of famous Seifu Yohei III, he had a promising future. He was intended to succeed Seifu Yohei II, who had no children of his own and it was Seifu Yohei II who gave him the artist-name Baikei. Since Baikei was only 8 years old when Seifu Yohei II passed away, he became the fourth generation although as a grandson of the first Seifu Yohei he actually is the third generation in the familyline.
Seifu Yohei IV (he also called himself Seizan) received his training from his father and studied literati-style painting under Tanomura Shosai (1845 - 1909 ), in Osaka for three years. He became Seifu Yohei IV in 1914 when he was 42 years old but already in the years before he played an important role in the Seifu workshop. A number of works attributed to Seifu Yohei III were probably completed by Yohei IV and he used the seal of Yohei III for five years after his succession. Seifu Yohei III left him a fortune but also the distinctive styles and modern technical foundations for ceramic production in his kiln. Although Seifu Yohei IV was a very skillful ceramic artist, it must be said that the true innovations in design, glazes and technic was inherited from his father. Seifu Yohei IV died in 1951.

Seifu Yohei V

Seifu Yohei V was born in 1921. Although he did a lot of work independently, he is best known for his collaboration with Tsukinowa Yusen (1908-1998) in the 1970s. Both were painters and potters, but in this co-operation Yuzen supplied the pots that were painted by Seifu Yohei V. Yohei did not always sign this work, but because of his style it is always recognizable. His work is characterized by busy paintings, in which open spaces were often filled with calligraphed poetry. Seifu Yohei V died in 1991. We do not know if a sixth generation is still working after the death of Seifu Yohei V.

Examples of five generations of Seifu Yohei ceramic artists.

Examples of five generations of Seifu Yohei ceramic artists.

A brown glazed teapot by Tanzan Seikai, coll. British Museum.

A brown glazed teapot by Tanzan Seikai, coll. British Museum.



Tanzan Seikai  丹山 西海

Tanzan Rokuro 丹山 六郎

Tanzan Seikai, also known as Tanzan Yoshitaro, was born in 1813 in Kumano in the Tango disctrict, which today is the northern Kyoto prefecture. He initially studied medicine, but devoted himself in ceramic art and moved to Kyoto in 1833, where he became a pupil of Nakabayashi Chikuto (1776-1853) and opened a workshop in the Awataguchi district in 1851. His son Tanzan Rikuro or Rokuro (1852-97) was also a gifted ceramics artist and, together with his father, ensured the growth and fame of the Tanzan workshop during the Meiji period. The Tanzan workshop eventually became one of Awata's most celebrated suppliers of pottery. In particular they were famous for their 'pâte-sur- pâte' technique , a method of decoration in which the design is created in relief by applying with a brush several layers of liquid clay to an unfired and unglazed base. After a rough relief has been made in this way, the details are created by carving and scraping off the clay. Only then is the work fired, and the colours applied. It can take weeks to add extra layers and let them harden before the next one is applied.
Tanzan Seikai, and later Tanzan Rikuro, played a prominent role in Kyoto and were counted among the most skilled of Japanese ceramists in their time. Tanzan Saikei invented a way to use bronze stencils to transfer design drawings to ceramics, which in 1856 led to a large order of thousands of pieces of tableware in western style. The order was made by a number of high-pitched samurai with the intention of transferring them to Edo and exporting them from there to Europe. The project came to an end because of the turbulent period in Kyoto during the last phase of the Edo period. It does indicate that Tanzan was one of the first ceramists to focus on western oriented export ware. He also played a prominent role after the installation of the Meiji government. For example, he was asked by the government to collaborate on the Toki Benkai, an overview of the ceramic production process in Kyoto with coloured illustrations and formulas for glazes.
His son, Tanzan Rikuro was already working in the Tanzan workshop and was asked by the German chemist Gottfried Wagener to study modern production methods in Europe with some other trainees. Among other things, they studied the technique of sludgecasting in Bohemia and the pâte-sur- pâte technique, which was first developed by the French Sevres company in 1850. It would later also be executed with great success by the Tanzan workshop. After their return, the Kangyoryo Seito Shiken Denshujo (Ceramic Laboratory and Training School, Institute for the Encouragement of Industry and Commerce) was founded in Tokyo in 1874. The main purpose of this centre was to teach new techniques of modem ceramic production.

By famous collector Captain F. Brinkley who traveled intensively through Japan in Meiji time, Tanzan's best pieces were praised "as delicate and elaborate as mediaeval illuminations". The work stands out because of an inlay of colour, with softly, dark tinted glazes, in contrast to the brighter glazes used by other ceramic artists from the Awata school.
Tanzan Seikai died in 1887, his son Rikuro died ten years later in 1897, ending the production of the Tanzan workshop. It is not known of the workshop continued the production under management of others.

Note that Tanzan Seikai is called Tanzan Yoshitaro by Captain F. Brinkley (in: “Japan - It’s History Arts and Literature”, Vol. 8). However, he is the only one. Gisela Jahn, Shinya Maezaki and experts from musea and auction houses call him Tanzan Seikai. We therefor assume that Seikai is the correct name.

Examples of the work of Tanzan Seikai (upper row) and Tanzan Rokuro (lower row)

Examples of the work of Tanzan Seikai (upper row) and Tanzan Rokuro (lower row)


Howard Reed

06.05.2020 01:15

Hello Richard, I am loving your site. I have noticed a small error in your list of Satsuma marks. There is a photo of a mark (in gold, on the body) under "Shozan", which should be under "Shuzan".


06.05.2020 07:38

Thanks for your attention, Howard, I really appreciate it. I'll change it for the next update.

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28.10 | 03:59

Greetings, I have this beautiful Antique Satsuma Candy Box, which I obtained along with Other Porcelain Pieces when Buying an Apartment in an Aution, I would like to cup it and then sell it....

04.10 | 22:52

Sorry, but I'm not an appraiser, so I'm definitely not giving an official appraisal. But if you send some pictures, maybe I can give an indication, based on my experience as a collector: Info@satsuma-

04.10 | 15:27

I've got a tiny collection to show, i would like to know how much it's worth.

17.05 | 09:05

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