A small Nodate-chawan tea bowl decorated outside with a long poem dated early summer 1870, and decorated inside with a symbol of longevity, an ancient pine enclosed in the original signed wooden box with matching date. The opening characters of the verse Furotei Dojin (House of the immortal sage)… I am not a scholar, and cannot read all of the poem, but it appears to lament the drastic changes and questions upon whom to rely upon. It ends Early Summer, Kanoe-Year (in the ten year cycle of 1850 1860, 1870 or 1880) Signed Shoun (a poetic named used by Rokubei III) followed by his stamp. The bowl is 11 cm (4-1/2 inches) diameter and in excellent condition.
A touch of historical background for the early summer of 1870…Battles raged across Japan in 1868, with the restoration of the Meiji emperor and fall of the Tokugawa Shogun made official on October 23rd. Subsequently over the following year the emperor vacated the Kyoto palace, moving to Tokyo, where the new capitol was declared. The Samurai army escaped to Hokkaido, where they established a new country called Ezo, but were overrun and defeated by the summer of 1869. In October of the same year Omuro Masajiro, the samurai born father of the Modern Japanese Army, and his associates were assassinated in Kyoto (He died later of his wounds). Shortly thereafter the Feudal armies of the Daimyo warlords were abolished, and Samurai privileges were rescinded. The fledgling new government was attempting to remake the nation in a modern image after 250 years of feudalism. Still there was no national currency or national newspaper and times were very insecure for the average citizen.
Rokubei III (Koto Kuritaro, 1820-1883) was born in Kyoto second son of Rokubei II. He took over the family kiln even younger than his own father at the age of 18 in 1838. This was the beginning of the Bakumatsu era, the fall of the Edo Shogunate, and Kyoto would play centre stage in this tumultuous era. Vagabonds, Rebels, Reformers and Loyalists made mayhem in the streets and battles raged across the city while foreign powers leveraged unfair treaties against the reluctant Shogun. Many advanced techniques were imported to Japan through Rangaku (Dutch studies) at the open port of Nagasaki and then from a growing number of locations after the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853. In 1868 the Edo government fell, and the capital was moved to Tokyo. Rokubei III was aware of the advantages of modernism, while maintaining the traditions of the former generations. He went to Yokohama with Miyagawa (Makuzu) Kozan in 1868. However, he was persuaded to remain in Kyoto (along with a branch of the Makuzu family) to modernize the Kyoto ceramic industry, and although he did create works in the modern style and to suit Western taste, (he was one of the artists commissioned to create pottery for the 1879 visit of former US president Ulysses S. Grant) he maintained a fairly conservative oeuvre oriented toward the Japanese aesthetic. He excelled in porcelain wares, and was much lauded in his lifetime being awarded at a multitude of domestic exhibitions as well as internationally in Paris, Sydney and Amsterdam. Like his forebearers, he was very much a part of the Kyoto scene at the time, and many works created by Rokubei III were decorated by top painters of the era. Important works by poet/artist/nun Otagaki Rengetsu were created in the studio of Rokubei III. Work by Rokubei III is held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of art New York, the Kyoto Hakubutsukan Museum and Ashmolean among others.